Groves Scholarly Grows
Evan Papamichael Reports
Peter Groves is an English lecturer at Monash and holds a PhD from Cambridge.
Papamichael: You wrote one book about metre and another about editing poetry. Do they differ?
Groves: Well, they differ because the metre book is a monograph about theory. So it requires you to set out thoughts and ideas about the way your view works. Whereas the poetry book was an edition of an Elizabethan writer. As an editor your role is to make a work from the past accessible to modern readers and indeed to modern students. This involves writing introductions to provide background and interpretation, and footnotes to explain difficult passages.
He says: but remember I am not a professional editor but a scholarly one, with two roles. One is to establish the text and to determine what an author wrote (in particular an author from the past, who may not have overseen his or her text through the press). Secondly, I must elucidate it and make it available to another audience. In the case of editing the poetry book, the problem was not establishing what he wrote because the poet (Samuel Daniel) did oversee his text through the press. It is more difficult with a writer like Shakespeare. In fact, I’ve just written an article about the problems that Shakespeare’s editors seem to have in establishing what he wrote. One of the clues that you can use is the fact that Shakespeare wrote metrical verse and in so far as it is metrical verse it should conform to certain sorts of rules and constraints and so on; if it doesn’t it’s good evidence that there’s been interference by compositors and transcribers. Early modern compositors used to change the structure of the text on the page in order to accommodate it to the physical business of making books.
Recently we have seen some of the worst editions of Shakespeare’s works, in terms of linear structure, since the rise of scholarly editing.
Papamichael: Could you explain what linear structure is?
Groves: It refers to the lineation of line-division of the text on the page. The compositors, the people who put together Shakespeare’s work in the printing-house, never showed Shakespeare any proofs. He was not really interested in publishing his plays. When the compositors who made up the text put it together, they would start from the outer edge of a form which was around eight pages and work towards the middle, so they had to kind of guess how much text would take up the whole eight pages, so that if they had underestimated they would find too much white space in the middle when the two sides met.
He further says: and so they might break one line into two lines arbitrarily on the page or conversely they might find they had too much in the middle so they would recast the verse as prose which would take much less space. So the result is that they tampered with what we take to be Shakespeare’s Intentions in publication.
Papamichael: Do you find anything interesting about Shakespeare?
Groves: It’s interesting that he did not have a university education. If he had had a tertiary education he would have been locked into all sorts of contemporary and now obsolete theories, about (for example) psychology.
Papamichael: Yes, yes.
Groves: Which would have made his plays less interesting to us than they are. I think the fact that Shakespeare relied on observation rather than on theoretical paradigms makes his plays much more relevant to us because we can see the same character types even though we put different labels on them.
He says: one example is what Freud called the anal retentive character.
Papamichael: What does that mean?
Groves: Well that means somebody who experiences themselves and their emotions as a kind of beleaguered fortress so that they hoard everything, money, even their feelings. Their faces give nothing away and they are stingy and miserly, and are sort of punctual, orderly, bureaucratic types. An example of a character like this would be Shylock.
Papamichael: Now that we are talking about psychological elements, could you say that in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet that our protagonist had an Oedipus complex and did Shakespeare intend such an interpretation?
Groves: Not necessarily! Freud formulated the theory of infant sexual desire. People had previously thought of course, that sexual desire was something that appeared at puberty. Freud formed the idea that infant boys are sexually attracted to the mother, and come to see the father as a rival whom the child seeks to eliminate. In other words the young boy wants to kill his father.
Groves: A man called Ernest Jones who was a Freudian disciple in the 1920s applied this to Hamlet in a rather selective way. He (Jones) suggested (for example) that Hamlet’s over-valuation of the father represents a kind of reaction-formation against his Oedipal jealousy, and that his reluctance to kill Claudius stems from the fact that Claudius is now in some sense his father, so that killing him would be yielding to the forbidden Oedipal wish.
