2019 Abstracts: Tuesday

Abstracts are organized by approximate session time. We are still in the process of uploading abstracts; all are subject to change. Abstracts are also available for Wednesday and Thursday.

Building the Stage: New Developments (Session 2)

A Digital Editions of Paratexts in Early Modern Drama | Sonia Massai, Heidi Craig

In this paper, we will present the features and functionality of the digital iteration of Paratexts in Early English Drama. At the first Digitizing the Stage conference in 2017, we focused on the benefits and challenges involved in expanding and digitizing the print edition of Thomas L. Berger and Sonia Massai’s Paratexts in English Printed Drama to 1642 (CUP, 2014). This edition is the first reference source to include all paratextual materials (i.e. extra-dramatic materials such as title pages, dedications, addresses to the reader etc.) in early modern English playbooks from the emergence of print drama to the closure of the theatres in 1642. Since then, Massai and Craig have been working in collaboration with the Folger’s digital team to develop a browsable, open-access online version of Paratexts in English Printed Drama, hosted at the Folger Shakespeare Library, that includes transcriptions of all paratexts from the original two-volume printed edition, as well as newly available transcriptions of paratexts in English playbooks printed between 1642 and 1660.

Because the project had its genesis at the inaugural conference in 2017, we are excited to present our progress on the online Paratexts edition at Digitizing the Stage 2019. In addition to presenting the site’s functions and features, we will describe its construction, explain our decisions, and outline the challenges, solutions, and lessons that emerged over the course of the site’s development.

Creating a Database of Performances: http://www.theatreinsaintdomingue.org | Julia Prest

The former French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) boasted the most vibrant tradition of public theatre in the colonial Caribbean. I propose to present and discuss https://www.theatreinsaintdomingue.org — a website that I put together (and launched in March 2018) featuring a bilingual (French-English) database of all documented public performances in the theatres of Saint-Domingue between 1764 and 1791 as announced in the local newspapers. I shall outline why and how I created the database, and the particular challenges that I encountered when faced with incomplete and sometimes inaccurate primary data, as well as a very small budget. The database is both a time-saving device (information that would before have taken days or even weeks to gather is now available instantly) and a tool that promotes research into an important but neglected field. It also tells the story of an emerging tradition of local or creole theatre more clearly than ever before, thereby challenging some longstanding preconceptions about colonial-era theatre. Alongside the obvious advantages of having this information available at the click of a button, I would also like to debate two possible disadvantages to this kind of database: 1) the fact that it creates a misleading sense of accuracy and completeness and 2) the likelihood that it may encourage an overreliance on digital technology at the expense of the original sources and archives. Finally, I would like to outline the ways in which, funding permitting, I would like to expand the database and website in the future.

“Look thee, I speak play scraps”: Digitally mapping intertextuality in early modern drama | Regula Hohl Trillini

WordWeb is a new online, searchable repository of intertextual references in early modern drama. Thousands of text extracts with their metadata will map the mutual reception history of London theatre as a verbal network.

WordWeb builds on HyperHamlet, a hypertext database of 11’000 text quotations from Shakespeare’s tragedy. The step from one play to recording just intertextually active passages allows for documenting overlaps between hundreds of texts. Jacobethan playwrights collaborated, heard each other’s work onstage, memorized, re-wrote, improvised and quoted with and without acknowledgment. Like Hollywood scriptwriters, they made audiences laugh by recycling “memes”: “Look, I speak play scraps!” (Marston, What You Will). The whole competitive scene was a “tissue of quotations” (Barthes 1967) where “influencers” acquired “likes” by being quoted. Our corpus of thousands of quotations will be the first inclusive map of this dense, extended network.

An accessible overview is urgently needed to reclaim valuable information dormant in NQ items, footnotes, indexes and 19th-century PhDs. WordWeb will re-present and contextualize this data, with entries also in modern spelling to facilitate human and electronic recognition of recurring phrases and to set Shakespeare in context (collaboration with FolgerDigitalTexts in discussion). Harnessing 200 years’ research (metadata will indicate who first spotted a quotation) for an unprecedentedly comprehensive collection will clarify Shakespeare’s contribution to his age’s “web of words”. He has dominated research for centuries; resurrecting disregarded research on writers that are more than just “contemporaries” (Wiggins Catalogue) will provide a new view of him in a rediscovered verbal landscape.

