Dr Peter McCullough has been awarded funds by the AHRC for a five-year project, working with an international team of scholars, to produce an edition of the Sermons of John Donne.  This project will produce the first annotated critical edition of the sermons.  The edition will be published in 16 volumes by Oxford University Press,  and will also be made available in electronic format.  The project will provide an unmatched resource for those interested in Donne’s writings (students, teachers, scholars, and the wider public), but it will also be invaluable to students of the history of preaching, religion, the law, the court, and politics in the period. The edition will launch its website, designed by Richard Rowley and hosted by CEMS, in early summer, and will include, inter alia, a full description of the project, and full semi-diplomatic transcriptions of all known Donne sermon manuscripts.

A holograph poem by Donne, the verse letter to Lady Carey and Mistress Essex Rich. MS Eng. poet. d.197.
© Bodleian Library

Dr Simon Palfrey will lead one strand in a project to be funded under the AHRC Religion and Society programme, ‘The Faerie Queene Now’. In the Fable and Drama Project, Palfrey and Dr Elisabeth Dutton will evolve new stories and a play through intense collaboration with heterogeneous educational communities: two ethnically diverse comprehensive secondary schools, both from socially deprived wards; and the students of Oxford University. The aim here will be to recover and communicate the trials and possibilities of virtue – religious and secular – in contemporary life. The culminating events will be the publication of a book of the project, illustrated by student collaborators, and a closed performance at Shakespeare’s Globe. The Liturgy Project seeks to create new liturgical texts and solidarity-building rituals for contemporary society inspired by the quest for holiness in Book 1 of Spenser’s epic. Here the Principal Investigator, Dr Ewan Fernie (Royal Holloway, University of London) will work in conjunction with the poet Jo Shapcott, and the theologian Andrew Shanks, who has made a case for ‘shaken poetry’ as a source of religious renovation. This team will prepare two extraordinary, inclusive services for the two very different environments of Manchester Cathedral and St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castles. The projects will come together in two events of reflection, dialogue and synthesis: a public arts event run by the ‘Poet in the City’ charity at major London venue King’s Place and a two-day cross-sector conference at Cumberland Lodge. The overall project will come to fruition in a major collection of essays revealing what Spenser has to give to the arts, society and religion, entitled ‘The Faerie Queene Now!’, and modelled on Fernie and Palfrey’s Shakespeare Now! series. The project website is at  http://www.warrenitservices.co.uk/faeriequeene/about.htm.

Dr Abigail Williams has been awarded funds by the Leverhulme Trust for a three-year project to create an online and freely available index to the contents of approximately 1000 eighteenth-centry poetic miscellanies.  She will be collaborating on the project with Professor Michael Suarez, of the University of Virginia, and Dr Adam Rounce, of Manchester Metropolitan University.
The Digital Miscellanies Index will enable users to search collections of verse by poets, titles, first lines of poems, publishers, themes, or formats.  Based primarily on the most extensive collection of poetic miscellanies in English in the world (the Harding Collection in the Bodleian Library, Oxford), this database resource will be the first of its kind, allowing scholars and students to trace in detail the availability and popularity of any individual work or poet throughout the period. It is an interdisciplinary venture, drawing together scholarship and expertise from the combined disciplines of eighteenth-century literary studies, musicology, the History of the Book, and applied statistical analysis. The Index will be hosted by and in collaboration with the Bodleian’s Centre for the Study of the Book, and will also involve a public concert, radio programme and exhibition based on material from the miscellanies.

CEMS Events for Hilary 2010

January 12, 2010

Early Modern Literature Seminar
Breakfast Room, Merton, 5pm, weeks 1, 2, 5, 7

Early Modern Graduate Forum
Breakfast Room, Merton, 5pm, weeks 3, 4, 6, 8: to be posted.

Works in Progress 1: Early Modern Drama
Breakfast Room, Merton, Monday 1 February, 12.30pm – 2pm
Edward Nye (French); Tiffany Stern (English); Jonathan Thacker (Spanish)

Works in Progress 2: Current Digital Research in the Early Modern Period
Breakfast Room, Merton, Thursday March 4, 12.30pm – 2pm
Pip Willcox on the Shakespeare Quartos Archive
Paddy Bullard on the Electronic Swift Edition
Colin Burrow on Scriptorium: Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Online

Neo-Latin Literature
Corpus Christi College, 1pm-2pm
Co-ordinators: Stephen Harrison and David Norbrook
Tuesday 19 January: Thomas Earle on António Ferreira, Castro
Tuesday 2 February: Elizabeth Sandis on George Buchanan, Jepthes
Tuesday 2 March: Alexander Farquhar on Arthur Johnston

Tuesday 2 March, 5pm, Breakfast Room, Merton
(with Early Modern Literature Graduate Seminar)
Jane Stevenson (University of Aberdeen): ‘Latin and Literature in Seventeenth-Century Britain’

Forthcoming: workshop on ‘Writing Sacred History’
Saturday 24 April, with Professor Anthony Grafton, co-ordinators Felicity Heal and Paulina Kewes.