According to Groves, contemporary psychotherapists have proven the above Freudian theory of the Oedipus complex as superficial and flawed. So here we find that not only did Shakespeare have no knowledge of such findings but also did not have the intention of having Hamlet interpreted in such a manner.
It has also been pointed out above that Shakespeare’s work has been tampered with over the years in terms of editing and publishing which has altered to some extent the true meaning of the play, in this case “Hamlet”, through linear structure.
The most significant outcome I have discovered from my interview with Peter Groves is that as an up and coming professional writer and editor I must pay due respect to my fellow colleagues as they should to me. This will encourage, support and challenge us to be ethical in our profession and therefore provide us with a status which we quite strongly deserve and will treasure always.
While juxtaposing the accomplishments and outcome of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Groves was able to uncover the difficulties confronting me, hence something which comprehensively is of life-long golden value.
Q So Peter, I’m a graduate from here and I remember you in my first year of Poetry. You lectured me in one or two lectures. It was very interesting.
Q And I noticed I borrowed some books from the library and you emailed me the titles about Samuel Daniel and another one about metre. Now is there a stark difference between those two forms of writing or were they the correlation of * in some way? What do you think?
A Well, they are different because the metre book is a monograph so that it’s something entirely different * and it’s ... it’s about a theory so it’s setting out thoughts or other ... probably * theory about the way you view the works, whereas the Daniel book, as an editor your task is a little different. Your role is really to make a work from the past accessible to modern readers and indeed to modern students, so ... which I do various writing introductions, footnotes and so on explaining difficult passages, that kind of thing, so they are in fact quite different, yes. And the one you’re following your own mode I suppose * kind of helpful elucidatory job.
Q Yes, but with myself I’m doing professional writing and editing at Holmesglen at present and this ... I’m actually doing editing and journalism subject and in editing we have to sort of like learn about the mechanics, the proper mechanism, the grammar, the other side of writing. Do you find that you enjoy yourself because being an actual editor and a writer and you can plunge into the unbelievably difficult parts that people would be scared to write and what I’m trying to say is one editor, she can grasp the language and explain it and you’re a writer, [should] write about whatever pleases you and excites you and think is significant for students and professors like yourself so can you elaborate on that?
A Sorry, elaborate on which bit?
Q The fact that your both a good editor and writer.
A I see, I see. Well, it is that, yes. It’s not quite editor in...
Q More like...
A In the scholarly sense.
Q Yes, that’s right.
A ... has only two roles I suppose. One is to establish the text to determine what an author wrote, particularly an author from the past where * and secondly, to explain it, to elucidate it, to make it available to another audience. Now in the case of Daniel, the first problem wasn’t ... the problem establishing what he wrote wasn’t a big one because in fact he did oversee his text with the prose. It’s more difficult with a writer like Shakespeare. In fact, I’ve just written an article which I’m going to get published about the problems that Shakespeare’s editors seemed to have in establishing what he wrote. One of the useful clues, you see, that you can use is the fact that Shakespeare wrote metrical verse and in so far as its metrical verse it should conform to certain sorts of rules and constraints and so on and if it doesn’t it’s a good evidence that there’s been interference by compositors or scribes or whatever, where in fact, no compositors used to change the structure of the text on the page in order to accommodate it to the physical business of making books. But the interesting thing is * recently have tended to avoid making these kinds of necessary changes on the theoretical ground, on the ground that we mustn’t try to establish the author’s presence in the text. It all goes back * to the author. And all this strikes me as very silly indeed and it leads to some of the worst editions of Shakespeare’s text we’ve had for a long time just in terms of the linear structure *.
Q Could you please explain the linear structure? I’m not quite familiar with that.
A Well, I think you mean ... I think you mean the compositories, the people who put together Shakespeare <inaudible> he never oversaw it * his plays to the press. He wasn’t really interested in publishing the scenes or * that seems to be the case. When the compositors who made up the type for the texts put it together, they would start from the outer edge of what sort of a form which is a gathering of around eight pages and work towards the middle, so they had to kind of guess how much text would take up the whole 8 pages, so that if they had underestimated they would find too much white space in the middle when the two sides met.
