Early Modern Digital Humanities (EMDH)
EMDH was a five-panel sequence given at the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference (SCSC) October 2013 meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Review by Jason Cohen (Berea College) and Colin Wilder (University of South Carolina)
EMDH I: Digital maps – Printing and Historiography
Chair: Niall Atkinson (University of Chicago)
Greg Prickman (University of Iowa), “‘And All the Good Journeymen’: Visualizing the Early Printing Trade”
Project website: atlas.lib.uiowa.edu
In his paper “Visualizing the Early Printing Trade,” Greg Prickman chronicled the evolution of his digital resource “The Atlas of Early Printing,” first created in 2008 as an instructional tool for non-specialists. The original version was innovative in several ways, for instance including geographical data about the location of other institutions pertinent to the book trade such as paper mills, universities and trade routes. The new version of the Atlas, launched in April, 2013, was not only rebuilt from the ground up but also includes a significant additional layer, representing data from the Incunabula Short Title Catalog (ISTC). This key feature goes proxy for a broader change in web-based scholarly resources, namely the change “from hand-crafted layers of data to a depiction of data in its more dynamic form, drawn largely unfiltered from a database.” By beginning to move from print-based source material housed in a standalone database to an on-demand query system referencing an international network of databases, the Atlas can provide a map-based front-end for searching all 28,000 editions catalogued in the ISTC (where each “edition” may be composed of up to several hundred individual copies). // Keywords: Data resources for public; mapping data from historical sources; history of printing
John Theibault (Stockton College), “Envisioning a Historiography: Geospatial and Thematic Connections between Local Social Histories of Early Modern Europe”
In “Envisioning a Historiography,” John Theibault riffed on a classic trope of modern social historiography from Christopher Friedrichs’s Urban Society in an Age of War: Nordlingen, 1580-1720 (1979). Friedrichs taunted that a map depicting classic sites of military and political history (Berlin, Waterloo, etc.) would look very different from one depicting the locales that social historians had made as the grounds of studies depicting medieval and early modern social structures (Montaillou, Nordlingen, etc.). In his paper at SCSC, Theibault presented the preliminary outline of his own synthetic mapping project, the Early Modern European Social History Geo-Spatial Bibliography (EMESHGB). Theibault aims not digitally to map a set of primary sources or reference sources, like most digital projects, but rather digitally to map scholarship itself. This is to include of course a map of Europe, a timeline navigation tool, and methodological parameters such as “social groups analyzed (e.g. peasantry, artisans), social scientific methods used (e.g. family reconstitution), and principal sources used (e.g. tax rolls)” used by the scholarly author. In Theibault’s vision, a corpus drawn from secondary and scholarly sources would enable the visualization of how historiography has itself evolved over the past decades. His method employs textual analysis using frequency, closeness, and clustering as the principle tools to uncover the sinuous paths along which historiography continues to move. // Keywords: Data resources for public; mapping data from historical sources; social history; synthesizing secondary literature
Paul Dijstelberge (University of Amsterdam), “A Cultural Industry on the Digital Highway: Exploring Networks of Printers and Publishers in Early Modern Amsterdam”
In “Exploring Networks of Printers and Publishers in Early Modern Amsterdam,” Paul Dijstelberge began by outlining the importance of studying Amsterdam in the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic (the seventeenth century) for understanding the explosion and dissemination of new ideas in early modern Europe, especially in philosophy, theology and science. So extensive did the printing industry become in Amsterdam in that century that some 5-7% of the urban population worked in the printing or book-selling industry. With this framework in place, Dijstelberge went on to present his geographical archive of Dutch printing, the Dutch Printer’s Devices. This archive, now entering in its second phase, will soon surpass the 400,000-item mark for resources related to imprimaturs, colophons, tailpieces, and decorated capitals, among other printer’s devices. This scholarly resource uses several innovative features including Dijstelberge’s Flickr site, which serves as an open repository for his image sets, and user-generated data collection using the Google spreadsheets platform. Already a massive collection of images of printers’ devices and empirical information about their activity and locations, Dijstelberge added that he plans to continue adding information to it, as well as build in a feature to automatically recognize printers’ devices presented by user-researchers, comparing them to images already in the archive. // Keywords: Data resources for public; mapping data from historical sources; history of printing; Dutch Republic – early modern period
EMDH II: Digital maps – Dominion and Social Order in the Renaissance
Chair: Paul Dijstelberge (University of Amsterdam)
Jason Cohen (Berea College), “Waves of Empire: Mapping Renaissance Sovereignty at Sea”
