Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Saturday, February 23, 2013
"23 February 1659/60. Thursday, my birthday, now twenty-seven years." I almost missed the birthday of Samuel Pepys. Pepys, as you probably know, blogged his Diary from January 2003 until May 2012, and his site is maintained by Phil Gyford. Gyford began the whole thing again, with new software, in January 2013, as he explains in a posting on his own site. We wish Pepys and Gyford well.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
I bought a copy of More Baths Less Talking (2012), the latest volume of a selection of Nick Hornby's "Stuff I've been Reading" columns for The Believer for someone else and read the entire book over a short train ride. Hornby begins each column with a list of "Books Bought" and then a list of "Books Read" over the last month. There was rarely much overlap. I wonder if academics should do the same?
We could include in the first list books bought, checked out of the library, ordered through inter-library loan; articles downloaded, printed. I suppose journals subscribed to wouldn't count because then the "unread" would be too overwhelming. In the second list we would list books and articles actually read during the same period (those purchased or downloaded years ago, those re-read, etc.). Perhaps there needs to be a third list, books/articles used/cited/quoted in our own work, but not actually read much beyond the cite/quote for which we dutifully provide a reference. The literature review can seem overwhelming because of the many related works out there for any historiographical problem. We seem to find more and more works that fall within Francis Bacon's category, "to be read only in parts."
It turns out, that Bacon's era was quite familiar with the sense of being overwhelmed with "the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion" (Adrien Baillet, 1685, trans.). Ann Blair (the source of the two quotes above) shows how some early modern writers attempted to manage information by injunctions to read selectively in her survey of their various note-taking and categorization schemes (“Reading Strategies for Coping with Information Overload Ca. 1550-1700,” Journal of the History of Ideas 64, no. 1, January 2003: 11-28). And Thomas N. Corns indicates how the early modern writers and publishers offered their own version of random access now more ubiquitously found in the hypertext link (“The Early Modern Search Engine: Indices, Title Pages, Marginalia and Contents”, in The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge technology in the first age of print, ed. Neil Rhodes and Jonathan Sawday, London: Routledge, 2000, 95-105).
Just as early modern readers have been offered a way out, so too have we. I have not read Pierre Bayard, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (Bloomsbury, 2009), but I am going to discuss its main point. Perhaps I feel empowered to do so because I have read and recommend Jacob Halford’s “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read,” a post in Early Modern Dialogues (15 July 2010). Halford, and, I presume, Bayard, notes that “[t]his is a skill I think that is valuable for anyone who works with lots of books.” It is valuable in thinking about research, in working in classrooms and seminars on either side of the desk. Halford/Bayard lists five points that explain the non-reading method. I offer my, even briefer reading of these points (as shared with my graduate students).
- “Remember that most people can’t remember most of what they have read.” From this my take-away is to go with what you have read/do know, and in what you are most interested. The point is not that you will never have to read again (what a sad life), but you don’t need to read everything, all of a book, even all of a chapter, to get something out of it. If you remember something about a book, that might put you at the forefront of your audience/group. It certainly puts you in the discussion.
- “Know the Book’s Location.” Is it more difficult when the modern reader does not have Library of Congress classification memorized and finds a source through a random search online? Perhaps. But the injunction to “situat[e] the text amongst [certain] books” is still vital. Not just in relation to a debate, a dialog, or a wikipedia-type subject, but physically/geographically (examples: this is a long, long novel, and, thus, almost certainly a product of the 19th-century three-decker genre; this is a rare religious text found mainly in New England seminaries and colleges). All this knowledge allows you to state with confidence, “books like this tend to...."
- “Know what others have said about the book.” And, even better, be able to situate those who have reviewed or commented about the book. You now can speak knowledgeably about the debates in which the book does or does not engage.
- “Know the basic content.” Oh, dear, you are thinking, why not just read the book? For one, if you are reading the book without doing these steps, you are unlikely to remember much because you have not created a place for your memories of reading it. Halford/Bayard suggests looking at the table of contents (TOC). In addition to the TOC, I’d suggest a glance at the index and paratext (lists of illustrations, prologue, etc.). Does the author state why s/he is writing? Does s/he state when and where the problem first arose? Does s/he thank specific people that you can situate themselves?