A And so then they might break one line into two lines arbitrarily on the page or conversely they might find they have too much in the middle so they would recast verse as prose which would take much less space <inaudible> the right hand margin. So the result is that they tampered with what we take to be Shakespeare’s intention and that’s why *.
Q Now that we’re talking about Shakespeare, when I was in my first year here a lecturer told me Hamlet is actually the most famous piece of literary writing [in all world] history. Do you agree with that and why? I actually love that play.
A Yeah. Well, it’s fame I suppose as a kind of objective factor and opinion. It’s one of the most famous texts I’d say. There are certain texts that everybody’s heard of – like The Iliad...
Q Yes, yes, Homer.
A That’s right and Hamlet• and Don Quixote and in fact they’re so famous that people know them had never wrote the play. They’ve become <inaudible>.
Q Oh, I understand, yeah.
A So in an advertisement or something you could show a picture of Hamlet with his skull … in fact, there’s a recent television advertisement which has somebody tackling Hamlet with a skull, you see.
Q And no, but even my parents, my father’s only got sixth grade education in primary school in Cyprus. My mother only finished first grade primary school in Greece because the war started in the 40s and they actually know “to be or not to be”.
Q And Hamlet, I don’t know how good they’ve known them all their lives, so must be famous.
Q And they never speak English properly.
A Well, there we are and it’s the same with Romeo and Juliet who as we know all recognises the balcony scene but they’ve never seen Romeo and Juliet, so certain text can take over this kind of mythological status.
Q Yes, yes. And Greeks admit when you’re with mythology is part of the ancient Greek culture. Mythology was very big in those days in Athens with the Pagan Isles, the Parthenon Palace, Athena, Zeus and many areas and you’re saying that people might sort of like personify Hamlet as something else that loves to watch it on television * listen to all sorts, relax many times and * were saying that the Westside Story in the 60s, the Hollywood film, was actually a bit of a copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It was a modernised version of it in New York City, it was supposedly modern in those days and it was about gangs in that area with all lovers, man and woman, young people and a love story. It’s like a modernised version of Romeo and Juliet. Do you think that was sort of in some way an insult to Shakespeare or a compliment? How do you find that?
A Well, it’s probably neither of those things because Shakespeare himself didn’t make up his plots. Shakespeare took his plots from elsewhere.
Q Oh right.
A But of course he had a good eye for a plot so people then take Shakespeare’s plots. I suppose that’s a compliment to his taste in plots but he didn’t ... he only ever wrote two plots.
Q And which were those please?
A The Tempest and Love Letters Lost and neither of them were very complicated or even very interesting plots so plotting wasn’t his ... I mean he was very good at taking other plots, turning it into a dramatic recommendation that he wasn’t plotting. Nobody in those days invented plots. It was common property like character times.
Q Yes. Could you * some sense, when I was doing [Human] Behaviour, my first undergraduate degree at La Trobe, the lecturer said that in this sense remember, [consider] film and books and literature because each one is written or produced in different eras, different decades, different centuries and they reflect the sort of times in that era. Could you say that so to make Shakespeare’s plays a reflection of the Elizabeth era in those days in England and he brought out the best of the significant and most approachable and outstanding of what was selling at the most in that time? Do you see ... that’s what I see in his plays.
A Yes, indeed. Well, inevitably of course it will reflect the times at which it’s written.
Q Yes and we all love Queen Elizabeth, don’t we, both of them?
A That’s right, exactly, yeah. So what’s interesting about Shakespeare is I think precisely he didn’t have, for example, a university education, so that in some sense if you didn’t have an English education, you see, he would have been locked into all sorts of contemporary and now of course obsolete theories, for example, human psychology.
Q Yes, yes.
A Which would have made his plays much less interesting to us * than they are and I think: the fact that he relied on observation rather than on theoretical structures, makes his plays much more [relevant] to us because we can see the same character types even though we put some sense of labels on them that he might have done had he been asked to label them. So for example, you can see in Shakespeare things that ... you can see a character type, for example, the Fraud label, the anal retentive.