In “Waves of Empire,” Jason Cohen gave an overview of his new digital mapping project, using a method he dubbed a “digital chorograph,” which seeks to map early modern “oceanic sovereignties.” Cohen has begun creating interactive digital maps overlaid on historical map base layers by encoding data from several different historical registers, including to date locations of battles, jurisdictional lines, and the sites of selected Admiralty court decisions related to maritime claims for sovereignty. His more ambitious future goals include mapping political and legal forces with softer boundaries such as treaty language and spheres of influence as designated in state papers that describe the zones and limits of local governmental control. More concretely, Cohen plans to plan to build a larger dataset using data extraction techniques (e.g. natural language processing) to pull “geolocations, names, and events from a larger corpus of state papers and court decisions.” Methodologically, the Waves of Empire project aims to show how a paired attention to geospatial visualization and data drawn from state papers may serve not only as a site of presentation, but ultimately as a site for analysis of the morphologies of the sea and the jurisdictional conflicts that shape the dominant forces expressed across its surfaces. // Keywords: Data resources for public; mapping data from historical sources; history of jurisdictions and law; early modern England
Douglas Dow (Kansas State U.), “Plotting Relationships: Towards a Digital Spatial Representation of Confraternal Client Networks in Florence”
In “Towards a Digital Spatial Representation of Confraternal Client Networks in Florence,” Douglas Dow presented a careful reconstruction of geographical data about patron-client relationships in Florence in the sixteenth century. For both the actual geographical reconstruction and for the live visualization, Dow made extensive use of Florentia Illustrata, a digital map archive created by Niall Atkinson, Nicholas Terpstra and Jan Simane. Dow’s paper was an excellent example of the power and detail available to historians of the Florentine Renaissance via Florentia Illustrata. “Plotting the locations of the properties onto a digital map of the city,” Dow argued, “reveals the intersection of the Florentine urban fabric with the assets of the city’s confraternities, which were dispersed throughout the built environment and rented by people of various social strata.” He added that these patronage and rental-tenure networks “formed a distinct part of the public identity of these lay religious groups.” Dow also discussed his decision not to expand his project’s scope as a result of the hand-entry labor involved in further developments, which reveals a key limitation of digitization: namely, the challenges of managing data from irregular, dispersed, and manuscript-based primary sources. Dow’s project, however, also showed the promises of marrying historical visualization platforms like Florentia Illustrata to complementary archival materials. // Keywords: Data resources for public; mapping data from historical sources; social history; Renaissance Florence
Niall Atkinson and Peter Leonard (University of Chicago), “Mapping the Soundscape of Pre-Modern Florence”
In “Mapping the Soundscape of Pre-Modern Florence,” Niall Atkinson presented a study of the soundscape of bell-ringing in Renaissance Florence. Using the Florentia Illustrata digital map archive that Nicholas Terpstra, Jan Simane and he have created (http://www.khi.fi.it/en/aktuelles/veranstaltungen/veranstaltungen/veranstaltung444/index.html), he presented visual reconstructions of the locations and spheres of audible influence for Florentine state and church functions. Atkinson’s project couples two digital tools to make use of data mining and network analysis tools in combination with geospatial visualizations of the belltower locations across Florence. This enables recreations of sequence, time of day, and relative location of the bell ringings. The scalable visualization allows for a micrological analysis of individual towers and their correlated institutions as well as a macrological view of the relationship between the political centers and competing enclaves of power in renaissance Florence. Time was not measured, Atkinson’s recreation showed; it is announced by centers of influence and power, and listened to by the various constituencies who were assured of the normal function of the administered day by the sounds opening and closing administrative bells, calls to prayer, and other signals of the chronology of the day. In sum, the aural tapestry of the Florentine day supplies a key to understanding its urban morphology. // Keywords: Data resources for public; mapping data from historical sources; social history; history of jurisdictions and law; Renaissance Florence
EMDH III: Discovery, Communication and Teaching in Early Modern Digital Humanities
Chair: Colin F. Wilder (University of South Carolina)
William Bowen (University of Toronto), “From Listserv to Social Media: A Report on the Re-Creation of FICINO within the Iter Community”
