Digitizing the Stage 2017 (conference)

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Digitizing the Stage: Rethinking the Early Modern Theatre Archive was a conference held in Oxford, UK, from July 10-12, 2017. The conference was co-sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Centre for Digital Scholarship at the Bodleian Libraries, and Professor Tiffany Stern. The conference sought to hear from early modernists engaging their subject through digital means, as well as to invite approaches from other disciplines, genres, and time periods which could prompt new thinking about the ways we preserve, describe, research, and teach the early modern stage. Projects represented included the Rose Revealed project, Digital Blackfriars, the AusStage database, the NUI-Galway and Abbey Theatre Digital Archive, the Early Modern English Drama project, the Database of Early Modern Extracts (DEx), the Collection of Theatre Architecture, the Reception & Circulation of Early Modern Women Writers project (RECIRC).

The full conference website can be found here.

Abstracts and Speakers

Monday, July 10

Staging unknown quantities: explorations in the digital archive

Bed, blood, and beyond: A quantitative analysis of early modern stage props

Brett Greatley-Hirsch, University of Leeds

Quantitative studies of early modern drama, including authorship attribution, typically focus exclusively on patterns of language. However, a play is more than its dialogue, and the same empirical approaches might also be employed to uncover latent patterns in non-verbal features of the drama. Stage properties or ‘props’ are one such feature, and this paper presents a quantitative analysis of their frequency and distribution in plays written for the commercial London theatres between 1590 and 1609.

Brett Greatley-Hirsch is University Academic Fellow in Textual Studies and Digital Editing at the University of Leeds. He is Coordinating Editor of Digital Renaissance Editions, and Co-Editor of Shakespeare (for the British Shakespeare Association and Routledge). His book, Style, Computers, and Early Modern Drama: Beyond Authorship (2017, co-authored with Hugh Craig), brings together his research interests in early modern drama, computational stylistics, and literary history.

Women and the Early Modern Stage: Reception, circulation, performance

Erin McCarthy, National University of Ireland-Galway

The European Research Council-funded project “RECIRC: The Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing, 1550–1700” is a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort to develop a large-scale quantitative account of the reception and circulation of women’s writing. By extension, it also offers a reassessment of how gender shapes ideas of authorship and writing. This paper will introduce the project’s digital tools and methods with particular attention to its taxonomy of early modern reception types. Illustrative examples will highlight the reception and circulation of dramatic texts written by women as well as documentary evidence of women’s performance. Ultimately, it will show how RECIRC’s digital approach offers a way to compare seemingly scant and disparate evidence of women’s participation in early modern drama.

Erin A. McCarthy is a postdoctoral researcher on the ERC-funded project RECIRC: The Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing, 1550-1700. Her research focuses on the transmission and reception of women’s writing in manuscript miscellanies. She is also completing a book, “Print, Poetry, and the Reading Public in Early Modern England,” which examines early modern publishers’ critical and editorial efforts and argues that these interventions have had an enduring impact on our canons, texts, and literary histories.

Shakespeare’s Purchase of Blackfriars Gatehouse 1613: A digital analysis

Alan H. Nelson, University of California-Berkeley (emeritus)

As a major contributor to the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Documented website, I have benefited immensely from digital resources and techniques in the transcription and interpretation of Early Modern documents. A case in point is the nexus of documents related to Shakespeare’s purchase of the Blackfriars Gatehouse in 1613. Close analysis of nearly a dozen physical documents reveals that the two surviving copies of the original indenture dated 10 March were cut from the same piece of parchment; both were taken away by the seller, Henry Walker, until the associated mortgage was paid; the copy ultimately intended for Shakespeare the buyer, not the copy intended for Walker, the seller, was carried by Walker to the Rolls Office in Chancery Lane for enrollment; the mortgage dated 11 March was paid promptly, not deferred as all but one of Shakespeare’s biographers have claimed; Shakespeare’s use of trustees is finally capable of being explained. In sum, the high degree of detail forced on the researcher by digital photographic techniques compells the researcher to address issues previously overlooked; but digital facilities also provide resources which may enable solutions to seemingly insoluble problems.

Alan H. Nelson is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley. His specializations are paleography, bibliography, and the reconstruction of the literary life and times of medieval and Renaissance England from documentary sources. He is author of Monstrous Adversary: The Life of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (Liverpool University Press, 2003). He is editor of Cambridge, Records of Early English Drama, 2 vols. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989). He is one of four editors of Oxford, Records of Early English Drama, 2 vols. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004). (The other editors are John R. Elliott, Jr.; Alexandra F. Johnston; and Diana Wyatt.) He is co-editor, with John R. Elliott, Jr., of Inns of Court, 3 vols., Records of Early English Drama (D.S. Brewer, 2010). He is co-editor with William Ingram of the website The Parish of St Saviour, Southwark, 1550-1650 and has recently contributed essays to Shakespeare Documented, a project sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.

Flash of genius: lightning talks from the digital archive

Brief insights into work on the Rose Revealed project (Johanna Schmitz, University of Southern Illinois, Edwardsville), the Folger Shakespeare Library’s digital asset platform project (Stacey Redick, Folger), and the NUI-Galway Abbey Theatre digital archive project (Barry Houlihan, NUI-Galway).

Stacey Redick is the Digital Strategist at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where she oversees information architecture of digital properties, leads user experience research and design, and manages institutional partnerships. Previously, she created digital information resources at the International Monetary Fund. She holds an M.A. in Ancient History and Italian (University of St Andrews), and an M.I. in Library and Information Science with Book History and Print Culture (University of Toronto).

Barry Houlihan is Archivist, National University of Ireland, Galway. He a project board member of the Abbey Theatre and Gate Theatre Digitisation projects at NUIG; an EX Comm member of APAC (Association of Performing Arts Collections). He is the editor of the forthcoming volume, “Navigating Ireland’s Theatre Archive: Theory, Performance, Practice” (Peter Lang Academic Press) and is in the final year of a Phd focusing on archives of Irish theatre and society in modernising Ireland.