Monday, 26 December 2011

Blogoshpere 19 December – 25 December

Last week there was a blooming Early Modern activity in the Blogosphere, and much less posts in the Digital Humanities sphere. Within Early Modern Studies I read interesting posts about Christmas habits, a meeting of the oldest Shakespeare society, Shakespeare’s sources and also about takes on Early Modern theatre history (Richard Burbage, and plays published and decorated with marginalia). Furthermore there was a post featuring Kepler and a supernova in 1604, and another one an Early Modern pickpocket. Within the Digital Humanities set there is only one post, that of Mathew Kirschenbaum about his new project and a request. So happy reading again, and also Merry Christmas (time)!

Early Modern Studies:

Sylvia Morris’s post, “Elizabethan Christmas: carols” presents Tudor carol singing issues: notes, customs, lyrics, atmosphere, pictures, and through clicking collections of songs. This is a great Christmas post! Here is a stanza from one of the lyrics for all to enjoy:

At Christmas in Christ we rejoice and be glad,
As only of whom our comfort is had:
At Christmas we joy altogether with mirth
For his sake that joyed us all with his birth.

Melissa Leon in her “What makes a good Shakespearian?” reports on the 866th meeting of The Shakespeare Club, Stratford-upon-Avon (founded in 1823). The report includes an audio recorded, 45-minute interview with Stanley Wells about his career. It is worth reading the post and also listening to the talk with Stanley Wells.

Liz Dollimore continuing her series about Shakespeare’s sources relates 2 Henry IV with Machiavelli in her “Shakespeare’s Sources – Henry IV part ii.” The Prince is rather a source for ideas than verbatim quotation, but still the link between the two works is conclusive. The idea that connects the two works is the evergreen political issue of foreign military campaigns.

Holger Syme announces his outstanding project in his “Well-Read Plays I.” Let me quote him to summarize the project on annotations. “Among other things, I’m looking at the kinds of annotations early modern readers left in plays. And in order to build a truly representative account, I’m trying to produce a comprehensive database of such annotations in as many books in as many libraries as possible.” Good luck for this important project!

Holger Syme did not only announce the project of presenting “a few examples of printed plays that have been annotated in a way that suggests the reader had performance of one kind or another in mind,” but also started the series. This time in his “Well-Read Plays II” he writes about a copy of the anonymous No-body, and Some-body (1606), of Two Merry Milkmaids (by “J. C.;” 1620), a copy of Ben Jonson’s Every Man Out of His Humour with 18th-century marginalia, a copy of Thomas Dekker’s 1602 Blurt Master-Constable and of Thomas Middleton’s The Puritan of 1607. This post and the series are relevant for historians of the theatre and of the book.

In another post, “Shakespearean Mythbusting III: Richard Burbage” Holger Syme argues that there is no evidence that Shakespeare created Richard III’s character for Richard Burbage, and adds that it is more likely that Augustine Philips was Gloucester in Richard III, while Burbage acted Richmond’s role. Conjectural this may be, yet this presents a real alternative to the well-established faith in Richard Burbage.

William Eamon’s post on “Kepler and the Star of Bethlehem” presents an interesting case relating to science and religion. “On the evening of the 17th of October 1604, as the clouds finally lifted over the city of Prague to reveal a clear night sky, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler observed a new star in the feet of the Constellation of Serpens.” This observation would have been interesting on its own account but Kepler was not satisfied with this, but claimed that this was the star that led the Three Kings to Christ’s cradle.

Nick in his “The Christmas Cutpurse” makes a fascinating case about how everyday acts found their way into pop-, and not so pop-culture. He presents John Selman’s, a pickpocket’s case, who was caught when stealing a purse, was imprisoned and was sentenced to death. He then popped up in Ben Jonson’s Love Restored “as the character of ‘the Christmas Cutpurse’.” He then seemingly appeared in other works as well: “he bookseller Thomas Hall registered the title of The araignment of Iohn Selman(London, 1612), printed by W. Hall, on the day after the execution. This was a standard pamphlet account of a crime, trial and execution, including a version of Selman’s gallows speech. The printer George Eld produced for the bookseller and ballad specialist John Wright a broadside titled The Captaine Cut-purse, also sold under an alternate, less catchy title of The arrainement, condemnation, and excution of the grand [--] Iohn Selman (both London, 1612). Two other ballads about Selman, which do not survive, were also registered with the Stationers’ Company.”

