Miscellany: An Early Modern Blog

Leonardo da Vinci, Lady with an Ermine (1483-1490)Publishing responses to talks and events, book reviews, and informal musings on early modern literature, culture, and scholarship written by our EMC faculty members and graduate students.


Navigate the Blog:

Main Page | Archived Book Reviews


June 6, 2016

Resource | Come Live With Me: Living the History of a Ballad

by Jessica Grace Sparks (English and Renaissance Studies Major w/ Early Modern Specialization, UCSB)

Christopher Marlowe’s ballad “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” is probably one of the most well-known poems or, as Mallory Ortberg calls it, “The Most Frequently Owned-Upon Poem In History.” In class we learn about Marlowe’s pastoral love poem but we barely scratch the surface of the complicated and fascinating history surrounding this poem. From directly after its first printing to modern day, the poem has inspired responses in all genres of literature, art, and music. Its manifestations include a broadside ballad, newspaper comics, jazz songs, poetic parodies and replies, as well as paintings and textile works of art. I have found that there is no one place where this information has been cultivated.

Come Live With Me homepageTo fill this gap, I have created Come Live With Me: Living the History of a Ballad. The site is now live and available for free to anyone who wants to know more about the literary life of Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.”

The site is designed so that users can have an informative, interactive experience as they journey through the ballad’s many incarnations. The main sections of the site are dedicated to the work as a “poem,” the work as a “broadside ballad” with its many intricacies such as tune and woodcuts, and the long and current history of the many “responses, replies, and parodies” of the work. The last section of the site is dedicated to the project background. Here users can learn all about my research process in creating the site and about the many people who have contributed, including the English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA).

Jessica Grace Sparks is a senior at the UCSB, graduating this Spring, majoring in English and Renaissance Studies with an Early Modern specialization. This project was made in collaboration with EBBA and as a part of the Arnhold Undergraduate Research Fellows Program.


May 23, 2016

Resource | Early Modern British Theater: Access (EMBTA)

by Bailee Abell (English Major w/ Early Modern Specialization, UCSB)

Early Modern British Theater: Access assembles multimedia resources for British theater from the years 1500-1800. The website functions in such a way that allows keywords (such as actors, plays, playwrights, elements of costume, location, and themes) to be searched, generating a list of results that display a range of items catalogued on the website. Many  these keywords are “tags” that illuminate shared themes across catalogued items, enriching the ways the collection can be searched and utilized.

These connections stimulate new thought and insight into British theater, allowing students, researchers, and users of the website to generate their own ideas. Whereas most resources for studying British theater from 1500 to 1800 choose either the 1500s to 1640s or 1660 or 1662 to 1800, using tags on EMBTA encourages a searcher to see continuities across the 300 years, making our website a unique research platform.

EMBTA CaptureUpon searching one tag, you will get several results. For example, when typing the word “collar” into the search bar on the website home page, you will find an array of items spanning time periods. This tag generates results ranging from costume designs to portraits of playwrights to engraved depictions of scenes. Entering a tag such as  “collar” generates results across history and media, which will result in an idea of theater as a phenomenon of media across time, which truly is one of EMBTA’s goals, after all.

Through working on the website I have been able to gain an understanding of early modern British theater that has helped me as an intern as well as during my time learning and studying early modernism in academic life.

Visit EMBTA’s website here: http://embta.english.ucsb.edu/.


