CEMS Digital Workshop: English Poetry

May 26, 2011

In the latest session in the series (19 May), Elizabeth Scott- Baumann and Ben Burton introduced their project for an Electronic Database of Poetic Form, which as received initial funding from the John Fell OUP Research Fund. The pilot project will permit searches for metrical structure and rhyme scheme across a sample of texts from the 1590s –Venus and Adonis, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and The Passionate Pilgrim; the plan is then to extend the database across texts of the 1590s. This can offer a ‘genealogy of form’, complicating labels like ‘Venus and Adonis stanza’ by showing that this ‘common verse’ stanza had been used by Southwell as a ‘sacred parody’ before Shakespeare turned to the form. Online searching would be easier and more varied than in printed compilations like Ringler’s and May’s. There was discussion of the extent to which nuances of form and rhyme could be incorporated in searches; fuller details of the proposal can be found here.

Philip West, who is editing James Shirley’s poems for a new OUP edition of his Complete Works, discussed a database he has compiled for the edition. His researches have located many poems not listed in Peter Beal’s Index of English Literary Manuscripts and revealed his habit of transferring materials from one work to another. The database makes possible line-by-line comparison of different versions of a given poem, and a demonstration showed how illuminating this can be.

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