2010 Greetings

January 11, 2010

Welcome to a new year and term in a wintry Oxford. This blog will present a record of CEMS events and where possible provide other news and information. For upcoming event s and other materials the primary resource remains the CEMS website at http://www.cems.ox.ac.uk/.

In this anniversary year of the foundation of the Royal Society, here at the right is snow on Beam Hall, Merton Street, where Thomas Willis maintained his medical researches and contacts with many members of the Oxford Experimental Philosophical Club. He married the sister of CEMS’s indirect benefactor, John Fell (see CEMS website). Willis will be featured in a forthcoming BBC TV series on the Royal Society.

One might think that the city of dreaming spires would lag behind in the cutting-edge field of digital research in the humanities. A very different picture emerged from the CEMS work in progress session on early modern e-research on 24 November. Professor David Robey, Arts and Humanities Consultant at the Oxford e-Research Centre, described the databases he is soon to put online which will list more than 100 projects and c. 240 researchers in this field in Oxford – significantly more than at the King’s College London Centre for Humanities Computing, normally regarded as the leader in the field. Oxford hosts far the largest number of AHRC projects with a digital component of any UK university. As so often with Oxford, however, research is scattered across so many different areas that it can be very hard to build a coherent picture – hence the pressing need for the database. (You can join the mailing list by sending a blank email to digitalhumanities-subscribe@maillist.ox.ac.uk).

We heard about four exciting projects. Professor Robey has himself devised a database on Sound and Metre in Italian Narrative Verse, http://www.italianverse.reading.ac.uk
In an area where we are used to the presentation of images, Professor Robey’s site unusually explores aural effects, allowing users to investigate sound patterns including rhyme, alliteration and metre across a wide body of Italian poetry.

Dr Margaret Bent and Dr Julia Craig-McFeely presented DIAMM, the Digital Archive of Medieval Music, http://www.diamm.ac.uk/index.html. This project is a world leader in digital photography at the very highest level, and its techniques have been used in the Dead Sea Scrolls pilot digitization project. The demonstration revealed the astonishing effects that can be achieved by photographing at very high resolution and applying digital restoration techniques to the images: a few indistinct smudges can be metamorphosed into a complete page of music. The online image resource has gained a wide range of users not only university/research musicologists, but also from other disciplines, and non-academic users such as performing ensembles and schools; the availability of the images has stimulated demand for printed editions. It is good to learn that the expertise this project has built up will be available for those planning new projects.

Dr Ian Archer, Dr Felicity Heal and Dr Paulina Kewes presented the Holinshed Project, http://www.cems.ox.ac.uk/holinshed/. This has now gone online with the complete texts of the 1577 and 1587 editions of this massive Tudor compendium of British history, with links to the page images on EEBO (Early English Books Online), as well as extensive contextual materials. The technical difficulties in permitting comparative searches in an old-spelling text had been considerable but have now been overcome, and the variations between the editions can be fascinating. One example is the revision of the sanguine view of English architecture in 1577, when the houses of the nobility were praised as:

so magnificent and stately as the basest house of a Barren doth often match with some honours of princes in olde tyme, so that if euer curious buylding dyd florish in Englande, it is in these our dayes, wherein our worckemen excell, and are in maner comparable in skill with olde Vitruuius, and Serlo.

to the disillusioned complaint in 1587 about the difficulty of finding a good English builder:

Neuerthelesse, their estimation more than their gréedie and seruile couetousnesse, ioined with a lingering humour causeth them often to be reiected, & strangers preferred to greater bargaines, who are more reasonable in their takings, and lesse wasters of time by a great deale than our owne.
This database is already receiving heavy use by Shakespeare scholars, investigating the main source for many of his plays, but it will also be immensely valuable for anyone investigating the nuances of Tudor historiography, and challenged by the bulk of the printed editions. The forthcoming Oxford Handbook to Holinshed’s Chronicles will present the first fruit of research made possible by the comparator.

Dr Giles Bergel presented his plans for a digital archive of the broadside ballad ‘The Wandering Jew’s Chronicle’, which presents a fascinating case-study in the way such texts may completely cut across conventional periodizations in literary and political history, and distinctions between oral, scribal and print cultures. He showed how often such items were often inaccurately catalogued, leaving an urgent need to offer this often-slighted ‘popular’ material a higher profile. For more, see The Conveyor for February 16 2009, http://theconveyor.wordpress.com/.