April 28, 2016

News | EBBA Receives Its 6th NEH Grant

by Rachel Levinson-Emley (Ph.D. Candidate, English, UCSB)

On March 15th, English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA) Director Professor Patricia Fumerton received a call from U.S. Representative Lois Capps with the very exciting news that EBBA had received its latest National Endowment for the Humanities grant. This grant is the sixth that EBBA has received from the NEH since 2006, and, combined with third-party contributions, raises the total contribution to EBBA to $3.5 million in its 13 years. This grant, which will begin in the summer of 2016 and last through the spring of 2018, will cover the addition to the archive of ballads from the Beinecke Library at Yale University; Chetham Library, Manchester; Manchester Central Library; and Society of Antiquaries, London. Additionally, this grant will see the re-filming and re-digitization of the approximately 1,880 ballads from the Magdalene College, Cambridge University Pepys Library. These ballads, currently mounted in the archive in relatively low-quality, black-and-white microfilm images, will be updated to high-resolution, color images. Finally, EBBA is very excited to be mounting a new branch of the project under this grant, expanding the musical aspect of the archive with transcriptions of the recordings, paired with text underlay and visualization tools to help our users better understand the early modern tunes. This grant is the result of great passion and effort from the entire EBBA team, including Director Dr. Patricia Fumerton; Associate Director Dr. Carl Stahmer; Assistant Director Dr. Megan Palmer; Project Managers Kristen McCants, Rachel Levinson-Emley, and Katie Adkison; and Singing Team Manager Erik Bell.


April 13, 2016

Review and Response | The Early Modern Center’s Annual Conference, “Play’s the Thing: Phenomenology and Play in Early Modern Literature, 1500-1800”

by Kristen McCants (Ph.D. Candidate, English, UCSB)

Our theme for this year, “Phenomenology and Play,” has already generated much fruitful conversation among the Early Modern Center as well as other centers and initiatives within the humanities departments at UC Santa Barbara. We have discussed, with Roze Hentschell, the sights, smells, sounds, and experiences of the area around St. Paul’s Cathedral in early modern London; we have explored, with Julie Carlson and Aranye Fradenburg, the liberating and creative effects of play, both inside and outside the academy, and the concomitant riskiness of such play. With Julie Park, we examined the ways in which the country house poem constructs interiority; and with Matthew Smith and the ballad singers of the English Broadside Ballad Archive, we have interrogated the possible roles of ending a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet with a bawdy, comedic jig—and we experienced such a jig through the marvels of our ballad singers.

In March, we gathered for our sixteenth annual Early Modern Center conference to plumb the depths of phenomenology and play in early modern literature. The conference, “Play’s the Thing: Phenomenology and Play in Early Modern Literature, 1500-1800,” was fruitful, invigorating, and pleasurable. Below I give brief summaries of the presentations and final thoughts on the conference as a whole.

The first day of the conference was devoted to Shakespeare. For this day, we partnered with the w/Shakespeare Multicampus Research Focus Group to explore how phenomenology and play intersect within the body of Shakespeare’s work. We began with a lightning round of short, four-minute papers presented by graduate students in the University of California system. Katie Adkison (UC Santa Barbara) discussed Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the importance of the chiasmus to her research on early modern poetry. Peter Cibula (UC Irvine) applied Ernst Kantorowicz’s theory of the king’s two bodies to questions of creatureliness. Sonia Desai (UC Irvine) applied phenomenology to a discussion of gender in As You Like It. James Funk (UC Irvine) brought G.W.F. Hegel into conversation with Shakespeare’s Richard II to examine allegory and flattery. Laura Hatch (UC Irvine) examined the element of air in relation to apparitions in Macbeth. Joyce King (UC Santa Barbara) discussed the phenomenology of audience perception and the actor’s relationship to the audience, with an emphasis on premodern theories of sense perception. Finally, Jason Morphew (UCLA) examined Petrarchism in Hamlet, focusing on existential tautology as lyric performance.