In his “Report on the Re-Creation of FICINO within the Iter Community,” William Bowen narrated the twenty-three-year history of FICINO, what began as an international electronic seminar and bulletin board in 1990 and has significantly evolved over the past two decades. Bowen reflected on the listserv’s affordances and strengths, such that it has developed a following of over 800 scholars from across the world community. He concluded with some considerations on how this scholarly community might evolve in the era of Web 2.0 into a new form of communication environment. By moving from an email-based listserv to a web-based portal, FICINO will be adding flexibility in tracking users and communications among them, improving the accessibility and search functions of its archives, and potentially capitalizing on more recent social media tools such as ranked responses. // Keywords: Early modern scholarly community; Digital Humanities/Digital History – recent history; future of scholarly collaboration
Marie Baxter (Albion College), “Standardization and Authenticity: Classroom Use of Archival and Digital Versions of Early Modern English Manuscripts”
In “Standardization and Authenticity: Classroom Use of Archival and Digital Versions of Early Modern English Manuscripts,” Marie Baxter reflected on the effects that the transformation of primary sources from material to digital surrogate has on teaching. She used as a case study her experience teaching a segment of Albion College’s European History survey based on dozens of early modern English legal manuscripts that she had recently discovered. These were indentures, i.e. debt papers relating to real estate deeds, rental agreements, and personal loans in Britain and North America. Baxter argued that digitization creates standardized and infinitely reproducible object-images which can in fact obscure physical or non-standard qualities of the source document. She related how she had made an essential element of critical analysis precisely challenging students to recognize the framing mechanism imposed by digital media. The most challenging and rewarding part of this, she related, came from trying to get students to view the non-standard form of documents as not a dysfunction but a normal facet of written and printed media prior to the modern era. By comparison, digital formats de-emphasize non-textual cues such as document size, personalized wax seals and anti-fraud devices in documents. Juxtaposing examination of digital and original material sources, Baxter explained, potentially give students the perspective to judge the possibilities and limits of both formats. // Keywords: social history; history of jurisdictions and law; future of scholarly collaboration; historical sources – comparison of digital with original
Hans Brandhorst and Etienne Posthumous (Arkyves Project), “Aby Warburg’s Wildest Dreams Come True? A Digital Method of Discovering Visual Sources”
In “A Digital Method of Discovering Visual Sources,” Hans Brandhorst and Etienne Posthumous began by invoking the art historian Aby Warburg’s famous method of image montage, the “Mnemosyne Atlas,” in which Warburg created large panels covered in artistic images, with similarly-themed images grouped together on each panel. Brandhorst offered the functionality of the Arkyves Project’s browsing and searching, which permits researchers to identify and discover images by theme or motif, such as imagery of one person carrying another on his shoulders, which goes back at least to St. Christopher. Just as Warburg pioneered thematic image-grouping as itself a form of artistic or creative presentation, Brandhorst suggested that this particular functionality of the Arkyves resource has enormous potential to aid in artistic and scholarly discovery, to say nothing of subsequent rearrangement by visual motif and meaning. // Keywords: Data resources for public; mapping data from historical sources; art history; Warburg, Aby
EMDH IV: Networks of Text and Context
Chair: John Theibault
Whitney Trettien (Duke University), “Little Gidding: An Early Modern Digital Humanities Collaboratory”
In “Little Gidding: An Early Modern Digital Humanities Collaboratory,” Trettien introduced members of the audience to the Gospel harmonies of Little Gidding, an intentional religious community in 17th-century Huntingdonshire (England). There the widow Mary Ferrar and her son Nicholas and family created “harmonies” of the Gospel, i.e. textual montages made by rearranging passages from the Evangelists to harmonize them chronologically with one another. Trettien styled this textual production as a digital humanities collaboratory avant la lettre, in that the women of Little Gidding in effect remixed the Gospel. Trettien argued that the case of Ferrar and her family “offers us a new perspective on the shifting nature of our own media ecology, decenters the novelty of [today’s] multimodal reading and challenges histories that pinpoint the origins of remix culture in a twentieth-century avant-garde.” // Keywords: Data resources for public; Digital Humanities – textual production; religious history; reading – practices; early modern England
David Brown and Juan Luis Suárez (University of Western Ontario), “Networks of Culture: A Graph-Driven Approach to Understanding Publishing in the Spanish Golden Age”
