Monday, 2 January 2012

Blogoshpere 26 December – 01 January 2012

Last week—I reckon not surprisingly—was less productive for bloggers than other weeks. This, however, does not mean that I did not bump into informative and beneficial posts. The Early Modern set presents histories in many ways: a history play and its source, book history and reception history.  The harvest in Digital Humanities includes a beginner’s guide to Digital Humanities, and the other posts I have selected consider the identity of Digital Humanities, a discussion that was initiated by an outsider to DH, but himself a big fish in literary studies. Happy reading and a New Year!

Early Modern Studies:

Liz Dollimore’s post, “Shakespeare’s sources – Henry VI part 1” ponders about the description of Joan D’Arc in Holinshed’s Chronicles and in Shakespeare’s play. The conclusion to the comparison is so beautiful that I’ll quote it verbatim: “The story told in the first person without the narrative distance of a historian lives and breathes with the young woman’s passion and self belief. In his borrowing Shakespeare also brings to life.”

Holger Syme in his “Well-Read Plays III” takes this time two books and demonstrates that their respective readers read them with the eyes of an antiquarian. First, he looks at a copy of Samuel Daniel’s Philotas (1605) owned by Sir Anthony Benn (1570-1618). “Benn treated Daniel’s text as a work of learning, writing, appropriately, in Latin, and referring to Horace, Juvenal, Plutarch, Seneca, and Tacitus in his marginal notes.” Syme argues then that Benn read the work as a text for philological investigation rather than as a tragedy. Then he moves on to a 1605 quarto of the anonymous Famous History of the Life and Death of Captain Thomas Stukeley owned by William Stukeley. This volume seems to be created for studying the play with a pen, as every left page is blank to be filled with notes. The illustration Syme brings is a philological and historical exploration of a word filling an entire blank verso page.

Digital Humanities:

Melody Dworak’s “10 New Year’s Resolutions for Budding Digital Humanists” is a very good list of advice for those who would like to get involved in Digital Humanities. Her ten items on the list are really worth considering.

Stanley Fish’s essay, “The Old Order Changeth” was published in the New York Times reflecting on the 2012 MLA Convention programme. He there gave a phenomenology of what people are interested in nowadays as far as literary studies are concerned. When meditating about what is about or have disappeared, and where the future lies, he commented on the forty panels devoted to Digital Humanities, as a possible future for literary studies. “The digital humanities is the name of the new dispensation and its prophets tell us that if we put our faith in it, we shall be saved. But what exactly is it? And how will its miracles be wrought?” His paper created a bit of unrest among digital humanists in the blogoshphere.

The first response I know of was written by Ted Underwood: “Why digital humanities isn’t actually “the next thing in literary studies.”” He argues that DH is not a movement that can / should save Literary Studies, because it is “extra-disciplinary,” it is more an “opportunity” than anything else. He goes on claiming that “DH is something more interesting than that — intellectually less coherent, but posing a more genuine challenge to our assumptions.”

Alex Reid in his “literary studies' digital humanities future” reflects on Fish’s essay, too. His central claim is that Fish’s comparison of postmodern theories and DH just does not hold. “Where postmodernity was a direct attack on the existing traditions of literary studies, the digital humanities isn’t even specifically about literature. It certainly isn’t an attack on existing methods. It is more like an alternative set of methods. It doesn't demand literary scholars change their objects of study. Instead, DH carries on studying the conventional literary traditions.”

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