Q What does that mean please?
A Well that means somebody who experiences themselves and their emotions and they * in a kind of beleaguered fortress so that they give nothing away. Their faces give nothing away. They often, in fact, they tend to be stingy and miserly and very punctilious and punctual, bureaucratic types. Heindrich Himmler was a classic anal retentive.
Q Could we say that Charles Dickens in his classic story Scrooge and what appears to throw this from Shakespeare, were they both are completely distinct different stories?
A I think: they’re quite distinctive, yes. Well, if you [put up] Scrooge of course that he converts into a nice jolly chap and you can’t really * Shylock *.
Q Now that we’re talking about psychological elements * and observations, sorry, I’m biased about Hamlet but I love that play. I want to talk about this one last time. When we study Hamlet here at Monash in the first year our lecturer said there are two important things we need to discover in our lives, and [argue] was Hamlet insane and also did he have an Oedipus Complex. Now they’re very controversial that people are scared to talk about. Firstly the Oedipus Complex, I know that goes back to the ancient Greeks. They say that human * and centuries and also was Hamlet insane. He guy went through so much and he felt like there was a corruption of moral code in Denmark * everybody thought about it and also the readers * it’s very analytical and difficult to describe and discuss, but everyone’s got their different points of views. How do you see those two issues?
A Well, first of all the Oedipus Complex, the idea actually doesn’t go back to ancient Greece.
Q Sorry, my bias Greek educators told me that I’m wrong. I won’t say it again.
A It’s just that of course when Freud formulated his theory he gave it a handy label because of what Oedipus did, marry his mother and killed his father.
Q And who was Oedipus?
A Oedipus, he was a king of ancient Greece.
A Well the story is, you see, that he was born to ... I forget which...
Q It doesn’t matter.
A It doesn’t really matter but there was a prophecy that he would indeed kill his father and marry his mother and so they ... as a baby they exposed him on the hillside ... they told the shepherd to go out and kill him but the shepherd didn’t know how to kill the baby and so he took him to a neighbouring kingdom where he was taken in and brought up as a shepherd’s son or whatever. And then he ... no, actually that king wasn’t … that’s right ... he heard of the prophecy that he would kill his, what he thought … well, kill his mother and father so he decided what I’ll do is I’ll ... in the neighbouring kingdom, so of course he’s seen with the kings in the neighbouring kingdom by his mother and father and so he said I’ll move away to avoid this possibility and unfortunately he moved back to where his mother and father were. And then coming towards the Town of Thieves he meets his father in a chariot and there’s a kind of road rage argument and he kills his father. Then he comes back and he slays the Slinks, asks riddles and that’s save the town and so he’s allowed to marry the queen who happens to be of course his mother. So he fulfilled the prophecy by seeking to avoid it.
Q Okay. Was this mythology or fact?
A This is mythology.
Q I thought so, yes.
Q <inaudible> corruption of the moral code I thought *, I’m over excited.
A Well, what happened you see is that it caught up with him because later on the land was under plague if you like.
Q Which land?
A Land of Thieves.
Q In Greece?
A In Greece, that’s right, a plague which was god punishing this impiety of Oedipus’ action slaying his father and marrying his mother. So in the plague it was two others like Sophocles who he sends out to find out who’s responsible for the plague and of course ironically it’s he himself is responsible and eventually it was the plague. The play is about hidden discovery and the truth essentially by questioning the shepherd and everything and in the end was like blinding himself as a punishment for his own transgression and then he becomes an exile * with his daughter. So that’s basically the story of Oedipus and when Freud ... Freud, if you like, formulated the theory of infant sexual desire. People had previously thought of course that sexual desire was something that appeared at puberty. Freud formed the idea * infants too have this * which originally is covered ... located in anything and everywhere – anus and mouth and whatever which is probably more for his perversity, but then fixates to some extent on the mother * and then of course the infant as Freud says comes to see the father as an object of a rival if you like which he seeks to eliminate. So his idea is the secret little boy has wanted to roger their money and kill their father.