Presenting their paper “Networks of Culture” on behalf of his co-author Juan Luis Suarez, David Brown first introduced the broad “Preliminaries” project and then went on to present an argument based on it about the landscape of cultural authority in 17th-century Spain. The authors’ broader study is entitled “Preliminaries,” referring to their principal primary source, the preliminary or front matter in all books legally printed and sold in Baroque Spain. The preliminaries consisted of approvals from censors, patronage information, prefaces and so on. The authors use this information to construct a multi-modal graph database encoding the relationships between persons, texts, publishers, cities and other cultural institutions in the period. Within this dataset, persons include both authors and other relevant figures such as patrons, rulers, censors, reviewers, etc. With a total number of cultural nodes of all sorts numbering into the thousands, the authors move on to analyzing the position and relationships among all of these entities, particularly through an analysis of the centrality of an entity as a measure of action, its relational “betweenness” among multiple entities, and its closeness to other nodes. They find that of all persons, books, places and other entities, the poet Félix Arturo Lope de Vega y Carpio (Lope de Vega) figured as the single most central and significant entity in the entire “cultureplex,” playing at once the role of cultural broker and himself of course celebrated author. // Keywords: Data resources for public; mapping data from historical sources; literary history; historical networks; early modern Spain
Colin Wilder (University of South Carolina), “Social and Textual Complexes in the German Intelligentsia, 1500-1800”
In his paper on “Social and Textual Complexes,” Colin Wilder presented what Digital Humanists call “distant readings” of three libraries (of a sort) in early modern Germany and the Netherlands. His case studies were the city library in Frankfurt am Main (1690-1705); the massive citational universe of Hugo Grotius and his editor Jean Barbeyrac (1625, 1711); and the writings of thirty professors of law in Marburg from 1587-1806. Beginning with the 744 books cited in Barbeyrac’s seminal edition of Grotius’s Law of War and Peace (1711, orig. 1625), Wilder found a recurrent prominence of works published about two decades prior to both the first and the later edition of the work, suggesting that both author and editor were strongly influenced by recent trends in their own home cities’ book markets. In this as well as the Frankfurt library context, Wilder also found correlative data showing the relative decline in prominence of earlier centers of humanistic publishing (Lyons, Basel, Venice) and the rise of newer hubs (Frankfurt, Leipzig, Paris, Amsterdam). In his third study, Wilder presented a preliminary network analysis of co-authorship patterns among the thirty serial holders of the chair of civil law at the University of Marburg between 1587 and 1807, as well as the works (co-)authored by any of their co-authors, some 2,700 works in total. Striking patterns that Wilder highlighted included textual continuities from celebrated French humanists directly to 18th-century in a textual-social butterflies like Johann Georg Estor. By contrast, “community detection” methods also reveal the discontinuities of subnetworks splintering off in figures who tended principally to co-author with other figures more on the periphery of this network within the German intelligentsia. // Keywords: Data resources for public; mapping data from historical sources; publishing history; historical networks; early modern Germany; history of library collections
EMDH V: Round Table
The final session of the weekend was a roundtable that addressed some of the larger considerations attendant to the rise of digital methods within and beyond traditional disciplinary bounds. Several participants including Wilder noted the rising challenges posed by the need for infrastructure to accomplish digital projects. Many universities have paltry digital scholarly infrastructures, often little more than desktop software helpdesks and aid in making websites, whereas the technical expertise and support in terms of time and development have often been overlooked or dependent on externally funded sources. The funding landscape was itself a source of discussion, as universities increasingly expect humanities scholars to mirror their peers in the sciences by securing outside money – even while the long-term sustainability of digital projects remains an unsure horizon at many institutions. A third prominent thread in the discussion was the evolution of common standards for the creation and assessment of digital projects, whether for textual markup, visualization, data analysis, or even web page functionality. With many boutique projects aiming to create new tools, and with open-source projects aiming to disseminate stable platforms and resources, the question of standard forms of interface will continue to face scholars who seek long-term viability for their digital projects. In the background of all of these comments loomed the question of how tenure and promotion are evolving, and in particular, the emerging recognition that digital tools will play a role in scholarly production for the foreseeable future. How are those projects going to be weighted against the leviathan of the scholarly monograph? Perhaps only with the successful tenure of the current generation of rising scholars will this question be given a framework for responses. Similarly, then, the panel concluded by pondering, Might the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference make a specific home for early modern digital scholarship in the future? // Keywords: Data resources for public; early modern scholarly community; Digital Humanities/Digital History – recent history; future of scholarly collaboration; infrastructure and support for scholarship at colleges and universities
I rediscovered Zak Smith again after losing sight of his work for a little while. He’s showing in his NYC gallery right about now, and I think this is what some of his more recent work looks like….cool stuff. Zak, keep rockin’ it.
