Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

royston7

royston7

By

May 10, 2015

Shakespeare’s Shadows is Live!

May 10, 2015 | By | No Comments

I am delighted to announce the launch of my CHI project, Shakespeare’s Shadows! Over the past academic year, I have been reading, researching, testing different technologies, and learning how to code in order to make this happen.

My research interest lies in understanding the way in which English Renaissance dramatists engaged with the visual arts, specifically through the lens of professionalization. I argue that Renaissance dramatists reference and make use of English artistic theory in order to reflect upon their own multi-media, visual/verbal form. With this interest in mind, I scaled my project to focus on the dramas in Shakespeare’s First Folio. For more information about the background, rationale, and objective of this study, please visit the ‘About the project’ page on my site.

Using Voyant, I explored Shakespeare’s texts through the use of their web-based data visualization tools. Each graph on my website analyzes a different part of Shakespeare’s corpus or related texts, and uncovers unique connections and trends that were not apparent previously. Most graphs are interactive. I encourage users to manipulate these graphs to suit their own curiosities.

I plan to keep adding to the webpage and I also look forward using Shakespeare’s Shadows in my classroom. Next academic year, I am fortunate enough to be teaching two Shakespeare courses and I plan to work with students to facilitate a research-based learning environment. Shakespeare’s Shadows is just one example of the many ways digital work can lead to new understandings of old texts and I cannot wait to share this with my students!

You can find much more information about the project on the actual webpage, which I hope you will take a moment to visit. Because there is more work to be done, I would really appreciate your feedback. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have.

Lastly, I would like to thank MATRIX, the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative, and especially Ethan Watrall for generously supporting me as I worked on this project.

royston7

By

March 27, 2015

Voyant: DH in the Classroom

March 27, 2015 | By | No Comments

In recent years, teachers in the humanities have begun to see the importance of incorporating technology into our research—if only to make our lives a little bit easier. This change in the way we conduct research has also extended into our classrooms. I aim to adapt my classroom so that it mirrors how students are interacting with the world today, and a large part of that adjustment includes making use of current technology. At times, this has not been an easy evolution, as we all too often teach in the way that we ourselves learned. But not every student we encounter shares our innate love for literature. This means that we must do the best we can to make literature both accessible and interesting to students of the 21st century.

Because I am using Voyant for my CHI fellowship project, I also intend to use this tool in my classroom. This summer I will teach an Integrated Arts and Humanities course online. Largely intended for non-majors, the course title is, ‘Literature and the Environment: Self, Society, and Nature’. I’ve been brainstorming the ways in which this tool might benefit or otherwise engage non-majors in this subject. Here are some of my collected thoughts on using Voyant in the classroom:

The use of Voyant helps me integrate my research with my teaching. Students using Voyant are engaging in the same type of research in which I engage. And students new to literary studies see that they can engage in collaborative, digital, and visual methods of literary research. They see that literary studies is not limited to the solitary act of reading, with a professorial figure largely directing the meaning of what they read the night before. Instead, students using Voyant can look for patterns or uncover interesting facets of the text themselves—creating a truly student-centered learning experience.

Students might track the use of a particular term (or a set of related terms) over the entirety of a novel or play. Perhaps students are asked to locate and then visualize the use of seasonal terms throughout a text; does the use of these terms change in frequency or in terms of specific seasons; how might particular uses draw our eye to pivotal passages within a text?

Or, students can relate texts to one another over the course of a semester by tracking and then visualizing the same terms over a variety of texts. There is potential for finding surprising connections or conversely, locating defining differences between texts. Using Voyant in this way may initiate conversations regarding the connectedness of texts; students see how texts from different authors, time periods, genres, etc. are similar or different.

One of the benefits of Voyant is its accessibility. It is extremely user-friendly and the visualizations users create are easily exportable. Students can use Voyant just once (no log-in or download required), for a simple homework or in-class individual or collaborative assignment. Further, this assignment can be extremely student-centered if students are allowed to pursue their own curiosities. Using this text mining and visualization tool to provide proof of the significance of their interest, students learn the value of evidence in forming a thesis. Lastly, of course Voyant may be used as a formative assessment in support of a larger assessment like a traditional research paper.

Voyant might be especially useful for helping students engage with poetry—a genre that demands attention to detail, sometimes at the level of a single word. Or, for example, students might track the use of pronouns throughout a poetry anthology as a way to reflect upon the speakers and/or subjects.

Lastly, Voyant might be used for non-literary texts. News articles, blog posts, or journal articles could be tracked visually. And perhaps the most interesting use of Voyant might be for students to track their own writing. This would be especially useful as an end of the term project as students reflect on the papers they completed for class. This assignment would allow students to see what their engagements with the texts were, allowing greater insight into who they are as scholars.

