Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Blogoshpere 23 January – 29 January 2012

Although rather late, here is my take on what happened last week in the blogosphere in the two fields I am interested in the most. Early Modernists came up with a variety of posts about Shakespeare ranging from moods of love, through text miming and an exploration of a proverbial saying that has its origins in Hamlet, to one of Shakespeare’s sources. Beyond the Bard there is only one post that I refer to, which is about the problematics around ending one of the marriages of Henry VIII. Under the label “Digital Humanities” I have gathered posts discussing the debate on the merits of Digital Humanities such as Fish’s third post and the reactions to it, along with definitions and tasks for Digital Humanists. I also refer to a beautiful collection of Lucas Cranach’s paintings tagged and searchable. Happy reading, then!

Early Modern Studies:

Stanley Wells in his “Shakespeare’s Many Moods of Love” meditates about the variety of passions in in Shakespeare’s Sonnets. He poetically concludes this post saying “Shakespeare’s Sonnets transcend the boundaries of sub-divisions of human experience to encapsulate the very essence of human love.”

Aditi Muralidharan demonstrated the use of WordSeer in her recent post “Men and Women in Shakespeare.” So far WordSeer was only capable of very simple searches, but now she announces that it is also capable of “a simple, but complete, exploratory analysis.” The demonstration consists in this. “‘How does the portrayal of men and women in Shakespeare’s plays change under different circumstances?’ As one answer, we’ll see how WordSeer suggests that when love is a major plot point, the language referring to women changes to become more physical, and the language referring to men becomes more sentimental.”

Adam G. Hooks meditates in an enlightening way about a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet in his “Mangling Shakespeare.” He explores the way the line “a custom more honoured in the breach than the observance” makes sense in the play, and how it is used in another way as a proverbial expression meaning almost the opposite. Instead of writing about this phenomenon in the discourse of correctness and incorrectness, he makes a case for the avoidance of evaluation.

Liz Dollimore in her “Shakespeare’s sources – Henry VIII” explores that tactful modifications the playwright introduced to Holinshed’s Chronicles, and to what we know nowadays about the beheading of Anne Boleyn.

Claire showcases the complexities, problematics of dates, the difference between divorce and a marriage annulled, legitimization of Elizabeth in her post, “25 January 1533 – Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.”

Digital Humanities:

Stanley Fish in his third post on Digital Humanities, entitled “Mind Your P’s and B’s: The Digital Humanities and Interpretation,” identifies, I’m afraid somewhat reductively, Digital Humanities with statistical analysis, or “data mining,” or “formalist analysis.” He claims that Digital Humanists propose two statements about themselves: “(1) we’re doing what you’ve always been doing, only we have tools that will enable you to do it better; let us in, and (2) we are the heralds and bearers of a new truth and it is the disruptive challenge of that new truth that accounts for your recoiling from us.” His main objection is that Digital Humanists do not only resist theory, but rather play the role of anti-theorists, insofar as they conduct data mining randomly, without a prior hypothesis. Well, I find his approach all too reductive.

Steve Anderson reacting to Stanley Fish’s post, “Stanley Fish is at it again: “Mind Your P’s and B’s” argues—not so much to anybody’s surprise—that Fish is mislead. Not because that he is wrong in his argument, but rather that his hypothesis about Digital Humanities is mistaken. Anderson claims “His argument isn’t so much about the digital humanities then, more so it concerns privileging quantitative analysis over a deep and personal qualitative reading.”

Ted Underwood, in his “Do humanists get their ideas from anything at all?” responded to Stanley Fish’s third post on Digital Humanities the day after Fish’s post was published The essence of his argument is that Fish’s assumption about the temporal priority of the hypothesis-evidence dichotomy is false. He claims that tools do not force a methodology but are rather “transparent extensions of our interpretive sensibility.”

Alex Reid also responds to Fish in his “invention and digital humanities navel #dhdebates.” He, similarly to other scholars reacting to Fish explores the complexity of arriving at a hypothesis, or as he puts it of the process of invention. He claims that technology liberates the methods of arriving at an interpretation of a literary work.

Michael Witmore published his comment on Stanley Fish’s third writing as a separate post entitled “What did Stanley Fish count, and when did he start counting it?.” The centre of his argument goes like this: “The job of digital tools is to draw our attention to evidence impossible or hard to see during normal reading, prompting us to ask new questions about our texts. This ability to redirect attention and pose new questions is the strong suit of certain kinds of digital humanities research. Indeed, we believe the addition of a digital prosthetic to our insistently human reading complements the skills of close textual analysis that are the staple of literary training.”

Andrew Prescott’s post, “‘An Electric Current of the Imagination’: What the Digital Humanities Are and What They Might Become,” explores the variety of facets of digital humanities. The most important aspect of the long post, the transcription of a lecture originally, is its paving the way for the institutionalization of techniques and tools used by Digital Humanists.

Trevor Owens’ post, “Debating the Digital Humanities Gets Real,” is just great on two accounts. Owens’s post presents a full circle of the life of a writing which first materialized as a blog post, then was selected as a part of a printed book, and finally there is the blog post meditating about this passage. Also the post is a testimony of the way the full circle is lived by the author, and thus it becomes a true paratextual element.

The SOPA/PIPA debate occasioned Cathy Davidson’s thought-provoking post entitled “How Digital Humanists Can Lead Us to National Digital Literacy.” The title speaks for itself, of course, but what I liked in the post the most is her definition of Digital Humanities, and the role she assigns to it. Roughly the same text is there on her blog entitled “Digital Literacy: An Agenda for the 21st Century.

Cranach Digital Archive” is a database of the paintings by Lucas Cranach (c.1472 - 1553). It is an amazing collection of his works with descriptions, especially because one can zoom on small parts of the paintings.

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