You should probably click to enlarge. I mean, I would. You don’t have to want to be like me I guess.
To Senator Mitch McConnell:
If you are going to recognize my work in winning an NEH Enduring Questions grant, perhaps you should support the grant’s existence? I know it was just a lowly staffer who called me and left the message above — and I place you a step higher on the ladder than your ungrateful junior colleague, Senator Rand Paul, who couldn’t even manage a kind word. You clearly think of this program as valuable, or else you, like Paul, would hold your peace. Stand behind education, Senator McConnell — vote to support the fiscal year 2013 budget, and support the continuation of valuable projects like the Enduring Questions and Bridging Cultures initiatives you recognized in that message.
To all of you out there: support the NEH. It’s important for the work we do to educate the next generation. Consider it.
Here is an advocacy link from the Humanities Alliance.
In 2011, the AHA similarly backed support. They should back it again.
Finally, here’s one from Anthro, reminding us of Humanities Advocacy.
Get loud. Maybe they’ll hear us.
“We can no longer have this old Marxist confidence that we know
where history is going. History is going into an abyss.”
We may, perhaps, map the abyss. And we may, perhaps again, be consoled or inspired or transported by the mapping. This is Jason Cohen, Humanities Writ Large Visiting Faculty Fellow, and that’s what I discovered a few weekends ago at a workshop sponsored by Duke’s BorderWork(s), and what I’m here to dilate.
The workshop was called “Cartography and Creativity in the Age of Global Empires.” Its participants came together to consider maps and counter-maps, narratives and counter-narratives, and the visual cultures of cartography. I won’t try to summarize the full day’s events - that would lead me, like the scholar whose attention is fixed on successively smaller details in Borges’s spectacular map, to unending meditation - but I will offer a few reflections on some of the shinier facets of the day’s discussions.
In the first panel of the day, Pedro Lasch, John Pickles, and Ben Schmidt touched on the broad issue of national borders and security, often in tightly connected and provocative ways. Lasch has regularly used the border as a site of artistic inspiration, and the piece “Latino/a America” (below) interrogates not only the northern bias that the US assumes with its appropriation of “America” as a national adjective, but also the very country, region, and state borders (and their negotiation) the piece intentionally obscures.
Pickles’ focus was on the border as well. His discussion of Eurozone protections was frankly intimidating for the scope of surveillance, security, and containment measures it revealed — FRONTEX, project Sea Horse, the Schengen economic area and other programs that span the continent. The most shocking detail, at least for me, was the extension of the “border” to include vulnerabilities that are far from any legally defined border and tied instead to the boundary between desirable and undesirable sources of social change. The “border,” according to this mindset, encompasses the remote routes, locations, and economies of perceived security risks.
In its historical vein Schmidt’s fascinating paper, “Exotic Pleasures,” traced the images and implications of cartographic exoticism. His particular focus was the allegorical cartouche image of “America” as a woman (or man) protected by a parasol. Like Pickles and Lasch, Schmidt was also interested in tracking the movements of these material and imagined objects across national, affective, and conceptual lines.
The afternoon panel included a nuanced historiographic presentation by Neil Safier. He asked us to rethink the sertão – the Brazilian equivalent of frontier / wilderness / backwoods – and, along with it, the judgments that enter into determining the extents of civilization, whether through colonial or indigenous perceptions.