Mapping the Text: New Analysis (Session 3)

The Talk of Drama Town: Exploring Topics in Russian Plays | Irina Pavlova, Frank Fischer

This paper introduces a digital approach to explore drama by means of topic modelling. The object of study is our Russian Drama Corpus of more than 150 plays encoded in TEI. It is part of DraCor (https://dracor.org/), a larger platform for the research on drama that also holds corpora in other languages (English, German, Swedish). The task of topic modelling fictional texts is especially challenging, since topics (‘themes’) might appear not as explicit as they usually do in non-fictional texts. We present a detailed workflow from preprocessing and parameterisation to analysis and interpretation with a special nod to the evaluation of topic models. In large-scale NLP projects the most popular metric is statistical perplexity, which does not necessarily focus on the coherence of topics. While in digital literary studies the human assessment is still the most widely used method for evaluation, its subjectivity can pose a problem, which is why we focus on automatic approaches. Some metrics such as pointwise mutual information evaluate the dependence or association of words. We explore several approaches of topic-model evaluation to fine-tune parameters and extract a balanced number of topics. This model is applied to our corpus of plays, followed by the analysis and interpretation of the distribution of topics throughout time, genre and authors and by gender of dramatic characters. Short of the language-dependent preprocessing steps like lemmatisation, our approach is applicable to all corpora linked to the DraCor platform and opens a comparative angle for the study of drama.

Bastardy in Early Modern Drama: A Computational Approach | Jakob Ladegaard

Illegitimacy was a favored topic in Early Modern English drama. This paper presents a study conducted by a small team of scholars of bastardy in a corpus of 20 dramatic works from 1590 to 1642. We use a computational method developed in corpus linguistics (keyword analysis) to see if the linguistic characteristics of bastard characters in general differ from those of other characters in the corpus. We then use the same analytical procedure to compare bastard characters from different genres (tragedy, comedy, history). We conclude that there are marked differences between characterizations of bastards in different genres. Tragedies tend to embody the negative stereotypes of the period, while comedies vary more. We also find an increase in positive bastard characterization in Caroline drama compared to the earlier period. To properly understand these differences, we argue that it is necessary to return to historical contextualization and close reading. We illustrate this in a brief comparative reading of bastardy in Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear (1606) and Richard Brome’s comedy A jovial Crew (1641). This study is a part of the research project ‘Unearned Wealth: A Literary History of Inheritance, 1600-2015’ at Aarhus University, Denmark (2017-2021). The presenter of this paper is the director of that project.

Networking to Secure an Estate: Social Network Analysis and Inheritance in Early Modern Comedies | Beth Cortese

Part of the ‘Unearned Wealth: A Literary History of Inheritance 1600-2015’ project at Aarhus University, this paper will engage with social network analysis as a means of analyzing kinship ties and social structures relating to inheritance of property and distribution of wealth in early modern drama. Social network analysis is a useful tool for both teaching, research, and performance practice because it provides a visualization of all the characters in a play and their relationships. It has previously been used to generate and compare social networks across German drama (F. Fischer, M. Gobel, D.. Kamkaspar, P. Trilcke, 2016). The tool measures not only those characters who possess the most connections and are therefore central to the plot but also those with ‘betweenness-centrality’, who facilitate communication between characters from different spheres in the play, such as servant characters. The advantage of this approach is that network analysis can help to reveal new insights about the agency of characters along with which characters never appear in a scene together, contributing to ideas about which roles may have been played by the same performer. This paper will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of social network analysis along with its potential as a means of tracking trends and changes in early modern comedies about inheritance. I will consider the role of kinship ties, wit, exchange, and non-familial trust relations in the protagonist’s desire to secure an estate.

Projects in Motion: Lightning Talks (Session 4)

Dramatic Data: DEEP at the Folger Shakespeare Library |Meaghan J. Brown

As we near the end of our three-year build for Miranda, our digital collections platform, the Folger is thinking through how we represent related data in our collection. In this short talk, I will highlight the integration of one particular dataset into our collection: the Database of Early English Playbooks. DEEP’s data isn’t new; it’s been a digital tool since 1999, when it was developed by Zachary Lesser and Alan Farmer as part of their graduate work at Columbia. This data has already influenced our data ecosystem for early modern drama. Data from DEEP was instrumental in creating the metadata for EMED, and is a touchstone for many other digital projects. In this short talk, I’ll examine the ways DEEP has been integrated into a variety of projects at the Folger, from Lost Plays to Paratexts. Integrating DEEP into our digital environment offers an opportunity for a bit of a revamp: we get a chance to work with the principal investigators to both search and display, and test out methods for creating linked data. In doing so, we want to provide models for the next generation of early modern bibliographers for addressing the challenges of historic sources and name authorities. Our long-term goal is to create a rhizomatic data structure that leverages data already in the collection to make it easier to ingest and link new datasets. Eventually, we hope that the underlying structures we create provide a stable foundation for new layers of information about the early modern world.