A Now a man called Ernest Jones who has recycled Freud in the 20s applied this to Hamlet in a rather selective way. He suggested, for example, that Hamlet’s over valuation of his father, he sees his father as a kind of god, there’s a kind of reaction formation against his real ... Oedipus’ father which is transferred to Claudius. Now he does want to kill Claudius, of course, for the good reason that he wants to revenge his father’s death, but since this desire to kill Claudius meshes with the hidden and forbidden desire to kill his father he can’t do it. This is Jones’ idea. That’s why he never gets round to killing him and then also much play is made of the fact that he seems overly attached to his mother certainly at his age.
A Gertrude, that’s right and indeed in the famous scene ... the scene in the closet isn’t actually ... not her bedroom. The closet wasn’t her bedroom; it was [alivanti?] chamber but anyway, but *18.16 comes from and it influenced understanding of Hamlet right to the 20th century and always not a very good way. I mean *[O-word] is full of this and I feel one, I’m quite certain that Shakespeare didn’t have this in mind. You can see that’s a kind of construction that has been put on the play in the 20th century.
Q Thank you for telling me there. You gave me a good insight.
A Oh good.
Q You talked about the Oedipus Complex. Can you please touch in one way without point it out that the Hamlet scene, a corruption of the moral code in Denmark?
Q Without repeating it, can you bring out any points you haven’t mentioned about the corruption of moral code in Denmark in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and just one or two points you can touch on please?
A Well indeed. This really goes back to a more ancient *[pre-word], if you like, idea of kingship and the role of the king. The new idea * of course is Machiavelli which essentially a ruler is there to keep order * of the whole and that in a sense the leader is therefore released to ordinary moralities * individuals in private so that he is entitled to murder and lie and so on in order to keep the state secure. Now that idea which in fact, even now if it were fully accepted of course, you still expect leaders to tell us the truth and so on, was certainly horrifying in the 16th century. Machiavelli was painted as a kind of devil because the older view of kingship, was very much that the king was not simply there not to govern if you like. He was put there by god and had a kind of quasi design or priest like role that he was a sort of a source ,of moral value <inaudible> and that people would draw upon this. He was a kind of fountain of moral values and so when Horatio says there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark, what he means is, and of course he doesn’t realise he means this, what he means is the fact that the whole polity is poisoned by the fact that the king is a murderer, so the king is a <inaudible> of evil and that’s what’s corrupting things <inaudible>.
Q Yes. Can I just break into your point and sorry for interrupting, two points I wanted to touch on is firstly, when I read Shakespeare’s Hamlet I could see one thing, the fact that when the dead king as a ghost appears to Hamlet I was told by my lecturer that it’s actually like a possessed ... a person possessed with a devil, it’s a ghost and * it’s like a demon spirit, he’s saying to Hamlet your uncle killed me, my brother killed me, you have to avenge his death. That’s the first *. And the other thing that’s important, the fact that Hamlet saved himself, my father just died. You see my mother being in mourning and being miserable and worried and being depressed and being … sort of like isolating yourself. She’s having sex with my father’s brother and that’s where I see the corruption of moral codes – the mother being a bit of a whore I suppose you could say and also his father being like a devil, a ghost appearing to him as a satanic spirit, appearing like a little person and saying you have to avenge the death, you see I died and then Hamlet goes a bit crazy. And then Hamlet produces a play, like a subliminal message. He performs a play where he shows his father being killed by his brother. The uncle’s in the audience, the murderer. He sees it, runs away and then you see a bit of modern psychology, some real messages about the Shakespeare’s that are used today and brought out * in people, bring out their fears, bring out the truth in situations. It’s difficult and complex. How do you see all that?
A Right. <inaudible>.
Q You don’t have to answer all the points.