Denis Wood’s frame of reference — perceptions of the riparian map of the Cuyahoga River as it flows through Cleveland to Lake Erie — was whimsical but acute. His map contained his own history. Its site of recollection was his childhood home in a now dilapidated housing project called Lakeview Terrace during the 1960s and 70s, when the Cuyahoga captured national attention by catching fire a few times and went from being “the crooked river” to being “the burning river.” In a city that answered NYC’s “apple” campaign with the questionable reply, “Cleveland’s a plum,” the name stuck as a point of odd pride — as late as 1999, I played ultimate frisbee on a Cleveland-based team called “Burning River.”
From nostalgia to creativity to historical recollection, the panel explored ways of recapturing maps of the imagination. I came away with a refined understanding of the relationship between the material map and its reconstructions in the mind of an individual or culture. Sometimes, it seems, the contours of cartographic recollection are the most direct way to access the past.
The day’s final session focused on John Selden’s Map of China at the Bodleian library, which Robert Batchelor came to discuss. Batchelor brought the map from obscurity to recognition in early 2008 with the assistance of Bodleian librarian David Helliwell. In his talk, Batchelor laid out his analytic framework for reading the map, comparing his approach with the Chinese encyclopedic tradition. He followed with contextual notes on trade, ecological motifs, cartographic errors and revisions, and most notably, the map’s singular inclusion of trade routes on its sea surfaces.
I was one of three respondents to Batchelor’s presentation. My comments focused on the international context in which the map circulated — I talked about commodity exchange, sovereign vectors on the sea, the power projected across maritime spaces, and the relationship between central administration and coastal merchants. Jonathan Ocko’s response offered more focused reflections on Chinese history and culture. Victoria Szabo’s comments on the digital life of the map, however, were the most provocative. She helped us to think about how we interact with the map in real time and about the limitations, potentials, and challenges of the digital-humanist paths we were following in our intellectual pursuit of the map.
It was the Greek debt crisis, seen as symptomatic of a general breakdown of neoliberalism, that gave rise to the characteristically drastic comment from Slavoj Žižek, quoted at the top of the post. His bleak certainty about the present state of liberal economic and political institutions is, perhaps, understandable. But by offering the abyss without contemplating its shapes or contours, he relinquishes the territory of the counter-map, counter-narrative, and micro-history. Perhaps, our colloquium suggested, even an abyss can be mapped according to contexts supplied by art, history, and experience. Žižek’s conclusion may be inescapable but in the absence of clearly legible cartography, charting its implications could be an unending proposition. To move across spatial metaphors, that position might avoid a check, but whether it can escape checkmate remains obscure in a game already being played.
I’m reposting this entry from my blog at Duke’s Humanities Writ Large website.
I am a visiting faculty fellow in the first cohort of Duke’s new Humanities Writ Large initiative. My work at Duke examines how early modern cartography reveals or obscures the social, commercial, legal, and historical premises undergirding the sovereignty of the seas. In the first month of the HWL faculty fellowship, my project has moved in a direction I could not have anticipated because of the archival strength at Duke in New World cartography and environmental studies. Given these fantastic holdings and resources, my focus has shifted away from an original intention to investigate Mediterranean and Islamic connections with early modern Europe. Ah, the pursuit of the archive’s riches and vagaries – I am happily traveling under that spell once more. But let me track backwards a little to give some context for this project. Of the three faculty brought to Duke for this year’s semester-long version of the fellowship, I am the only one striking out for essentially new territories. Obviously, Sharon and Tess were far more prudent in their projects, but I am incredibly excited by the possibilities this project holds for my research on emerging international law as well as for the classroom and research implications of digital humanities instruments for the study of Renaissance literature and culture.