Buchanan's poem on the capture: lacking the four lines which end the poem in later editions

A series of seminars organized by CEMS in conjunction with Stephen Harrison (Classics) and David Norbrook (English) explored the writings of George Buchanan (1506-82). His poetry, it emerged from Stephen Harrison’s careful disentangling of his classical allusions, offered a dual temporal focus: his Horatian odes on contemporary affairs would allude to a trouble-spot in his own Europe with terms recognizably borrowed from Horace’s naming of the same place in antiquity. Far from stifling Buchanan’s creativity, Professor Harrison argued, his emulation of the great Latin poets produced work that could stand with the classical canon – a strong claim in a seminar-room where the presence of the late Eduard Fraenkel could still be felt. The poems of Miscellaneorum Liber, which we studied in the annotated parallel text in Philip Ford’s George Buchanan: Prince of Poets (Aberdeen, 1982), revealed sides of Buchanan that might surprise those who know him mainly for the fierce Protestant didacticism of his late political writings, including scurrilous portrayals of erotic low-life and a celebration of the role of the ultra-Catholic Guise family in the French reconquest of Calais. (Steven Gunn, a Tudor historian, was able to assure us that Buchanan’s military details were accurate.) The seminar also included discussion of the early anti-clerical satire Franciscanus and lively presentations by Claire Landiss on the Rerum Scoticarum Historia and by Leah Whittington, a visiting student from Princeton, on the Baptistes. It was good to learn that a new complete edition of Buchanan’s poems is under way for the first time in nearly three hundred years; the seminar showed how difficult this task would be, given Buchanan’s pan-European experience and reception, but also how much there is still to explore in these fascinating writings.

One of the poems considered in the class addressed Camille de Morel, a woman neo-Latin poet who was reading Buchanan shortly before her death in 1611. We can hear more about her in Philip Ford’s paper in the seminar on ‘The Reading of Hebrew and Jewish Texts in the Early Modern Period’ on March 11. Jane Stevenson, author of Women Latin Poets: Language, Gender, and Authority from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century, will be speaking in the Early Modern Literature Graduate Seminar on 2 March.

Early Modern Literature Graduate Forum

The Forum meets in alternative weeks to the Seminar and is run by and designed for graduate students. Though it is based in the English Faculty, it is open to graduate students in all subjects. One session last term was a discussion of John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought by Gordon Campbell and Thomas N. Corns (OUP, 2008). The consensus that emerged was that Campbell and Corns’s provocative review of the documentary record, along with their study of their subject’s political career, had opened up opportunities for intellectual biographers to reconsider the usefulness of concepts and labels like ‘Puritan’, ‘Laudian’ and ‘radical’ – though their own revisionist argument was felt by some to go beyond their documentation. Kelsey Jackson Williams spoke about his current research on John Aubrey, dealing with Aubrey’s correspondence networks, gaps in the biographical record, Aubrey’s place in a culture of informal scientific experimentation and demonstration, and the difficulties of working with archives more generally.  Tim Smith-Laing discussed his work on the reception of Senecan drama and self-address for the MSt, which ranged from the wranglings of a late-antique grammarian about whether ‘ego’ had a vocative to the intricacies of Senecan translation and adaptation in the university drama of the late 16th century. Chris Stamatakis treated us to a nuanced reading of Wyatt’s penitential psalms that rescued them from the reductions of biography and court politics to which they had been subjected, and restored them to their place within an important tradition of devotional, theologically attuned religious writing.  James McBain discussed his work on law in early Tudor drama in relation to Lorna Hutson’s recent study of the relationship between legal thought and later English Renaissance drama (The Invention of Suspicion, 2007), wrestling with her positing of a radical break between earlier and later dramatic corpuses.  In doing so, he reminded us that claims for the unique characteristics of later sixteenth-century English literature often rest on an ignorance, whether accidental or strategic, of what preceded it (an ignorance unfortunately sustained by the period boundaries currently dividing the Medieval strand of the Oxford English MSt from the Early Modern).

Nick Hardy (nick.hardy@ell.ox.ac.uk)

Jenny Sager (jenny.sager@jesus.ox.ac.uk)

Early Modern Literature Graduate Seminar

Presenting part of his current project on early modern literary patronage, Richard McCabe (Merton College) explored the dazzling complexities of persona in Spenser and his contemporaries. Paul Yachnin (McGill University) spoke on the garden scene in Shakespeare’s Richard II in a paper which emerged from a large-scale interdisciplinary project at McGill University, ‘Making Publics’ (http://makingpublics.mcgill.ca). Peter Davidson (University of Aberdeen) offered a particularly rich interdisciplinary perspective in a paper on what he terms the ‘Universal Baroque’, ranging from neo-Latin poetry to cultural hybridity in early modern Mexico and China. For an explanation of the picture below you will need to turn to his book The Universal Baroque (Manchester University Press, 2008).