A No, when you started with the issue of a ghost, that’s right, yeah, well the ghost is deliberately problematic. I mean I think Hamlet is a play which essentially has to remain mysterious because Shakespeare wanted it that way. It’s a play that confronts the mysterious nature of the supernatural, what is out there * questions. So the ghost, is certainly… Horatio * a questionable and then Hamlet * a questionable shape, not necessarily a ghost at all. There are basically two beliefs about this at the time. First of all there was the protestant belief and the protestant belief, of course, said that you went either to heaven or to hell and if you took that seriously then there couldn’t be such things as ghosts because obviously there’s nowhere for them to come from. You can’t be out of Hell, you can’t come down from Heaven, so if you saw a ghost it was definitely an evil spirit and evil spirit of course is they’re not going to see pleasing shapes actually to temp him into the sin of revenge, so that’s certainly one way of reading it. And it is, of course, interesting that Hamlet’s been to university at Littenberg which was very much the centre of the *[Roundhead] protestants because it was the university at which *[Liptner?] had taught.
Q Did Shakespeare go the to university?
A No, no, no. Hamlet went to university.
Q Oh Hamlet, okay, the fictional character?
A The fictional character.
Q Now I’m with you.
A But he was at Littenberg which was notorious because it was *[Liptner’s?] university, so we can perhaps imagine Hamlet as a protestant, a kind of intellectually rigorous protestant. The folk belief, of course, the folk belief has always been that ghosts are possible and people still believe in ghosts now, so ordinary people who weren’t committed to, if you like, theological or theoretical rigour about <inaudible> actually believe that ghosts were possible. And then there was the Catholic view and the Catholic view was that of course if you saw a ghost it might be an evil spirit, but it might be a human person delivered from purgatory because purgatory is * is a way-station that when you die and you’re not, let’s say, for mortal sins you don’t go to hell but you’re not cleansed of all the sins you committed in your life so you can’t go straight to heaven. You spend some period in purgatory being tormented and so on and cleansed and purged and it seems you could get a sort of holiday from purgatory and come back to earth. So the Catholics would see that it could be * and possibly rule that out and * say yes, it could be. And all this is deliberately murky and problematic. I mean if he’s a ghost in purgatory it’s a bit odd that he’s asking for revenge. Of course he’s fundamentally anti Christian so if you were to say the play had to be [* - logical] you’d have to say it was an evil spirit, but I don’t think people watch plays * logical state of mind. So the question has always got to remain I think, but it’s interesting. I mean if you read it as an evil spirit alone it makes more sense. I mean the way, for example, the ghost works upon Hamlet and the way towards the end of that first interview with the ghost, the ghost insists on, 7 he uses a lot of drama, and emotive language about Gertrude’s betrayal of him <inaudible>.
Q Yes, which is what I was saying five minutes ago about she had a *. The dead man’s brother was her lover, Hamlet’s uncle and the mourning was really finished completely then.
A That’s right. Well actually a great question was whether Gertrude was… had Claudius as a lover before Hamlet died and * died is again left open in the play.
Q I’m not too sure about that.
A Well it’s left open, the play has not resolved it, but what’s interesting is that he spends … the ghost spends some time working Hamlet up and then he says the ‘* this act taint not my mind * contrive against thy motherhood lead her to heaven’ and it’s a bit like telling somebody not to think about the word hippopotamus. He’s deliberately tainted Hamlet’s mind and then he says don’t think about it and obviously this is a guy with a satanic ploy * think about it and it’s interesting too that he intervenes when Hamlet’s just on the verge of getting Gertrude to confess, if you like. The ghost comes in and interrupts the whole process and then makes Gertrude think that Hamlet’s mad because Hamlet *.
Q Yes. Is that the closet scene?
A The closet scene, exactly, so you can read the ghost as a evil spirit and it makes a lot of sense.
Q Yes, okay. Now we’ve talked about everything. Just some interesting questions, this is a very ignorant question - do you enjoy writing books and how interesting is it?
A Well, research is very interesting of course. I mean inevitably there’s some drudgery I suppose involved in it, like some of my work is to do with I suppose it just thinks about those metrical *, but discovering new knowledge over time is delightful.
