Monday, 23 April 2012

Digital Shakespeares 5 and HBWS12

This is the final post in the series exploring the databases containing Shakespearean texts. From Stoppard I have learned that “there is an art in delay.” In this series of posts dealing with digital databases of Shakespearean texts I have constantly postponed revealing the collection of these databases. I have done this through introducing the topic and then for four posts I posted a list of criteria that I think helps to assess digital databases. Originally I thought it would be enough to post the sixteen questions I found relevant in meditating about databases, but then realized that these criteria formulated as questions without explanation would be less beneficial, so I pasted a paragraph-long explanation to each of the questions. Last week having finished the posting of these questions, I had to admit that the delay is not righteous any longer. So this time, I should present the list of databases on the one hand.

On the other hand this post is not just a post directing attention to databases that might come in handy when doing some research on Shakespeare, but also a contribution to another project, i.e. the celebration of Shakespeare’s 448th birthday. The Happy Birthday Shakespeare website can be found here. This is not the first time that a blog post functions as a gift to the long dead and still living Bard. Last year I wrote up a post in the same project about the given theme: “How did Shakespeare shape my life, my intellectual life?” That said it may be clear that this year if I intend to take part in this festive event again, I cannot retell the same story. Of course, hermeneutics would remind me that a year later—having changed (hopefully for the best)—the same story would not, could not be the same, yet I think this year I should do something else. So this year, as I guess Shakespeare would be interested in what happened to his texts, I present him and anybody else interested in this, the list of databases that contain Shakespeare’s texts.

So this time, both as a gift and a conclusion to my previous posts I am going to lists databases, not unexpectedly in an indirect way, making the experience interactive. There is a simple way for whoever is interested in this list, as following the link to my Delicious stack, “Databases of Shakespearean texts” one may well go to the list directly, and check out the items immediately without reading the rest of this post. Those, however, who would like to stay here for longer, I shall give some explanation on how these otherwise different types of databases can be classified as databases. I am quite sure that a lot of databases have been left out, but as I promised it in the introductory post, I have only dealt with databases that have some either institutional basis, or scholarly references or both.

There are seven ways the individual databases can be classified. Some of the databases can be downloaded, or at least the text analysis software, such as WordHoard or WordCruncher, the rest of the databases can be used via a web browser. Most of the databases are dedicated to Shakespeare studies, while two of them are rather text analysis tools demonstrating their power on the Shakespearean corpus, i.e. WordCruncher and Wolfram|Alpha. Most of the databases are Open Access but some are massively behind the pay-wall, such as Gale Catalog: The Shakespeare Collection, XMAS, and one project though not behind the pay-wall yet it needs a password which may or may not be granted is The Shakespeare Electronic Archive. Most of the databases are dedicated to Shakespeare, while there are two that include texts by Shakespeare and many others as well: Project Gutenberg, The Internet Archive. Most of the databases include a text analysis tool, but there are a few that only contain digital texts, such as The Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, the Shakespeare Quartos Archive, the Shakespeare in Quarto, etc. Some of the databases deploy either an unreliable corpus or a somewhat questionable one from a strictly philological point of view, while some others use either the digital versions of reliable early prints (Shakespeare Quartos, Shakespeare in Quarto), or even modern critical editions (Internet Shakespeare Editions, The Shakespeare Electronic Archive). Most of the databases are device independent, while there is at least one that has been built only for the iPad: Shakespeare's The Tempest for iPad.

The lines of this classification create a rather complicated matrix upon which the individual databases can be located. This complexity is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is an advantage as it demonstrates the interest in Shakespeare in the digital space, that scholars use digital technology in studying and thus representing the Bard’s texts in the 21st century in a great number of ways and modes. But this variety also demonstrates that enthusiasm towards digital scholarship is also dispersed, funds are scattered instead of uniting forces and resources to create a database that would be equally useful and beneficial for a variety of scholarly approaches, number of levels of interest from the scholarly to the general. Do you like this, Will? Anyway, I wish you a happy birthday in the heavenly theatre with this multifocal symphony of textual databases.

PS. The advantage of checking my Delicious stack is that it may well be improved in the long run. I can imagine, however, that somebody would like to see the list here as well, so here it is:

3.      Hamlet Works
4.      Internet Archive
6.      MONK Project
8.      Open Shakespeare
26.  WordCruncher
27.  Wordhoard
28.  XMAS 3.1

No comments:

Post a Comment