The limitations to this tool are slim, but should be considered. Texts must be uploaded to Voyant; therefore the text must be in a digital format. Also, I’ve used Voyant in some sophisticated ways, tracking dozens of terms through thirty or so texts and in this way, I’ve reached some of the limitations of the tool; but these are less likely to occur in semester-length student assignments. Lastly, with the use of many digital tools, accommodations might need to be made for students with special learning needs.

It is my view that Voyant is an excellent tool for reaching students, especially those new to literary students, or students new to the digital humanities. Visualizations can start conversations, they can be created collaboratively, or analyzed collaboratively. Further, Voyant can be used in the face-to-face, hybrid, or digital learning environments. I encourage humanities instructors to use this tool and to cater it to their individual interests, or better yet, their students’ interests.

royston7

By

February 16, 2015

A Graph by Any Other Name

February 16, 2015 | By | No Comments

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term ‘clairvoyance’ as ‘keenness of mental perception, clearness of insight; insight into things beyond the range of ordinary perception’. Voyant allows users to access a ‘web-based reading and analysis environment’ that encourages scholars with a variety of interests to gain this type of insight into the texts they study.

For my CHI project, I will be using Voyant to explore Shakespeare’s corpus, visually. By searching for terms related to the rise of English artistic theory (see my previous posts for more thorough descriptions of my project), I hope to uncover new ways of understanding some of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays (or even his most hated plays—I’m looking at you, Timon).

Read More

royston7

By

January 27, 2015

Shakespeare’s well-painted passion…digitally visualized

January 27, 2015 | By | No Comments

In this post I’m going to discuss my project in a bit more detail. As I’ve stated previously, I am interested in the way Renaissance playwrights write about, perform, and otherwise engage with visual art, artists, and artistic theory. So one of the first things I look for when studying this topic is when and how dramatists include visual art as stage properties, painters as characters, or deploy artistic language within dialogue.

For my CHI project, I’ve chosen to focus on Shakespeare’s work since it is accessible and better known to a wider range of people. I’ve also narrowed my scope by focusing on portraiture exclusively. Using Open Source Shakespeare I searched for the following words, each related to Renaissance portraiture: paint, counterfeit, varnish, shadow, table, and perspective. These key words (and their variants) relate to historical usage of artistic terminology. Still, sometimes a table is just a thing with four legs, and not necessarily “a board or other flat surface on which a picture is painted; the picture itself” (OED). So in those cases, I examined the passage to make the determination that term could, in fact, be at least a partial reference to painting.

We all know how complex Shakespeare’s words are so of course these terms pertain to more than just the visual arts. But my reading will focus on these terms because my larger argument (see my larger argument in my dissertation, circa 2016) focuses on the prevalent relationship between Renaissance visual and verbal artists.

Through the lens of the visual specifically, my project explores the ways in which the visual artist, his profession, and his works were used as metadramatic devices to reflect upon the visual nature of drama and its effect. Examining the integration of visual art within drama allows for a new method of understanding the dramatic arts as a counter-paragone medium. That is, while Renaissance artistic and literary theory generally divides forms from each other, (with the intention of privileging one form over others), my reading of these plays suggests that Renaissance visual and textual media are not actually limited by this artificial binary and instead coexist reciprocally through this metadramatic function.

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I presented Palladio to the other CHI fellows. Below is a quick graph I created using their web-based visualization tool. While at the moment it contains too much information to be useful (or even very readable), I just wanted to tinker with the platform in order to learn how it works.You can see that my main data points are the keys terms that I listed previously. Each point is sized to correlate to frequency. Aside from that, this graph is pretty difficult to read, but it at least illustrates the degree to which Shakespeare deploys artistic terminology (a lot). Click the image below for a larger view.

Graph1 Blog

This second graph contains less data and is therefore perhaps a bit more easily read and understood. Here, I just (selfishly) included some of my favorite plays and visualized the frequency to which they include my key terms. Click the image below for a larger view.

Graph2 Blog

In the next month or so, I’ll be playing around with the tool, Voyant, which I made reference to last month. I’m curious to see how using their text-based analytical tools might enable me to view this data in a new way.

royston7

By

December 13, 2014

Double Vision

December 13, 2014 | By | No Comments

Because of my interest in Renaissance drama and visual art, I am interested in connections, relationships, and patterns between Renaissance verbal and visual media. I’m also interested in how Renaissance playwrights and visual artists might be connected culturally, artistically, and professionally. For this reason, I’ve pursued digital visualization tools to use for my CHI Fellowship project. Having just presented on Palladio (with additional references to Tableau and Voyant), I’ve become more reflective of what visualization tools are, and what they are not.