Q Good, good. Can you see yourself writing books for many years, like 10 to 15 years in the future if you’ve got the opportunity? Would you like to do that?
A Well of course, yes.
Q I thought so. That’s why you’re an academic.
Q Yeah. And I read in one of your books Samuel Daniel that you studied in Cambridge. Did you finish your PhD there?
A That’s right, yeah.
Q Well that would’ve been an experience, wouldn’t it?
A Oh yes, yes. It’s a great university.
Q Wow. It’s one of the best in the world, top four I think.
A Yes, that’s right, that’s right.
Q And also what impact has writing books had on your professional life as a lecturer? Do you find that you can bring out the best of your writing to students and to your colleagues or do you put a fine line between them and have one for leisure and have one for professionalism or do you bring them together?
A Well first of all, research is actually part of the job of being an academic. It theoretically is the third of what we do, a third administration, a third teaching, a third research <inaudible> * sounds like that, so it’s not a leisure activity even if it’s a fun activity. But on the other hand of course I do it whenever I’m at home so I suppose hobbies are for people whose jobs are boring, so if you are not bored you don’t need a hobby [laughs].
Q Yeah, that’s funny.
A What was the question you asked before that, I forget now?
Q Will you be writing books in the future, be a professional * lecturer writing books?
A Oh yes, only because it does have a professional impact because you need to do research [to publish work].
Q Yes and this is a funny question that no-one’s been. able to answer for me – the only difficult part about being a lecturer, university lecturer, a professional writer and academic is how you’ve got to have the heart to criticise another person’s work. Would that be difficult?
A Well, no...
Q Do you get a lot of criticism in your work and ... I want to become a professional writer, that’s why I’m aiming for an editor, but how do you go about criticising your best friend, your colleague, your former lecturer or a friend who’s doing English literary artist or how do you go about that?
A Well first and foremost you spend your time doing this with students but then students submit their work for comment and I think if somebody asked you to comment on their work you <inaudible>.
Q Yes and then can you actually improve and enhance and sort of like purify and make the work as perfect as possible if you have to criticise them to show them their faults so they can improve of them.
A And this is how the whole process works. You offer this kind of advice to students, to your peers, to everybody and I [give that to you] and that’s how the whole process proceeds, so people don’t take it personally or they certainly shouldn’t.
Q Yes. At Holmesglen * writing workshop and each week the lecturer shows one sheet * piece of writing and all the sheets, the class literally go through them, go step by step and say this sentence is wrong; this doesn’t make sense; this could be improved; you say can you be a writer and you grow with the * and the cause. By the time you finish your diploma when you used to be at Monash you’re so much a better scholar and you’re so improved that * will become a writer like yourself.
A That’s right, but I mean it would be exactly the same if you making tables or repairing cars, except that people have a sort of post traumatic idea that their writing contains a part of their soul <inaudible> which is quite silly, writing is a trade.
Q Well to finish up my lecturer at Holmesglen told me the editing and journalism class that ... what did I want to say ... everyone thinks a professional writer is someone who sits there with the sun shining through the window, the cat being patted next to them, a bit of music and they relax for three or four hours writing away, no worry, no-one bothering them but like professional writing, you’ve got lots of worries, you have to meet a deadline, there’s probably problems with grammar and punctuation and it’s very demanding but you have to be slightly objective and creative and at the same time be entertaining and interesting. Do you find that?
A Well, yes, to some extent.
Q I’m trying to say as an academic you have the truth that writing is difficult and so is generalism. It’s not an easy thing. You’ve got to be dedicated and intelligent.
A Writing is very difficult, yes. Yates called it the ‘sedentary tone of creative art’. Even if it’s not creative it’s still difficult. If writing is easy it’s likely to be difficult reading and vice versa, so yeah, writing is difficult. On the other hand of course it’s fun when you get it right <inaudible> because it’s a creative activity. All writing is creative.
Q And stimulating for the mind too.
A Of course, that’s right.
Q Okay, thank you. I’ll finish it there.