Digital Humanities:

Matthew Kirschenbaum in his “My Literary History of Word Processing: Your Assitance Needed”  announces that he is in the middle of “ writing a book entitled Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing.” This book is about “the moment at which large numbers of literary writers began making the transition from typewriters to word processors and personal computers (late 1970s, early 1980s).” For this enterprise he would like to request any piece of information that pertains to this topic, from anecdotes to anything that others think relevant. I hope he will be given a hand in this project.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Blogoshpere 12 December – 18 December

Last week seems to be full of fine, thought-provoking and interesting posts. The nine posts in “Early Modern Studies” cover a rather wide range of topics. In this set you may find items from a smartphone application, Shakespeare and Wagner, and Thomas Sackville, posts related to conversion and converting people, crowed-funding, cosmetics, and discovery of a love poem, a post on a nonconformist puritan preacher. The “Digital Humanities” section includes posts on online courses, digitization and definitions of terms. The item in “Others” announces the opening of a database of Newton’s manuscripts. What a week!

Early Modern Studies:

Robyn Greenwood announced in “‘Going Digital’: A ‘Bytes’ sized Introduction” that they are working on a smartphone application “that will make use of digital images and augmented reality activities to guide visitors around Stratford-upon-Avon and offer users a new way of exploring the Trust’s properties and collections.” The application will be launched April 2012.

Dave Paxton’s post explores the relationship between Shakespeare and Wagner in his “Shakespeare and Revolutionary Sex!” His focus is on Wagner’s adaptation of The Measure for Measure entitled Das Liebesverbot. The reception of Wagner’s adaptation is not without questions and doubts, which is mainly due to the claim of the opera. Paxton quotes Wagner and then comments “‘my only object was to expose the sin of hypocrisy and the unnaturalness of a ruthless code of morals.’ And so the Duke is cut from the work, and Isabella becomes a sexual revolutionary, joyfully leading the ‘Volk’ towards liberation and self-determination.”

Kissing Converts”, a blog post at Conversion Narratives in Early Modern Europe meditates about rhetorical eroticism and religion on account of a Benetton advertisement featuring Pope Benedick’s (Photoshoped) kissing Ahmed el Tayyeb, and Early Modern narratives about conversion as eroticised texts.

Another post at Conversion Narratives in Early Modern Europe, entitled “Staging Conversion in the New World” presents ways in which early missionaries worked in America.

Nick’s “Seventeenth-century crowd funding” at Mercurius Politicus presents John Taylor’s case as an example for crowed-funding in Early Modern England. Taylor’s business model was that he persuaded subscribers to pay some money for a book to be written later on. As he puts it “For The Pennyles Pilgrimage he managed to persuade around 1,650 subscribers to pledge money should he complete his journey successfully. Supporters do not seem necessarily to have just paid Taylor the sale price of the book: the actor-manager Edward Alleyn pledged one pound, well above the odds for a 54-page octavo, although this may have been more generous than most.” There is an engraving about Taylor drinking something attached to the post, which is most fascinating topic and image-wise, check it out for yourself.

@daintyballerina’s post, “How Gray-Hairs are dyed Black” presents interesting quotations about 17th-century cosmetics. I think this is relevant as far as contemporary ideals of beauty surface in these excerpts.

At Early Modern England, the reader is informed in “Scholar discovers 16th-century love poem written by an Englishwoman” that Elaine Treharne found a Latin poem in an 1561 edition of Chaucer’s works, which seems to have been written by Elizabeth Dacre dedicated to Anthony Hooke, her possible tutor. What is fascinating about this poem is that this is a love poem (as far as I know very few women wrote poems at the time, even fewer love poems and even fewer in Latin—so this is a rare and revealing poem). Also the post reports on her short but adventurous life which life is telling insofar as the lives of 16th-century aristocratic women are concerned.