 
The first question I’ve asked myself is why I should visualize my data at all. The short answer is that visualizing data allows me to view my data in a different way and it also allows me to present it to others in a tangible, approachable manner. For example, I am interested in the way in which Shakespeare uses emerging English artistic theory in his plays. So one of the first things I look for is when, how, and to what effect Shakespeare incorporates artistic terminology in his writing. While I could complete some close readings on these key passages, relate them to relevant primary works, and then situate my argument in the field accordingly, what would happen if I added the extra step of visualization to literally view these key references in a new way? Using a different lens? Might I uncover interesting and significant connections that I could not see before?

 
Visualizing this data, I theorize, will allow me to see connections, patterns, and potential trends (I’ve already uncovered a few surprises during my preliminary research). For example, does Shakespeare make greater use of artistic terminology in comedies or drama? Does he use artistic terminology more in his later plays? Are there particular acts, scenes, or characters that use artistic terminology more often? These are the types of questions visualization might be able to address.

 
Of course digital visualization does not solve research questions for me. A graph cannot analyze itself, or the enchanting Shakespearean lines that hooked me in senior English class. But it does show me new things…it does provide me with new Ways of Seeing. From there, it is up to me; what narrative will I tell to accompany my visual? What exactly is my data story? Why does it matter that Timon of Athens includes variations of the word ‘paint’ more than a dozen times? What purpose does it serve and what is at stake by identifying the purpose of these allusions?

 
Over the next month I’ll continue to explore visualization tools in an effort to determine which platform is right for me and my project. Exciting things are to come in the next semester: solidifying my project, attending DH workshops at the SAA, and launching what I hope will be a useful tool for myself and others.

royston7

By

November 15, 2014

Mute Poem, Speaking Picture…And Web-Based Visualization Tools

November 15, 2014 | By | No Comments

For November’s post, I’m going to write a bit about my own specific research interest. As a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of English, I study Renaissance literature and visual culture. Specifically, I look at the connection between Renaissance drama and portraiture. This research interest has developed since I spent a year working on an MA in ‘Shakespeare in History’ at University College London. While living in London the city became my classroom—the theaters, museums, and original texts I encountered first-hand inspired me, and I wrote my MA thesis on Shakespeare’s literary use of portraiture.

 
Building upon that initial interest, my current project explores how Renaissance playwrights dramatize paintings and painters in order to examine their own artistic significance and value within Renaissance artistic society. Dramatists I argue, participated in the paragone (discourse and debates supporting or refuting the supposed superiority of one artistic medium over all others) and yet transformed these debates by subverting the traditional binary purported between verbal and visual. Drama, after all, is both a textual and visual medium. And so my dissertation is built upon the fundamental recognition that Renaissance playwrights often dramatize:

 
1. Artistic language—using key artistic terms and theories to illuminate their own rhetoric
2. The painter as a surreptitious character, who is akin to the dramatist through the representation of his struggle for social and artistic mobility
3. Artistic stage properties—which are used to examine the potential dangers of fictional representation
4. The intellectual and physical labor of creating visual art, which is closely linked to the textual; and in turn, creates a reciprocal, inter-media effect

 
In all, I suggest that Renaissance dramatists understood their undeniable connection to painters and when painters and paintings are staged, they function as mirrors used to reflect drama’s own socially-imposed concerns about its artistic significance given its visual nature.

 
This project builds upon metadramatic scholarship but also makes use of the more recent interest in Renaissance visual culture. My project consists of four chapters, each exploring a different play and author: Arden of Faversham, Campaspe, Timon of Athens, and Jonson’s masques. I will be presenting my work on Campaspe at the Shakespeare Association of America conference this April.

 
So how does all this relate to the CHI fellowship and my digital project? I’m still working on that…I am intrigued by the prospect of connecting Renaissance playwrights to paragone authors and concepts visually. It is my view that scholars have overlooked or undervalued the connection between Renaissance textual (printed drama, poetry, prose, artistic theory that connects verbal to visual, etc.) to Renaissance visual (performed drama, ekphrastic poetry [Admittedly this element has probably been covered the most out of the bunch], Renaissance paintings used as stage properties, etc.).

 
Because I’d like to make a case for the strong relationship between Renaissance verbal and visual (and extend my analysis to also examine the professional relationship between dramatists and painters) I imagine that presenting this information visually will allow me to organize these networks effectively as I progress through the dissertation. It is also my hope that by making this project public, scholars with similar interests will be able to see the link between Renaissance textual and visual in new ways.