Experimental Reflections on Eighteenth Century Representations of Garrick’s Prosody | Iain Emsley

In 1775, Sir Joshua Steele created and published a symbolic performance notation as a forerunner of linguists’ suprasegmental approach to prosody. He used this notation to preserve records of Shakespeare performances and that he then played back. Other critics, most notably Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, were critical of Garrick’s Shakespeare performances.

Sonification is presented as an experimental digital approach to Steele’s notation and similar experiments. The notation is simulated through two studies of the same lines from Hamlet’s ‘To Be or Not to Be’ soliloquy spoken by Steele and Garrick as described in Steele’s Prosodia Rationalis. We reflect on the challenges in reproducing experiments from archival sources and using digital methods to present them through their modelling and constraints. We then discuss how the Garrick model can be used to recreate one aspect of Fitzpatrick’s critique of Garrick’s speech and how the digital provides methods of aural reconstruction.

The paper also considers the challenges in reading and modelling the notation in a digital form. This encourages us to view the experiments as a way of thinking about the original methods and algorithms discussed in the sources, including completing an implied piece of work. The approaches to digital and modelling provide methods through which we are able to explore and attempt to explicate the underlying aims of the presented modellers (Steele and Fitzpatrick). The paper reflects on the challenges of reproducibility, such as technology and time, for experimental Humanities.

The New Interface of Global Shakespeares: Building a Digital Repository for the Next Decade | Alexa Alice Joubin

This 8-minute lightning talk examines the new interface of MIT Global Shakespeares, an open-access digital performance video archive providing free online access to performances of Shakespeare from many parts of the world as well as peer-reviewed essays and vetted metadata provided by scholars and educators in the field. It is both a curated and crowd-sourced archive.

In 2018 we released a new user interface that supports the creation of clips and streamlining of aggregated searches. It can suggest videos of potential interest based on the user’s history. This lightning talk will also demo new educational modules that are built upon a database of videos.

Distinct from analogue media such as photography and film, digital video—as a non-linear, non-sequential medium—can support instant access to any sequence in a performance, as well as the means to re-order and annotate sequences, and to bring them into meaningful conjunction with other videos, texts and image collections. A global archive of Shakespeare as a performed event enables an ever-wider range of interpretive possibilities that activate important aspects of the plays through videos that connect live performances to the concepts of rehearsal and re-play.

Online Databases and the Art of Recreating Early Modern Ballads in Performance| Shirley Bell

The songs included in plays of the early modern period were not merely additions to the drama, they were central to the drama, and to understand a play in its entirety, it is important to have an understanding of its music.

Online databases including EEBO-TCP (Early English Books Online-Text Creation Partnership), EBBA (English Broadside Ballad Archive) and Bodleian Ballads have radically transformed researchers’ ability to engage with early modern songs and tunes. They not only facilitate one’s ability to hear how certain tunes would have sounded, but also provide the tools that enable musicians to recreate these songs in performance.

Despite the fact that the majority of the songs used in early modern plays remain fixed in their time, recently, there has been a greater interest in reproducing them for modern audiences. According to EBBA, there are over 11,000 surviving broadside ballad texts from the seventeenth century, and the compilers of this database are currently working through them to produce twenty-first century settings of these ballads and make them accessible online. As well as this, early music ensembles, including Passamezzo, The Carnival Band and The Broadside Band, who specialise in recreating and playing sixteenth and seventeenth century songs regularly tour around the UK bringing these songs to a modern audience.

This paper argues that preserving ballads online enables researchers to engage with a clear, high-quality selection of page images and full-text editions, allowing the tunes of the past to be recreated in modern performance.

Quite charmed: Victoria, Albert, and the stage | Andrew Cusworth

Drawing on multimodal contemporary evidence of performance and reception, I propose a miniature exploration of the royal experience of theatre during Victoria’s reign up to the death of Prince Albert in 1862. The paper will draw upon and highlight two significant digitisation projects (Queen Victoria’s Journals Online; The Prince Albert Digitisation Project) and, alongside providing examples of Victoria and Albert’s interest in and responses to theatre, will consider the digitisation as a means of remediating, elucidating, and contextualising material cultures of performance and reception.