The unexpected turn in my approach to this project has already had significant implications for this work, even though I have been building on research I’ve been developing over the last year. I came to my Duke proposal, “Mapping Sovereignties of the Sea,” through an interest in Francis Bacon’s strange and ineffectual intervention in British policy on the law of nations, circa 1621. His white paper, titled Aphorismi de jure gentium maiore sive de fontibus justiciae et juris [Aphorisms on the Greater Laws of Nations], attempted to lay out a taxonomy of legal decision and jurisdiction for new world encounters. I call it strange not only because it evinces a particularly Baconian style of legal policy written in aphoristic fragments, but also because of its timing. It was certainly written after his indictment for bribery in 1620 and still more than ten years prior to the publication of John Selden’s seminal Mare Clausum. (Pure conjecture here: given that Selden prepared his document c. 1619, and that Selden served as Bacon’s amanuensis, perhaps Bacon saw the Mare Clausum in draft? Impossible to determine.) In any case, Bacon’s untimely work had a very quiet afterlife: it was never mentioned in surviving correspondence or referred to in later policy tracts; finally it was lost until 1980, when Mark Neustadt discovered a fair-hand copy buried in the library of Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. So, I came to this project on the law of nations and the sovereignty of the seas by way of thinking about what kinds of hypothetical situations Bacon’s aphorisms were attempting to imagine, and for what reasons.
The materials I’ve discovered with the help of Duke’s fine librarians and my excellent colleagues have been remarkable. I expected the ethnographic, nautical, and natural components of early maps, but the legal materials directly inscribed on maps produced during the 1650s and later are surprising, at least for me as a scholar of the earlier seventeenth century. The remarkable function these maps assume as instruments of statecraft complements the exacting relationship they describe between the commercial and legal worlds of these growing empires. [Note the description in the cartouche of fishery limits as well as national interests on the map above.] One recognition I have made recently involves the function of inquiring about longitude among captains and officers: because they were so literally lost at sea so much of the time, the verbal and mathematical calculus involving longitudinal ranges in which two ships met provided them with a platform for discussions that implied competition and negotiation without ever having to mention the language of nation or sovereignty. In this way, I think, the formal mechanisms of nautical sovereignty we might find in court documents is enriched by a proto-Lacanian discourse about the sea as Imaginaire, in which each ship projects itself as an image whose location and signification remains as yet underdetermined. Anyway, that’s my working hypothesis for the day.
One final note before I pass the mic: this project is working toward the development of an interactive and dynamic set of digitized maps that will feature layers, annotations, historical and spatial data, and perhaps a timeline. My interest in making this instrument accessible to undergraduate research as well as advanced scholarship remains one of my core commitments as a teacher and scholar of early modern literature, and for that reason I aim to make it interactive in ways that encourage others to use these maps, mark them up, export the markups, or import their own data onto the map interface. I am driven by a model of peer-use and -access involving undergraduate research, a model I began working with in anotherproject, Apollon eJournal, online at www.apollonejournal.org. Let me know if you or your students would like to be involved, or if you can think of better ways to promote these kinds of collaborative endeavors to generate and disseminate knowledge.
I look forward to more reports on the progress of this project in the coming months. Ciao!
My last post took the classic academic form of a complaint, complete with annotations and good reason. But, then, I realized that I don’t particularly care about the debate about which I was leveling my complaint. Let me clarify: I think the argument against Shakespeare is flat out conspiratorial, and for those purposes it remains the demesne of the foolhardy and the indulgent. But beyond that irrational sucking noise draining vital fluids away from real research and real problems, I have to admit that I am completely ambivalent about the appearance of the film. As entertainment, it’s totally harmless. As cultural critique, it’s vapid. As an afterlife of Shakespeare, it does more to keep his name in the conversation than ten thousand academic reviews of the work. So do I resent it? No, I think instead that I appreciate folks who spend money to see the stuff, flawed as it might be, and have some glimmer about the cultural implications of more folks thinking Shakespeare and questioning and engaging with the works. If one more person reads some of the corpus as a result, then what’s to complain about? Does it mean much to be right when what’s more honestly at stake is to remain relevant? Just a thought. (Shakespeare in Love after all defines a response and establishes a broad context for encounters with his work; it offers as well an affective claim unbounded by the texts and their author….no?).
Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells are championing another reaction against Anonymous, but they have gone even further: they’ve published a free eBook, linked above, for your consumption and quotation. If you are not quite pointy-headed enough to want to take on Jim Shapiro’s definitive demolition of the authorship debate in Contested Will (a fascinating and lucid read, so do please become point-headed and read said decisive intervention), then perhaps this will do the trick for you. In any case, I am all for a polemic against this Hollywood-born hellfiend. One more sympatico soul: Holger Syme. Check out his exegesis on dispositio.net here.