Tag Archives: c18

DH @ #SHARP11 « Early Modern Online Bibliography

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As technologies change our environments for reading, writing and research, it is incumbent on our scholarly organizations to take note. And what group is better prepared to explore our digital future than the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing SHARP, dedicated as it is to the interdisciplinary study of the history of literacy and its changing materials forms, sites and technologies. This year’s SHARP conference in Washington DC last weekend, organized by EMOB’s own Eleanor Shevlin along with Casey Smith, and sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, the Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library and Institute, and the Corcoran College of Art + Design, illustrated that the field of Digital Humanities, though still in its incunabula stage, is growing at a dynamic rate. It also made clear that book historians are prepared to enthusiastically explore the new tools and new theories emerging from a variety of DH practitioners, institutions and new partnerships.

My own experience of the conference was infused with new media theories and practices from beginning to end. I was “tweeting” the conference on my new iPad, and at the same time taking notes on Evernote, an app that synchs my jottings across platforms. The constant access to the Internet provided by the venues meant that I could look up books, websites, or even places for lunch as needed. This is not the first time I have used Twitter to report on a conference, but a lively backchannel, encouraged by @sharporg the alter ego of SHARP vice-president Ian Gadd, allowed conversation about the presentations to unfold and real time. It also facilitated meetings in “real life” of those of us who only had met online before: there’s a reason they call it “social media.” Perhaps more importantly, though, the tweets allowed those who could not make it to the conference to “eavesdrop” on the proceedings, thus opening it to a larger group than those able to physically attend–which is precisely why SHARP has been encouraging the use of such tools.

via DH @ #SHARP11 « Early Modern Online Bibliography.

Abject, Delude, Create

“Abject, Delude, Create: The Aesthetic Self-Consciousness of Early Eighteenth-Century Farce.” Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research (Volume 25 Issue 1)

Abstract: In the early eighteenth century, farce was a much-maligned form of theater, in part because of its over-indulgence in the corporeal. This essay seeks to re-conceptualize the significance of farce by examining its self-conscious spectacularization of the scene of corporeal violence. Spectacularizing the abjection of the human form, work by authors like Griffin, Carey, Bullock, Johnson, and Hill privileges the body as a site of making and creativity. The farcical trick provides not only an opportunity for physical comedy, but also a performative site that uncannily doubles that of the logic of theatrical performance and spectatorship itself. In this doubled site of play, the abased body of the tricked becomes a sign of the farce being performed, and the trickster, a director orchestrating the trick-as-play. The confusions born of the body and its materiality thus become spectacular sites of creativity, giving value and depth to the kinds of productivity typically perceived as lacking.

Finishing Moll Flanders

As we wound up our discussion of Moll Flanders on Wednesday, I was especially interested to note student’s investment in ethical questions–both those raised by Moll herself, and those raised by our reading of Moll. I briefly raised the “surprised by sin” argument, and we considered whether it could be applied to Defoe’s novel. Our first secondary source presentation opened the meeting, and I was generally happy with the results; however, the introduction from Kahn’s Narrative Transvestism could have been linked a little more fully in discussion and in presentation to the editor’s role, as well as to the negotiation between gender and narrative structure. I think this last point, however, was a bit too nuanced for students to grasp without a better foundation in theories of the early novel, so I’d like to go over formal realism again–and more explicitly–when we begin reading Pamela.

Popular Fiction by Women

I’m so very much looking forward to EN426 this term! We had what I thought was an excellent first class last night, though the first portion was livelier than the second–of course, we were discussing Haywood at the beginning, and I modeled a sample presentation on Backscheider & Richetti’s Popular Fiction by Women in the second. I was struck by how observant my students were, and how able they seemed to be at keeping previous discussion points in mind to inflect and shape later ideas. We’ll be reading Defoe’s Moll Flanders next, and coupling that with either Trumbach or Stone as historical context. One of the things I’m going to have to keep in mind as the term progresses, however, is that very few in the class have encountered much early literature, and much less from the 18th century; this means that I’ll potentially have to rethink the secondary/supplementary readings. We’ll see what the first journal pages bring, though, and that will give me a better sense of how the second half of class registered.

Paper at ASECS

Just got the good news that my paper, “’Things without Head, or Tail, or Form, or Grace’: The Hypercorporeality of Farce on the Early Eighteenth-Century Stage,” has been accepted for the 2010 American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference in Albuquerque! My work, particularly invested in theater overwhelmingly about the body and its metamorphoses, the theater of farce, will be read in a panel “The Whole Show on the Eighteenth-Century Stage.” Here’s my proposal:

Tobin Siebers’ useful model of “the body aesthetic” (University of Michigan, 2000) allows us to think of creative practice as always a practice of “making and remaking…the human” (3). In the early eighteenth century, farcical afterpieces routinely turn on or build to a crucial act of violence comically staged—an act of comic violence that draws our attention to the processes by which the human is made and remade. Often, this is a literal violence—bodies are kicked, cudgeled, and tossed in blankets. Sometimes the violence of farce is less conventionally apparent as such, taking the form of verbal abuse that far overreaches the merely indecorous, scenes of humiliation and the abasement of the human, scenes playing on the fine line separating life and death. And sometimes the violence of farce is directed
against language itself, one of the most telling signs of all that is human and civilized and capable of being reformed by the dulce et utile.

In the eighteenth century, as Siebers has noted, “more often than not, the object of art is the body.” Farce thrives on the actions of bodies that, in their very embodiment, problematize the imagined integrity of the human. Instead of insisting that the beautiful body is the fittest vehicle for the legitimate work of the stage, farce extols the im/perfections of the flesh. In doing so, these bodies also confront us with another spectrum of the human, a spectrum in which
corporeality figures as its most fundamental refuge—and thus, the most fundamental refuge of art and expression. In this essay, I argue that early eighteenth-century farce consciously explores the power of the distressed body, especially the power of the distressed body to inspire not just amusement and entertainment, but even a kind of art.

Taking farce seriously, this essay looks closely at a handful of the most popular farcical afterpieces on the legitimate stage—especially work by Centlivre, Hill, Griffin, Bullock, Johnson, and Carey—to suggest the aesthetic contours of the form as a function of its hypercorporeality. This corporeal aesthetic is one framed by questions about the uses to which the human body can be put. In the bodies of farce, affliction and artistry collide, conjuring an image of the human as somehow outside of or critical toward emerging aesthetic norms.