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.
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.
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.