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.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Blogoshpere 21 November – 27 November

Last week the Early Modern set turned out to be the most productive. This set includes a large number of Shakespeare-posts featuring sources, sonnets, forging Shakespeare and an anti-Stratfordian polemic writing. Besides Shakespeare I also liked three other pieces of news: two databases and a CFP. Though less in number, I’ve found three interesting posts in Digital Humanities too: two posts about sharing (academic blogging and code), while the third one calls attention to a free online course at Stanford University.

Early Modern Studies:

1. Liz Dollimore in her Shakespeare’s Sources series, now “Henry V” wrote about a scene, the battle of wit between Henry and three traitors. She argues that besides Holinshed, it is a contemporary letter by “Dr. William Parry who was executed on the morning of 2nd March 1584 for attempting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I” that lies in the background of the scene.

2. Sylvia Morris last week wrote about Shakespeare’s The Passionate Pilgrim. What is really fascinating in this post, “The mysterious Passionate Pilgrim and Shakespeare” is that she presents two variants of sonnet 138, one from The Passionate Pilgrim and another from the 1609 Q edition, and claims that the differences between the two reveal something about the poet at work.

3. Stuart Ian Burns reviews Shakespeare's Poems (Arden Shakespeare: Third Revised Edition). Edited by Katherine Duncan-Jones. His conclusion is telling enough to function as an appetiser for the review and the book as well: “Based more closely than usual on the 1609 Quarto (the exclamation mark is back in Sonnet 123, “No! Time though shalt not boast that I do change…”), each is presented with extensive notes on the facing page with a short explanatory note at the top. These compasses prove invaluable for navigating Shakespeare’s fragmentary maps of the human heart, another helping hand for those of us who’ve become lost along the way.”

4. Adam G. Hooks’s post, “Faking Shakespeare (Part 3): Authentic Shakespeare, Authentic Ireland,” presents great examples of 18th-century forgeries of Shakespeare with pictures of the documents.

5. For the sake of commentary and interest I mention a document of the counter-counter attack in the authorship debate. This is a similar work in its intentions to Stanley Wells’ and Paul Edmondson’s Shakespeare Bites Back: Not So Anonymous but as far as quality and force of arguments are concerned it is of lower quality. The document, entitled: Exposing an Industry in Denial: Authorship doubters respond to “60 Minutes with Shakespeare,” despite the similarity responds—as the title makes this clear—to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s “60 Minutes”- project.

6. This is very interesting and useful database: The Diplomatic Correspondence of Thomas Bodley, 1585-1597. It is worth browsing, playing with it. There is a variety of ways defined in advance to search the database.

7. Thanks to Sharon Howard at Early Modern Resources for The Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC), which is a collective database of all books published in Europe between the invention of printing and the end of the sixteenth century. #emdatabase

8. Last but not least, this is a CFP for a conference and an interesting initiative: “The  3rd International Conference of the European Society for Early Modern Philosophy will be devoted to the following theme: Debates, Polemics and Controversies in Early Modern Philosophy (January 30th to February 2nd, 2013, Université de Grenoble, France). The general objective of the conference is to take an overview of the present historiographical situation regarding the study of controversies and to contribute to a reappraisal of the study of controversies in the history of early modern philosophy.”

Digital Humanities:

1. Ernesto Priego, in his “’I Smell Smoke’: Blogging as an Endangered Species” at HASTAC argues that academic blogging may disappear in the long run, as it is too laborious not to be recognised at all by institutions as a form of academic output.

2. Jeremy Boggs’s blog post “Participating in the Bazaar: Sharing Code in the Digital Humanities” should convince everybody that sharing the source code is the future for Digital Humanities. He makes his case with arguments from his own experience along with more theoretical ones, and thus ends the post claiming: “We should share our code so others can learn from us, and so we can learn from others. More than anything, though, we should share code because it’s academic work, and I think academic work should be shared openly, critiqued, and improved.”