If one is interested in a report on a 16th-Century nonconformist Puritan preacher’s life and death written by his son, they should read indeed DrRoy’s post at Early Modern Whale'O, Mr Carter, what shall I do?' The worthy life of John Carter 1554-1635”. The author of the post provides a short introduction to the work, and then presents quotations illuminating aspects of John Carter’s life from his prayers to family life, eating habits etc.

Sylvia Morris, in her “Lawyers inspiring Shakespeare” presents an informative and interesting biography of one of the leading lawyers of Elizabethan and early Jacobean times, namely that of Thomas Sackville, who was also the co-author of the famous revenge tragedy, Gorboduc, a play that may have been somewhere behind Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Digital Humanities:

Cathy N. Davidson’s post at HASTAC “Can We Really Learn Online? Response to NYTimes on Wall Street's Digital Learning Enterprises” clarifies the virtues of online courses addressing the key question: “is the motivation for online learning enriching an online experience more and more of us are having and finding new and inventive ways to learn?” Her answer is divided into seven points, and I am going to quote only the last one as it functions also as a summary and concluding point: “My biggest pet peeve of all is those who generalize about "online learning" versus "face to face learning" as if who, what, where, why, and how don't make all the difference. ” (The post can also be found on her website, and is entitled there as “Seven Rules for Judging Online Learning: Rsp to NYTimes on Wall Street’s For-Profit Schools”)

Melissa Terras’ blog post, “Multi-Spectral Connections” reports on the interesting combination of medical multi-spectral imaging and digitization projects. It is worth keeping this technology in mind.

Melissa Terras’ “Digitisation Studio Setup” is fascinating on two accounts. First, because she gathered a lot of useful advice on how to set up a digitization studio. Second, because the post itself demonstrates the power of Twitter, as everything that appears in the post, was gathered through Twitter responses to her request marked with #digstudio.

Trevor Owens’ most fascinating post, “Defining Data for Humanists: Text, Artifact, Information or Evidence?” is a by-product of a being peer-reviewed paper, “Hermeneutics of Data and Historical Writing” to be published in Writing History in the Digital Age. The post is an answer to a comment, or request on the paper, which answer could not be fitted into the original paper. The comment requested a clarification of the notions of data and evidence and the author defines these concepts in an illuminating way.


I came across the Cambridge Digital Library last week, so I announce its opening, and more precisely that of the collection of Isaac Newton’s writings (at the time being his manuscripts from the 1660’s) there. This is a marvellous collection, and most user friendly.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Blogoshpere 5 December – 11 December

The posts I liked the most last week and pertain to Early Modern Studies and Digital Humanities show a nice variety of genres and themes. Within the “Early Modern” set there are five fascinating items about the Shakespearean oeuvre: one about fantasies of virginity, another about his sources, two other posts are related to data-mining, plus there is a post on Shakespeare forgery. The posts here that present non-Shakespearean topics feature aspects of cultural phenomena, such as horse-baiting, parts of James I’s cousin’s, Arabella Stuart’s life, and a further one about mechanics. The “Digital Humanities” part consists of less posts in number than the former group, yet they are not less interesting and edifying. There are two posts related to conferences—HASTAC 2011 and a Startsup Weekend conference—referring to videos and conclusions about them. Besides the conferences one may read an article about the dangers digitization projects are exposed to. Happy reading!

Early Modern Studies:

In Ewan Fernie’sShakespearience 3: Helena’s Fantasies (Part Two)” the reader meets All’s Well that Ends Well’s Helena in her self-multiplying speech. As Fernie puts it “But what is born here? All sorts of new Helenas, some far removed from ordinary identity, all engendered in the first Helena’s simple act of giving herself away.”

Liz Dollimore in her “Shakespeare’s sources – Richard II” argues that besides Holinshed’s Chronicles, Froissart’s Chronicles is also relevant especially in the case of the character of John Gaunt. Gaunt both in Shakespeare and in Froissart emphasizes the traditional concept that the legitimacy of a ruler originates from God. Shakespeare’s Richard II, however, differs from the image of the king in the sources insofar as he is presented as more fallible than in the sources. From these two premises Dollimore convincingly infers that here Shakespeare may problematize the concept of divine right, i.e. arguing for the divine right and showing that Richard cannot act well as a king.

