Why People Deny Geniuses

Reading & Writing

An interesting piece in the Independent today here about historical revisionism. The history books were grew up with were short on detail and followed a clear through-line, but as everyone except Creationists improve their understanding of the world, certain things become clear; slavery was a bad thing, many regimes and wars have proven disastrous, capitalism in its most extreme form has enriched the rapacious. Certain people, Mao Tse Tung, Milt Friedman, Henry Kissinger, Corbusier, have been proven wrong in their ideologies, and so we revise.

But when did we decide to revise genius?

Roland Emmerich, maker of rubbish tentpole films (or ‘crappies’) like, er, Godzilla, has waded in with ‘Anonymous’, his film theory that Shakespeare didn’t write his plays, and that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was the real author. To anyone with an ounce of knowledge, this is simply hilarious. But of course Emmerich doesn’t make movies for people with an ounce of knowledge. As the Indie points out, lack of evidence is no hindrance to a loudly asserted theory in the digital age.

So Shakespeare didn’t write Hamlet, the power behind Dickens was really the actress Nelly Ternan, Churchill didn’t win the war, NASA didn’t land a man on the moon, Hemingway had a feminine side and Van Gogh didn’t cut off his ear; German art historians says that Gaugin lied.

We have to deny geniuses their decisions and their prowess, other because it’s fashionable to do so, makes a good book or we simply can’t understand how anyone can create a work of genius; it’s much easier to be a Salieri than a Mozart.

And writers, by themselves, aren’t usually that interesting – we sit at keyboards and take walks, end of story.

7 comments on “Why People Deny Geniuses”

  1. Rick D says:

    Interesting stuff. The link, however does not seem to work… Tried searching the INDEPENDENT site to no avail. A Hallowe’en prank!? Ghost link!?

  2. admin says:

    I’ve fixed the link.

  3. Gretta says:

    In social science(especially the likes of History) you are taught – nay, positively encouraged – to argue, and so you end up looking for anything which might be used as a point of contention. I’m not sure that they’re openly denying anyone’s genius, rather trying to pick a catfight with other social scientists.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Try researching The Last Supper, which is almost as famous a painting as the Mona LIsa. There are all sorts of different analyses of the hidden meanings in the measurements, the placement of things and so on, but that’s interpretation of an object, so not quite what you meant. I have no intention of going to see Anonymous unless I go for the costumes and scenery, but there have been revelations about historical figures and events we thought we knew. How many died at Peterloo? There are quite a few people who, having seen the moonscape like area in Northern Ontario, are firmly convinced that the moon landings were faked there – and NASA did do some training in that area.

  5. Gretta says:

    Re the moon landings, I’m only a partial conspiracy theorist: moon landings = real; moon landing photos = fake.

  6. Marc says:

    ‘rubbish tentpole films’? Don’t understand it – please can you elaborate for a simpleton?

  7. I.A.M. says:

    I’ve been told (by Robert le Page, no less) that most of the people involved in the production of the Arden editions (the definitive annotated versions) of Shakespeare’s plays are ‘de Vereans’. How they can be both I’ve no idea.

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