3. This is a pioneering enterprise at Stanford University, i.e. a free online course about “Natural Language Processing.” The course is managed and taught by Chris Manning and Dan Jurafsky, and the class starts January 23rd 2012.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Blogosphere 14 November - 20 November

Last week was a fascinating week in the blogosphere indeed, which is not only reflected in the number of the posts but also in the variety of genres. The "Early Modern" group contains posts demonstrating that the authorship debate rolled on last week with six posts, from serious to really funny ones. Beyond the debate there are two more posts about aspects of the Shakespearean oeuvre, plus I found a snippet on William Harrison and a database on 16th-century Scottish letters. In the “Digital Humanities” set I have included posts on geo-spatial data, JSTOR, traditional editing and/versus per-review, furthermore on TEI, theory and practice, and video-presentations on digital tools in the literature classroom. The "Others" category features two ProfHacker posts.

Early Modern Studies:

1. The Shakespeare authorship discussion witnesses posts with an immense sense of humour. An example for this is Shaul Bessi’s post “Anonymous Venetian” at Blogging Shakespeare. This post should be read from beginning to the end, as the turn comes at the end!

2. Another related post is entitled “Chronological List of References to Shakespeare as Author/Poet/Playwright” which speaks for itself. The webpage lists painstakingly the early references to Shakespeare. This may be a useful source for those interested in this problematics.

3. Brian Dunning’s post, “Finding Shakespeare” at Skeptoid argues for the Stratfordian cause.

4. Pat Donelly in her “William Shakespeare, as Anonymous as Réjean Ducharme?” also argues for Shakespeare being Shakespeare. She does this from the actor’s perspective, and also is happy to say that the authorship debate, though superfluous, does good to the less known Elizabethan authors.

5. Eric Idle’s “Who Wrote Shakespeare?” in The New Yorker is just a great piece of writing: both a funny take in the authorship debate, but at the same time a bitter criticism of the anti-stratfordian camp.

6. To round off this week’s posts on the authorship question, let me finish with “Shakespeare tops list of symbols giving Britons pride” at BBC News UK. This article nicely winds up the debate as it claims that “Some 75% agreed with the sentence ’I am proud of William Shakespeare as a symbol of Britain’,” referring to the interrelatedness of Shakespeare and patriotism.

7. Another Shakespeare related post, by Liz Dollimore this time, at Blogging Shakespeare is about King John and its relation to Holinshed’s Chronicles. The post is entitled “Shakespeare’s Sources – King John.”, and is one among the many interesting source posts with quotations from both the source and the play as well.

8. Stanley Well’s illuminating post explores the theme of “eyes” and “seeing” in the Shakespearean oeuvre: “Shakespeare and the Senses: The Pain of Seeing.”

9. Dainty Ballerina’s snippet at Shakespeare’s England entitled “Witches are hanged, or sometimes burned” quotes from W. Harrison’s A description of England as far as crime and punishment were treated in 16th-century England.

10. This week I came across with The Breadalbane Collection, i.e. a collection of letters written in the 16th century revealing “Scottish everyday life” in the given period.

Digital Humanities:

1. Stefan Sinclair’s post “The (Nearly) Immediate Gratification of Playing with Geospatial Data” presents the way how he created an interactive map: “XML to CSV, CSV to BatchGeo to add geo-location data, and there we have a map. An amazing transformation from static XML data to an interactive map.”

2. JSTOR released for free the Early Journal Content for the sake of data mining, as their “Early Journal Content Data Bundle” announces. “The data bundle for EJC includes full-text OCR and article and title-level metadata.” This should make the database rather invaluable for those researching the early phase of journal production.

3. I highly recommend to everybody Mark Sample’s and Shannon Mattern’s video presentations exploring the theme: Digital Humanities in the Classroom, or maybe digital projects at literature classes instead of seminar papers.

4. Dan Cohen’s post, What Will Happen to Developmental Editing? meditates about the future of editing, insomuch as developmental editing and peer-review are concerned. I also recommend the comments as well, coming from publishers. Hopefully, there is going to be either a golden mean between the two opposing views or a radically different solution. Nevertheless, Cohen’s position is rather innovative and rather forward-looking.