@daintyballerina published two posts at her Shakespeare’s England blog. There is one about horse baiting “Delightfully worried to death by dogs,” by a guest blogger, Simon Leake. The other, “Far out of frame this Midsummer moone” presents “fragments form an overview of the life of Arabella Stuart, cousin to James I, and niece to Mary, queen of Scots. An illegal marriage, followed by an attempted escape to France in men’s clothing, and finally committal to the Tower of London where she subsequently starved to death, Arabella Stuart’s life makes for intriguing reading.”

Adam G. Hooks continued last week his series on Shakespeare forgeries, “Faking Shakespeare (Part 4): The Tragedy of Louis XVI”. This time he presents images from this tragedy and the transcriptions of the relevant parts.

Peacay’s post “Machine Power” features images from Vittorio Zonca’s Novo Teatro di Machine et Edificii (1607). As an appetizer she pasted images from the book of watermills, water raising machines, animal powered mills, printing press etc.

Although this is an item that should have been referred to earlier, as the lecture took place in October, yet as I have come across with it now, I cannot but include this in the present post. So this was a lecture by Folger Director Michael Witmore entitled “Data-Mining Shakespeare” and he speaks about DocuScope and genres in Shakespeare in a convincing and amazing way.

Another tool to analyse Shakespeare’s works is WordSeer at Berkeley. This tool can search for words, visualise their presence through the entire oeuvre, present them as they appear in individual plays, and also map their connotations. Clicking at this link you can watch a demo video about the word “beautiful” across Shakespeare’s works. The textual basis for the searches is the database entitled Internet Shakespeare Editions.
Digital Humanities:

The HASTAC 2011 conference took place two weeks ago. What is great about HASTAC people is that they care about scholars who intended but just could not attend the conference. Twitter as a regular backchannel was rather active during the conference, plus the keynote speeches have been posted on the University of Michigan -- Institute for the Humanities website. These speeches include Cathy N. Davidson’s “Now You See It: The Future of Learning in a Digital Age,” Atkins, Daniel’s “Cyberinfrastructure,” the panel devoted to “The Future of Digital Publishing”  (Tara McPherson, Dan Cohen, Richard Eoin Nash), James Leach’s “Digital Technologies in the Civilizing Project of the Global Humanities,” Siv Vaidhyanathan’s “The Technocultural Imagination,” Joshua Greenberg’s “Data, Code, and Research at Scale.”

Lisa Spiro’s “Startups and the Digital Humanities” is about the author’s experience at a previous Startsup Weekends conference. In this post she describes the format of this type of conference— competing teams create projects and then convince a panel of judges that theirs is the best. Spiro argues that DH projects, even though they do not enter the market, still they “do need to consider how to define their value, find users and sustain themselves.” At the end of the post she lists six important ideas that are to be considered for DH projects.

Matthew Reisz’s article, “Surfdom,” in Times Higher Education is a thought-provoking writing about the fashion of digitization. Although his overall claim is—I’m afraid—wrong, but his criticism of digitization projects should be considered by anyone thinking about such a project, insofar as target audience, use, benefits and investment are concerned.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Blogoshpere 28 November – 4 December

Last week I came across less Early Modern posts than earlier, but to compensate this loss, I am going to refer to more interesting material within the other two categories. Within the Early Modern set Shakespeare is the unrivalled champion: the first is about two books on his First Folio, while the next two posts are devoted to his works—one on Cymbeline and Boccaccio, and another on Helena’s uncannily ambiguous references to virginity. Within Digital Humanities four posts elucidate aspects of social media (blogging, realtime-streaming services, publishing), another ponders about the uses and limitations of Culturomics for historical studies, and three items by the very inspiring Cathy N. Davidson. The blog posts in the third, “Others” category are related to learning and research: one refers to free online university courses and the other to tools that come in handy for managing research findings.

Early Modern Studies:

Sylvia Morris’s post “Still harping on First Folios with Eric Rasmussen” is a fascinating and informative post on Eric Rasmussen’s two books about the copies of Shakespeare’s First Folios—the first is a catalogue of the copies that have come down to us and the other relates stories about these copies. The short review is embellished with references to audio recordings with Rasmussen and to other blog posts about the two books.

