January Blogroll: Pre-Semester Reading

Dear reader,

The holidays have been lovely: M and I stuck around home to catch-up on work as well as make a few small road trips, including a particularly beautiful and cloudless two days in Seattle. Now that January is here, it is time to get back to business. Everything I am teaching this semester I’ve done in some way or another before, but in this new context, the syllabi need serious updating. In particular, I’ve rethinking my introductory Shakespeare course with the help of some focused pedagogical reading.

Teaching Early Modern English Literature from the Archives (2015)

I am about halfway through this recent volume from the MLA’s “Options for Teaching” series. Frankly, I’m loving it. The volume has a number of contributions from scholars I already favor, including Sarah Werner, Zachary Lesser, and Evelyn Tribble. For me, the collection is primarily helping me reconceptualize digital resources I use in my scholarship, such as Early English Books Online, Database of Early English Books, and Broadside Ballads Online, for the classroom. In the past, I’ve been more confident using digital platforms in courses unrelated to my speciality, such as Omeka. With this collection, I am finding new ways to employ these resources that won’t overwhelm or overshadow the actual objectives of the course.

Shakespeare Up Close: Reading Early Modern Texts (2013)

The Shakespeare Studies community was rocked by the passing of Russ McDonald this past year. In memoriam, I’ve been working through the dense collection of forty brief essays he edited a few years ago for Arden on the New Critical practice of close-reading and Shakespeare. It is a skill I find my students less and less instinctively attuned to or having had previous experience with, so have been looking for more concrete ways of teaching the skill rather than taking it for granted. The range of readings, questions, and scholars is helping to expand my sense of what close-reading as a creative act is capable.

When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays on Writing and the Writing Life (2016)

One thing I learned this semester is that my new institution has a strong creative writing and studio arts contingency of students; teaching them presents a unique set of pleasures of interpretive paths, but also some unique challenges. They are a very different audience than the large state-school, non-major courses with which I learned to teach. For example, their concerns and investments tend to me more craft-based rather than, say, contextual. In order to capitalize more fully on these concerns, I’ve been reading this collection—mostly in the mornings while under the hair-dryer—to get better acquainted with the vocabulary and investments of creative writing pedagogy in order to speak more directly to their interests.

“Hair-dryer” you ask? If we’ve ever had the chance to meet in person, at a conference or performance, one of my more distinctive features is absurdly curly hair—a gift of my Portuguese heritage. To keep it looking middle professional, I depend on an over-the-chair dryer. It takes about twenty minutes of my morning, which ends up being exactly the amount of time I need for a chapter or essay.  My Hair-Dryer Stack is the scholarly reading I keep at home and work through slowly, but every day. It is also reading I have told myself I cannot or need not annotate. (I am a compulsive marker; I live in the margins.) These are not always field related, but I do try to make sure they comprise writing I enjoy reading. It helped hone my writer’s ear while in graduate school, and still find the practice a good way to kick-start my day and get into a writerly frame of mind.

Happy reading!

Elliott Bay, Seattle, WA in January 2017.

December Blogroll: Research Obsessions Edition

Dear readers,

One of the compelling aspects of studying the early modern period in England is the web of cultural products that come to bear on the literature of the Renaissance. Increasingly I am drawn to imagining theatre of the period as both inflecting movements in culture as much as it reflected and refracted the essential anxieties, fantasies, and investments of early moderns. Included in the blogroll this month are online sources to which I regularly return in charting this expansive web.

  • Broadside Ballads Online: Hosted by the Bodleian libraries, this is a digital collection of English printed ballad-sheets from between the 16th and 20th centuries and usefully linked to other resources for the study of the English ballad tradition.This includes digital presentations of pre-1800 ballads from other libraries, and folk song scholarship of the Roud Broadside Index hosted by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. My favorite part of this database is the ability to search ballads by woodcut! Yup, you can copy an image of a woodcut and ask the database to search its archive for the image, not just text. Start playing here.
  • The Map of Early Modern London (MoEML): Unless you regularly visit London, it is hard to keep a mental map of the city in your mind while writing. I remember my first visit to Southwark and being so very shocked at how small and walkable the district was, and how very close individual theatres were to one another (as well as to the Clink prison). I use this ever-expanding digital map to reacquaint myself with a sense of scale and distance, which is usefully supplemented by an inter-linked encyclopedia of locales. Check it out here.
  • Lost Plays Database: I use this website extensively for my dissertation, as it traces all the plays we know to have been performed in the Renaissance but for which the text of the play itself is no longer extant. Individual entries trace receipts, records of every mention, possible source materials and later references in other plays and early modern documents. A new monograph based on the database is due out sometime next year and I can’t wait to see what it looks like. Start browsing here.
The Brafont Guizers, a regional mumming troupe.

And just for fun I wanted to mention the 4th International Mumming Unconventional, a gathering of mummers taking place Friday, 5 December, at the Gloucester Folk Museum. The event will include talks, panels, and most importantly, performances by a number of regional mummer troupes evilness the variegated and regionalized aspects of this understudied English folk practice. For more information, check out mummersconvention.com.

 Happy researching!