5. Hugh Cayless’s post “Scriptio Continua: TEI in other formats; part the second: Theory” is the second in the series exploring the uses of TEI. The post presents a difficult case when a damaged text was amended, and this is signalled with the TEI conventions. Reflecting on the capabilities of TEI leads to revealing theoretical underpinnings, or governing principles. One of the statements that I liked the best is this one: “There is no end of work to be done at this level, of joining theory to practice, and a great deal of that work involves hacking, experimenting with code and data.


1. Anastasia Salter’s post, “Breaking out of Triage Mode” at ProfHacker is a consoling paper, really. Most of the time, facing big tasks to deal with, it is just consoling to be reminded that shadow-work can be, should be overcome to get down to projects: “Small goals,” “Keep projects visible” and “Control your time-killers.”

2. Lincoln Mullen wrote an informative post, “Fix PDFs Quickly with pdftk,” again at ProfHacker, giving thus help to those who intend to play and work with Pdf documents. The choice this time is Pdf Toolkit, a command-line application running on Windows, Mac OS X, Ubuntu Linux etc.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Blogosphere 7 November-13 November

Below is a subjective—painfully incomplete—list of what happened last week in the academic blogosphere. I have put the individual items of the list into three categories: Early Modern Studies, Digital Humanities and Others, although I am aware that this categorization is erroneous, as whatever appears in the Early Modern set, may also appear in the Digital Humanities as well, since everything that is listed under Early Modern Studies is related to the digital world, thus with a generous heart could be related to Digital Humanities as well. For the sake of helping those who will read this review, still I have distinguished between these categories with the principle in mind that if a blog-post is related in any ways to EMS, it will end up in that category, and those DH posts that focus on aspects of DH and have nothing to do with EMS will be placed in the DH category. The third category consists of items that belong to neither categories, such as posts or applications that I have come across and found beneficial.

Early Modern Studies:

Last week seemed to revolve around Shakespeare, which may be due to the tempest around the authorship debate. Statistically speaking the next issue is Early Modern Philosophy focusing on questions of angelology and Newton’s natural philosophy.

1-2. Sylvia Morris contributed with two posts to Shakespeare in the blogosphere. First The Shakespeare blog hits 100!” she announced that she has arrived at the 100th blog post at The Shakespeare Blog. Congratulations to her for this. 
Second her next post discusses Robin Hood before, in, and after Shakespeare. Robin Hood and Shakespeare.

3. Holger Syme: Shakespearean Mythbusting II: The Fantasy of Astonishing Erudition is the authors second post in his Shakespearean Mythbusting series, in which the author argues against the anti-Stratfordian position in the authorship debate triggered by the release of Anonymous. In this second post, Holger Syme clarifies the claim that “Shakespeare wasn’t immensely erudite,” along with arguing for Shakespeare’s linguistic virtuosity, his knowledge of foreign languages, sources of information.

4. Paul Edmondson’s post “Creating Shakespeare’s Life”  at Blogging Shakespeare calls attention to Graham Holderness’s book, Nine Lives of William Shakespeare, along with an audio recording where the Holderness speaks about his book.

5-6. Stefan Heßbrüggen-Walter published two posts in his Early Modern Angels series at Early Modern Thought Online: the Blog. This week he published part 3: Early Modern Angels (III): Natural and supernatural angels in Leibniz, focusing now on Leibniz (after Hobbes and Descartes, the champions of the previous posts), and number 4: Early Modern Angels (IV): The ‘Fundamental Angelological Problem’, i.e. a post the draws the conclusions following from the previous three parts. In this post, last but one in the series, he explores the problem of integrating angels into a world view with mechanistic underpinnings.

6. Joad Raymond’s obituary at Early Modern News Networks is a moving post about Kevin Sharpe (1949-2011) who passed away on 5 November 2011. Kevin Sharpe was a scholar of Early Modern culture focusing on many aspects of Early Modern Studies with books from a monograph on Sir Robert Cotton (1979), to his outstanding Reading Revolutions (2000).

7. At Early Modern Experimental Philosophy one may read an illuminating post “The Aims of Newton’s Natural Philosophy,” exploring the difference between “what Newton wants to achieve, and what he thinks he can achieve” with reference to the General Scholium to the Principia (1713).