- “Don’t be ashamed.” Here we are in the realm of confident bluffing. But what about truth? A confident statement based on nothing more than a hunch (and informed hunch, based on nos. 1-4 above) is an important step in constructing a hypothesis in early stages in research, or in initiating dialog with fellow students/professors/researchers. Of course, you are using it to facilitate inquiry, not holding it against all comers. If presented with additional information (Dickens did not state X; the war actually caused Y), you must be willing to modify your position.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
A second batch of references to "Crowdsourcing the early modern blogosphere" features considered analyses and considerations. "The echoes of cyberspace," by tympanandfrisket (22 November 2012) references my open review draft article on the early modern blogosphere, and finds affirmation of my argument in Leah Marcus’s "The Silence of the Archive and the Noise of Cyberspace" (in The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print, ed. Neil Rhodes and Jonathan Sawday, London: Routledge, 2000). Tympan and Frisket also refers to an extended post on the early modern blogosphere at Mercurius Politicus ("Crowdsourcing the early modern blogosphere," 19 November 2012), which prompted me to comment on anonymity and the role of recycling at Mercurius. Here, I will only underscore his comments on the impermanency of blogging: "bloggers stop blogging, sites get closed down or pulled." Indeed, one blog that I planned to include in my network analysis retreated behind an invitation wall on the very day I devoted to analyzing it. Matthew Simmermon-Gomes over at the Molinist also limns both my blogosphere piece and the Mercurius post ("Crowdsourcing," 20 November 2012). Fashioning the Early Modern: Creativity and Innovation in Europe, 1500-1800 references "Crowdsourcing" on its FB page and quotes from my historiographical section on the usage of the term early modern on its blog ("Blogs on the early modern – Newton Key: Crowdsourcing the Early Modern Blogosphere," Fashioning the Early Modern," November 23, 2012, by Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani). [Update: "What’s This 'Early Modern' of Which You Speak?," in the SMH (Society for Military History) Blog, November 9, 2012, by Jamel Ostwald, delves into the periodization question (referencing my discussion of the usage of "early modern," but also considering the various usages of other terms).]
Friday, October 26, 2012
from Malcolm Balen, The Secret
History of the South Sea Bubble
(London, 2003), 199
So we come back to Blacks in early modern England. Before the 18th century, how did they impact the narrative? For starters, we can note that they were there, and writers and engravers noticed that they were there. And, to the extent that is true, we need to rethink English identity, and how what they thought about themselves affects the narrative.
To give one example, Jacobite-fancier, Eveline Cruickshanks makes the following comment about the appearance of 200 Black Surinamese marching with William of Orange along with Finlandiers in bearskins up to Exeter afer landing in November 1688: "[w]e can merely guess the feelings of various sectors of the population." (The Glorious Revolution, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Macmillan, 2000, 26). By which she means (and she must mean something, as the book is too short for meaningless statements to survive), that such exotics were completely outside the ken of simple, traditional-minded Anglo-Saxons. Thus, is there any further proof needed that this was a foreign invasion, an outside force of occupation from "the Other"? Perhaps. But, if the English were used to the occasional Black boy servant, Black hair dressers, even Black sailors throughout the cities and, indeed, in smaller coastal ports, then her observation falls flat. The idea that the English would have no idea what to make of foreigners, and Black foreigners at that, would certainly be ludicrous in the late-18th century, and probably doesn't apply to the late-17th century either, and might not apply to the late-16th century.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
|Royal Trumpeters, including |
black trumpeter John Blanke (1511)
|May Fair, London (1716, detail)|
But, returning to Aswad and Boothe, the meta-narrative of this story is not clear. Did Blacks in early modern London experience Freedom Street, or a new subaltern situation in the Concrete (sic) Slaveship of the London streets? Note, again, two sentences from the Wood article/announcement:
|Bacchus and Venus: or, a select|
collection of near 200... songs and catches
in love and gallantry (1737,
courtesy of Angela McShane)
- "Employed especially as domestic servants, but also as musicians, dancers and entertainers, their numbers ran to many hundreds, maybe even more.And let's be clear - they were not slaves. In English law, it was not possible to be a slave in England (although that principle had to be re-stated in slave trade court cases in the late 18th Century, like the "Somersett" case of 1772)."
Perhaps the numbers are too small to make a final judgement. But, then, all the more reason to be sure that the meta-narrative of "it was not possible to be a slave in England," meets the reality of the baptism of "Thomas Sambo, Mr Heywood’s black boy," 29 October 1710.
[Update: followup here.]
Saturday, October 20, 2012
recent claims that their term is anachronistic). Moreover, at least two famous early modern Englishmen, Samuel Pepys and now Daniel Defoe have been blogging away over the last decade. Pepys, alas, has finished, but Defoe appears to be hard at work blogging, or is it re-blogging his Review.
Anyway, a draft of Newton Key, “Crowdsourcing the Early Modern Blogosphere,” which is scheduled to be published in historyblogosphere: Bloggen in den Geschichtswissenschaften, ed. Peter Haber and Eva Pfanzelter (Munich: Oldenbourg Verlag, forthcoming, 2013), has been posted in an open source peer review version. It is available at http://historyblogosphere.oldenbourg-verlag.de/open-peer-review/key/ for review and comments (the site will ask you to register before you can enter comments, but you can do so quickly with minimal detail) through mid-December 2012.