 
Next month I plan to discuss web-based visualization tools and I will hopefully be one step closer to finding a platform that suits my research and tech needs.

royston7

By

October 21, 2014

Say Digital Humanities One More Time…

October 21, 2014 | By | One Comment

Early Modernists have done impressive work in the digital humanities as of late. This exciting shift in methodology allows greater opportunity to complete original research as well introduce new pedagogical techniques into our classrooms. In the end, I view digital projects as tools; tools used for collaboration, teaching, and further research. This blog post will introduce a couple of recent early modern digital projects. But first, the old faithfuls…

 
Early English Books Online (EEBO), the go-to online database of early printed (and now) digitized texts, has been a necessary tool for me as a scholar; I’ve had access to it throughout my academic career and I cannot imagine researching without it. The Text Creation Partnership (TCP) transcribes these scanned texts and creates fully-searchable text files that improve readability and accessibility.

My search for Hamlet using EEBO.

Hamlet (2)

 

 
Another source I’ve used quite frequently is Open Source Shakespeare. This online concordance, created by Eric M. Johnson (as part of his M.A. thesis!) allows users to search for particular words throughout all of Shakespeare’s texts. I’ve used it when researching artistic terminology; the site allowed me to search for passages that included Renaissance synonyms for painted portraits. Incidentally, Mr. Johnson is now the Director of Digital Access at the Folger Shakespeare Library and he will be leading a workshop on “Using Data in Shakespeare Studies” at the Shakespeare Association of America conference this April (I’ll be there!).

My search for ‘painted’ using Open Source Shakespeare.
Open Source Shakespeare (2)

And now on to some more recent discoveries…

The Map of Early Modern London (MoEML) taps into the popular DH interest of visualizing geographic space. The current version of the map was launched in 2013 by a group of scholars at the University of Victoria. The interactive map is sourced from the 1561 ‘Agas Map’. The website is user-friendly and the creators of the map certainly encourage scholars to make use of this tool, which of course could be used for a variety of research needs. Jenelle Jenstad and Kim McLean-Fiander will be presenting on the pedagogical possibilities for research-based learning at the SAA conference this April (I plan to attend this workshop as well as I am eager to learn more about this topic).

Each tile is easily clickable; the interactive points bring users to a list of documents containing that location.
Map of Early Modern London (2)

 

 
The Folger Luminary Shakespeare Apps
The Folger Shakespeare Library has produced several interactive digital editions of Shakespeare’s plays. These editions can be downloaded by students via iTunes and used in place of paperback editions. Full audio performances accompany each edition and the interactive texts allow readers to take notes and collect passages. Expert commentary from scholars and actors allows for deeper engagement. While I’ve admired these editions from afar, I look forward to using a digital edition this summer, perhaps A Midsummer Night’s Dream, depending on my teaching assignment.

 

 

The English Broadside Ballad Achieve from the University of California, Santa Barbara allows users to research and explore early modern broadside ballads—essentially cheap street literature that can easily be set to music and enjoyed aurally. I’ve personally used this resource when I taught a class on the representation of visual art within literature. I taught the anonymous drama, Arden of Faversham and used the ballad I found on EBBA to discuss the two representations of Alice with my students. I appreciate the album and ballad sheet facsimiles (with the ability to zoom in) especially because my students and I discussed dramatic vs. visual representation. The recording added a new dimension to our discussion of different media. I highly recommend this site for teaching early modern literature; I think ballads can add interest to a variety of early modern topics.

My search for the Arden of Faversham ballad.
Arden Ballad (2)

I look forward to contributing to this exciting field of research; stayed tuned for my November post when I’ll introduce my specific interest in early modern digital scholarship.

 
Resources:
Early English Books Online: http://www.proquest.com/products-services/eebo.html
Open Source Shakespeare: http://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/
Shakespeare Association of America: http://www.shakespeareassociation.org/
The Map of Early Modern London: http://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/
Folger Luminary Shakespeare Apps: http://www.folger.edu/Content/About-Us/Publications/Folger-Luminary-Shakespeare-Apps/
Broadside Ballads: http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/

royston7

By

September 19, 2014

Hello there! CHI Fellowship Intro: Jennifer A. Royston

September 19, 2014 | By | No Comments

My name is Jennifer A. Royston and I am very excited to be a CHI fellow this academic year. While I’m not ready to announce my project just yet, I do have some interesting ideas up my sleeve! Stayed tuned…

I am a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of English. Before coming to MSU I earned an MA in ‘Shakespeare in History’ from University College London. And before that I taught high school English at an International Baccalaureate school. I specialize in Renaissance literature, specifically drama, and the metadramatic function of paintings and painters on the Early Modern stage. I explore why Renaissance playwrights were invested in dramatizing painters, and why visual art was so often staged or otherwise evoked through verbal means. I am especially interested in the rise of English artistic theory and how this body of literature differs from its paragone predecessors, especially when represented on the London stage.

Read More