Digital Humanities:

The DH posts meditate about reform in higher education, on the importance of social media in academic blogging, on academic blogging, theory, web searches and historical research in the digital environment.

1. Bethany Nowviskie, published her “it starts on day one“ on the reform of Higher Education.

2-3. Digital Humanities Now featured last week—among many other things—two interesting posts listing contributions to two topics. One is entitled “OpenAccess and Social Media” gathering six fascinating takes on “the effects of social media on open access scholarship” at . The second one, “Digital Humanities and Theory Round-up Part II,” refers to fourteen posts illuminating different aspects of the relationship between DH and theory.

4. Natalia Cecire, who is a postdoctoral fellow at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University, showcases an interesting discussion on Twitter triggered by Patrick Murray-John’s post “Theory, DH, and Noticing.” This post rightly captures and presents the advantages of a scholarly discussion disciplined by the 140-character limitation.

4. Laura Larsell’s post “How Hashtagging the Web Could Improve Our Collective Intelligence” at Mashable discusses the advantages of the decision of the Library of Congress (2010) to archive tweets, and meditates about web searches functioning similarly to searches with hashtags in Twitter.

5. Tim Hitchcock in his “Historyonics” problematizes the discipline of history as is practiced in the digital age via claiming that historians “have restricted themselves to asking only the kind of questions books can answer.”

6. Dan Dohen highlights two writings on academic blogging in his “Evans and Cebula on Academic Blogging.”


What I found the most interesting cloud-based service last week was Spideroak, which is similar to Dropbox in a variety of respects.

1. Those who are of losing their documents, and are not friends of Dropbox, should check out Spideroak. Spideroak is similar to Dropbox, in many respects, such as offering 2 GB for free, automatic synchronisation, but for Spideroak one does not have to create a separate folder as with Dropbox, but clicks on the folders to be stored in the cloud as well and Spideroak does the rest.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Happy Birthday, Will Shakespeare!

Shakespeare’s birthday and Liz Woledge’s invitation prompted me to write this post to celebrate the Bard’s (assumed) birthday. Before narrating how Shakespeare shaped my life, I have to clarify two points. First, since I am Hungarian, Shakespeare is not a national hero, a cultural currency to me, but rather an author of works and also an opportunity leading to friendships throughout my life. Second, I am not only taking a glance at this story, as a Shakespeare scholar, but also as a hedonist who seeks and finds much joy in reading or watching his works and also in trying to help other, most of the time younger people find delight there. These two points are the cornerstones of a story, a story of happy and beneficial coincidences.

First, I met Shakespeare, and his oeuvre in the primary school, where I had the privilege to learn English rather early, actually earlier than Russian, the then compulsory language (this is late 1970’s early 1980’s, still the time of the socialist regime). I should have been happy about this privilege, but I was not so much enthusiastic about the English classes for a variety of reasons. At one point, however, I can’t recall which year, to make the classes more interactive, our English teacher gave us the opportunity to talk about what we found interesting about England. I was first rather frustrated about this task, as behind the iron curtain without sources of information about England I could not see anything interesting about England. As the deadline for the presentation was approaching, I felt more and more frustrated, and I could not even trust divine intervention.

Deus ex machina, as in every good story, however, did intervene dressed up in my mother’s passion for spending large sums of money on books. At this time of despair, when browsing the new pile of books, I came across with a three-volume Lexicon of Hungarian Theatre. Enjoying the colour, the odour of the pages, opening here and there I caught sight of the name of Shakespeare. I started reading the short descriptions of the plays, their Hungarian theatrical history, and after a while I realized that this may well be a presentable topic. I filled a complete sketchbook with notes, enjoyed “research” and became somewhat enthusiastic about what I was doing—for the first time during my English studies. As I did not have time to prepare sufficiently, the presentation turned out a very long one, actually it lasted for two forty-five-minute classes. My classmates and the teacher must have been bored to death, but seeing my interest in the topic, all of them were polite enough to listen to me for such a long time.

