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.