Liz Dollimore’s “Shakespeare’s sources – Cymbeline” is again a great post on Shakespeare’s sources. She mentions the two most obvious sources, Holinshed’s Chronicles, and Geoffrey Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of England. What is, however, missing from these and other possible English sources is the part when Iachomo gets into Imogen’s bedchamber to prove her husband that he slept with her. Dollimore makes a case for Boccaccio’s Decameron to be the source for this particular part.

Ewan Fernie’s blog post, “Shakespearience 3: Helena’s Fantasies (Part 1)” meditates about Helena’s strange, at times embarrassingly open and at the same time ambiguous remarks on virginity. The following sentence captures the perception of Helena’s remarks:  “Tentativeness, coyness and sexual avidity all come together here, bewilderingly for us and Helena.

Digital Humanities:

The post by j. stoever-ackerman “Sounding Out! Occupies the Internet, or Why I Blog” is about academic blogging. She claims that with this writing she intends to take the reader “behind the scenes of Sounding Out!, sharing some of the reasons why we decided to start a public conversation about sound studies on the Internet.”

Last week I referred to Priego’s post about academic blogging. Now I am happy to point to a reaction to Priego’s writing. Jason B. Jones at ProfHacker posted his take on the issue: “Blogging, Extinction, and Sustainability.” The reason why he finds academic blogging important is really convincing. He claims “I don’t think this is always because they’re doing other things–sometimes the research just grinds slowly, sometimes there’s a problem in conceptualizing the project in a publishable form, and so forth. In the past, all that effort would’ve been invisible to peers.”

Adeline Koh’s guest post, “What Is Publishing? A Report from THATCamp Publishing” at ProfHacker summarizes the fruits of the THATCamp Publishing unconference 2011 October, Baltimore. The unconference focused on the changing means of academic publishing, and also shares some exemplary initiatives in this field. She concludes her post with claiming: “THATCamp Publishing provided a valuable forum for academics, librarians, and publishers to interact. Together we discussed important questions about how digital forms of publishing are actively changing the way we conceive of publishing today. How all three will negotiate the changes to the industry is yet to be determined.”

George Veletsianos’s post, Open Access Educational Technology journals collects a nice list of OA edtech journals. The real advantage of this post is that the list can be accessed as a Google document and anyone can contribute to the list with further titles. I find this a really useful initiative.

David Berry’s most interesting post, “The Gigantic” brings Heidegger’s concept of  the “gigantic” and realtime-streaming technologies like Twitter and Facebook together. This is a must-read.

Joseph Yanielli in his “Darwin and the Digital Utopia” showcases the uses and the limitations of Google’s NgramViewer in historical studies. Yanelli’s attitude to Culturomics is sober and absolutely convincing.

This video features a talk with Cathy N. Davidson about topics related to her new book, Now You See It. Both the topics and Davidson are really inspiring here. Furthermore, Davidson’s blog post is a highlight of the last week: “Five Ways The Open Web Can Transform Higher Education” These five ways include Macroscopic learning/research, code as a constantly improving system, narratives of data, forking, creation of new tools for research. Although the second blog post seems to be only a longer abstract of a paper that Cathy N. Davidson is going to read at the HASTAC conference on "Digital Scholarly Communication," Dec 1-3, University of Michigan, it is still worth reading in this form especially by those who can’t go to the conference—like myself. The post is entitled “Faulty Scientific Logic and the Institutional Status Quo” and argues that the change of the cultural and technological context of education should change education as well.


A week before I referred to a free online course launched by Stanford. Now I came across a rather useful repository of free web educational programmes. The repository is Open Culture: The best free cultural & educational media on the web. The post published on 28th November lists all the Stanford free online courses, and at the bottom of the post there are links to the free online courses at other universities. The post is entitled “Stanford Launching 14 Free Online Courses in January/February: Enroll Today

Miriam Posner’s post is an invaluable writing about managing digital research: “Embarrassments of riches: Managing research assets.” This is a must-read for students and professors as well.