Then years passed in silence, and my next encounter with Shakespeare took place during my university years through the crooked ways of accidental events. First things first. This was the beginning of the 1990’s, and at that time candidates had to pass a rather difficult entrance exam before they could become students. Having passed this exam I thought I arrived at the peaceful haven of comfortable student-life at the English/ and parallel to this / the Philosophy Departments. This comforting belief was just shattered during the first days, when I realized that there was nobody to tell me which seminar taught by different professors I should take for example for the module “Introduction to English Literature.” I had to rely an rumours and hearsay, and there seemed to lie two paths in front of me: choose the easy way and register for any of the seminars where there was still room left, or try the difficult one and go to a class where there were crowds of students, and having no other way to limit their number, an informal but scary enough entrance exam took place during the first class.

With a friend of mine, we opted for the narrow and painful path, which in the long run proved beneficial. Having passed the entrance exam with the rest of the happy few we were introduced into English literature in a very literal sense, never to leave it again (most of us have become literary critics, academics here and there). The heart and soul of these classes was professor István Géher, one of the best, if not the best, Shakespeare scholars in Hungary, so the introduction was not only to EngLit generally but to Shakespeare as well.

This Géherian introduction to English Literature and to Shakespeare remained a lasting experience and a point of reference throughout my university years. During these years I met other outstanding Shakespeare scholars—Péter Dávidházi, Géza Kállay—who increased my attachment to Shakespeare studies. Fascination about Shakespeare and great professors then led me onto a next stage of my contact with Shakespeare, a PhD programme where I had the opportunity to dive deeper in the Shakespearean oeuvre, slowly opening the world to other Shakespeare scholars, with whom it was pure pleasure to speak about the Bard. Images whirl in my mind about a PhD student conference, where I met Paul Edmondson, another time Stanley Wells, and yet another time Peter Holland, who later on all welcomed me during my scholarly visits to the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon.

The fact that Shakespeare has remained not only a passing hobby but a professional interest is due to my luck to have received a position at Péter Pázmány Catholic University. There I spend most of my teaching-hours with reading, explaining, discussing Shakespeare both at the English Department and at the Comparative Literature Department. These are sources of immense joy to me, and I hope students also find these classes and Shakespeare both beneficial and entertaining at the same time. With Pázmány new aspects of Shakespeare studies opened up through my colleagues: Tibor Fabiny introduced me to the relationship between Shakespeare and the Bible, Péter Tóta Benedek to Christian humanism, Veronika Schandl, Kinga Földváry and Gabriella Reuss to the theory and history of adaptation. And it was also because of my job that I became acquainted with Shakespeare scholars at other institutions in Hungary.

Shakespeare has been from rather early times in my life a source of intellectual joy and—not unrelated to this—scholarly friendships. And what is more enjoyable is that this story is not a complete story, the end is not foreseeable, this year testifying to this. In 2011 I had the honour to participate in the Shakespeare Day on Twitter (#askshakespeare), or this present occasion bringing bloggers together at to celebrate the Bard. What fascinates me about all this is the question concerning the future. The beginning of this story, as I look back, implies that more fun lies ahead. Knowing the piece of wisdom “As a (not completely—Zs.A.) stranger, give it welcome,” happy as I am, I can say with confidence that I’ll follow thee, Will, wherever you lead me. Happy birthday to you!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Parerga in More’s Utopia and Scholarly Blogging

Historia est magistra vitae philosophi.

This post, which is a heavily cut version of the paper I read at HUSSE 10 Conference in Hungary is about a possible link between the parerga in Thomas More’s Utopia and scholarly blogging nowadays, i.e. between these otherwise incommensurable phenomena. A possible link between the two is the then and now new technology of publication, more precisely the shift from manuscript culture to print culture then and from print culture to digital culture nowadays. To establish the link between the two I will utilise in a somewhat rough mode Gérard Genette’s Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation.

The concept of the paratext includes everything that can be found around the text of a work, from the title of the work to the book ending colophon. Out of this wide range of textual and visual elements, I am going to focus on 16 items in Thomas More’s Utopia that include epistles and poems written by various people, woodcuts, and an alphabet. These are the items that have been referred to with the label “parerga” by More scholars since 1931. These elements appeared in the first four authoritative editions of the Utopia.

Genette’s method of defining paratextual elements comes very much in handy for the sake of linking the Morean parerga and blogging. Genette when meditating about paratexts, explores the “paratextual message’s spatial, temporal, substantial, pragmatic, and functional characteristics.” The reason for following this template of analysis is that with this lucid method of identification I can succinctly explore instable character of the parerga, and also the problematics around their communicative situation and indirect functions.

The temporal and spatial instability can be demonstrated by the chart below:
1516, Louvain
1517, Paris
1518 March, Basel
1518 November, Basel
  1. A woodcut of Utopia
  2. The Utopian alphabet
  3. The Tetrastichon
  4. Hexastichon Anemolii
  5. Giles letter to Busleyden
  6. Desmarais’ letter and poem
  7. Geldenhauer’s poem
  8. Schrijver’s poem
  9. Busleyden’s letter to More
  10. More’s letter to Giles
only in the 1516
only in 1517
only in 1518
both in 1516, 17
both in 1516, 18
both in 1517, 18
in every edition
  1. Hexastichon Anemolii
  2. Budé’s letter
  3. Giles’ letter to Busleyden
  4. Desmarais’ letter and poem
  5. More’s letter to Giles
      After Utopia
6.                  More’s second letter to Giles
7.      Busleyden’s letter to More
8.      Geldenhauer’s poem
9.      Schrijver’s poem
10.  Errata
11.              Gourmont’s device
  1. Erasmus’s letter to Folben
  2. Budé’s letter
  3. Hexastichon Anemolii
  4. woodcut of Utopia (Ambrosius Holbein)
  5. A Utopian alphabet
  6. The Tetrastichon
  7. Giles’ letter to Busleyden
  8. More’s letter to Giles
  9. Woodcut of the interlocutors

      After Utopia
9.                  Busleyden’s letter to More
10.  Geldenhauer’s poem
11.              Schrijver’s poem
identical with 1518 March, Basel

Three observations follow from the chart.
  1. The columns demonstrate that the first three authoritative editions contained somewhat different elements.
  2. The colours demonstrate that the some items appeared in one of the three, two of the three or in all of the authoritative editions.
  3. There is instability insofar as the location of the material is concerned, as from the 1517 edition there appear items in the postludial position adjacent to the preludial one.

So, all the editions from the 1516 to the 1518 March (November) editions were published with some editorial and authorial consent and yet there are substantial changes from one edition to the other revealing editorial and authorial decisions and indecisions, visions and revisions.

Along with the temporal and spatial instability of the parerga, one also has to account for the pragmatic aspect, i.e. the features that follow from the communicative situation focusing only on the sender(s) and the addressee(s).

As far as the “senders” of the prefatory material are concerned again there is a great variety of possibilities if sticking to the Genetteian classification. In the chart below I have placed some of the senders to identify them.

Actorial (character from the text)
More’s letters (?)
Budé’s letter,
Gilles’ letter (?)
More’s letters
Apocryphal (real person’s name, but was written by someone else)

Author of the alphabet, poem in Utopian
More’s, Gilles’ letters (?)

Some of the senders can easily be identified, some, however, can be placed in several slots. Some of the senders are clearly authentic allographic senders, i.e. real people, but other than the author, e.g. Budé in his letter. It is also clear that the author of the Utopian alphabet is a fictive allographic one. Thomas More’s letter to Giles, and Giles to More, however, stick out from this chart. Thomas More’s letters at face value should be authentic authorial, as he is a real person, author of both the text and the letters. Also Giles’s letter should be authentic allographic insomuch as he is real, author of the letter but not identical with the author of the text. At the same time, however, both of them may as well be classified as fictive actorial senders insofar as both of them mention meeting Raphael, which in turn identifies them with characters in the text. This is not the whole story though, as More’s letters may well appear within the authentic actorial category insomuch as the narrative of the text is first person singular.

Parallel to the elusiveness and complexity of the sender(s) of the parerga, the addressees of them also display a dichotomy, especially with respect to the epistles. This dichotomy lies in the interplay between the addressee named in the title of the epistle on the one hand, and the addressee who is the reader of the printed text. These epistles swarm with expressions of inwardness, which is the more interesting if we consider that these letters were not only addressed to the people named as the addressees, but to a general reading public with the intention to read Utopia. So what is going on is putting on display, sharing with a faceless, unknown reading public their real or feigned private affairs, mistakes and friendships. That is we may assume that there is a cunning game being played with the facelessness of the unforeseeable addressee and the addressee of the letter, or more precisely a game with the new technology of printing and the then traditional way of manuscript culture.

The fourth Genettian category, i.e. the function of paratextual elements also reveals much about the parerga. The parerga on the one hand compensates for the loss of context with the appearance of print culture, which was there for the readers of manuscripts. It also functions as a teambuilding exercise for these leading humanists, men of letters and of public affairs. Also the paperga functioned as a marketing device revealing the understanding of the needs of the book as a commodity, and how much it mattered who published the work, and who gave their names to the publication.

After having seen the temporal, spatial and communicative instability of the parerga and their functions, we should move from the humanist scholarly friendship to Digital Humanities, or at least to one of its activities to show how the new technology influences scholarly activity in the 21st century. More precisely I would like to call attention to the technology that is called blogging as something which in a variety of ways resembles the Morean parerga.

Scholarly blogging may be seen as paratext to the published material. It surrounds the publication of a scholarly text insomuch as it may inform the reader about the state of research, about parts, small parts of an ongoing research, ideas that are cast on the margins of the focus of the research, shortened versions of texts published or to be published, about ideas that are interesting but too small to be included in a large project, or snippets, books, ideas that one comes across when in the middle of research.

These blogs can be characterized with instability, flexibility. Blogs similarly to the parerga can be revised after their first publication, can be deleted, can be removed from one blogging platform to the other. The same text may be published at several blogging services with the same type or with another one, i.e. can be published both with traditional macro-blogging ( and with meso-blogging services (, or at different macro-blogging services, e.g. at and at

The communicative situation is also similar to that of the parerga. The sender of the blog can be a real person identified with a name. Some bloggers, however, use nicknames, or rather pennames, and the real person remains hidden, or known to a narrow circle of readers. The addressee, of blogging poses a similar situation to that of early printing. In this case there is the same unknown, unforeseeable audience that was at stake for the authors of the printed medium, i.e. almost anybody may bump into the blog post. Nevertheless, the intended reader is a specialist and the interested reader, and both should find relevant issues for themselves.

Blogging also creates and celebrates communities. On the one hand bloggers inform the intended readers about what they are doing as researchers. They share parts of research projects, thoughts that remain on the margins of these projects, which are worth meditating about. On the other hand, as this technology creates an environment for reflections as comments, there is room for building communities. In this way a blog post is not a finished item in the long run, but may gradually grow with comments, comments on comments and replies to comments. In this respect a post functions as a discussion forum for specialists and for the interested.

Blogging also functions as a means of marketing. Academic bloggers advertise their own published works and blog posts or those of others. Once, say, a blog post is out, or a book, or journal article, a reference to it may soon appear on a micro-blogging platform (, as well to inform people about it. This reference, i.e. tweet can later be re-tweeted again and again, which fosters instant publicity in so far unimaginable ways.

As a conclusion, one may claim that the comparison of the print in the early 16th century and web 2.0 on an abstract level is fruitful. Back in the 16th-century humanists utilised printing for their own purposes insomuch as creating, sustaining and even boasting off with their scholarly and friendly community. Furthermore they played with its format of its being public with some inwardness. They also discovered the advantages of its power of and for publicity. Similarly to this, blogging is perfect for creating, sustaining and creating social and research networks, and thus contexts for scholarly writing and research. And also the game with publicity and inwardness is there to be played with. Third, blogging is an unexpectedly and unpredictably powerful tool of instant publicity. It is, however, not enough to see the potential in blogging, as the very nature of web 2.0 is that it is in constant evolution. So it is the scholars’ responsibility to take part in its evolution and thus to fashion it into a valuable tool, similarly to their renaissance colleagues, fulfilling the promise anchored in Historia est magistra vitae philosophi.