Our first panel, “Shakespeare, Phenomenology, Embodiment,” featured a focus on the embodied experience of the theater by including improvisational elements. In “Playing with Bodies: Poetic Work in Cymbeline,” Peter Cibula (UC Irvine) examined the significance of the presence of dead and sleeping bodies on the stage in Shakespeare’s play. Cibula saw Hannah Arendt’s homo faber in the instrumentality and utility of the bodies strewn about the stage: Innogen’s sleeping body, Cloten’s dead body. He concluded that Innogen finds agency through poetry, although this agency is later removed from her. Sonia Desai (UC Irvine) looked at the complexities of gender and experience in her paper, “‘Am I not your Rosalind?’ Phenomenology of Gender and Erotic Play in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.” Also utilizing Arendt, Desai examined how the reality in the play is constituted by social interactions. Moreover, she contended, Ganymede is a response to the fear of meeting others, but is also created in anticipation of such meetings. Both Cibula and Desai drew on audience participation to act out scenes of their plays, rounding out our experiences of bodies on stage and gender-swapping.

Day one ended with our first keynote, James A. Knapp (Loyola University Chicago), who delivered a presentation entitled “Neither Fish nor Flesh, nor Good Red Herring: Shakespeare, Merleau-Ponty, and the Materials of Theatrical Play.” This paper examined the intricate intertwining of perception and thought in Shakespeare’s Tempest. He focused on the ways in which what the characters (and we as an audience) see is subject to reversals, which unsettle our cognitive understanding of the play. He then zeroed in on the early modern obsession with “strange beasts” and their profitability.

Young_Lady_with_a_Bird_and_DogOur second day opened with our second panel, “Playing with Theology, Thinking with Phenomenology.” In her paper, “Whirling Grace: Turns in John Donne’s ‘Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward,’” Katie Adkison (UC Santa Barbara) looked at the experience of grace through the sonnet convention of the volta, or turn, and the opportunities opened up by the volta. Jarrell D. Wright (University of Pittsburgh), in “Recreation and Re-Creation in The Compleat Angler: Incarnational Theology, Imitatio Christi, and the Ludic Text,” examined Izaac Walton’s text in relation to the image of Christ, and the importance of play to the metaphor of fishing in this text. In “‘Unity Defective’: Joining, Disjoining, and Misjoining in Paradise Lost,” James Funk (UC Irvine) delved into questions of the marriage and supposed unity of Adam and Eve in John Milton’s epic poem, focusing on the ways in which Milton emphasizes the resemblance of Eve to Adam while also leaving room for the rupture between the two. Finally, Danielle Davey (UC Santa Barbara) examined the unstable boundary between the gift and theft in “Grace and Theft: Evading Reciprocity in Jonson’s Volpone.”

Our second keynote was Laura Engel (Duquesne University), whose essay “The Archival Tourist: Performance and Play in Thomas Lawrence’s Portraits of Sarah, Sally, and Maria Siddons” connected archival work with performance studies in order to become “performance-conscious.” She examined the theatrical performance of portrait-making and the family drama of the Siddons women, all of whom were connected with the artist Lawrence. Ultimately, she puzzled out what it might mean that a portrait looks back at us when we look at it: seeing becomes contact at a distance.

Our third panel, “Playing, Performing, Transforming,” explored the importance of role-playing to the experience of theater. Christina M. Squitieri (New York University) examined, through Montaigne, the ways in which playing can cause or bring into being what is being played in her essay “The Dangers of Playing in Early Modern English Drama: Thomas Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy.” Through a discussion of Vindice’s disguise, Squitieri asserted that the lines between Vindice and his persona are blurred through his performance, noting especially how Vindice needs to disguise not just his body, but his voice as well, to fool those upon whom he enacts revenge. In “The Meaning of Play in Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage,” Claudia Ludwig (Vanderbilt University) explored the significance of playing companies of impressed boys acting out a play in which Ganymede is kidnapped. Marlowe’s play, Ludwig contended, reenacts the impressment of (mostly) poor children by choirmasters and company-masters through the kidnapping of Ganymede, and Ludwig wondered what it must have felt like to play Ganymede as a kidnapped boy. Finally, Jade Higa (University of Hawai’i at Manoa), in “Playing Dress Up: Using Queer Temporalities to Explore Performance in Lover’s Vows and Mansfield Park,” looked at the ways in which queer temporalities disrupt linear time, putting the present into dialogue with the past. What happens when two women decide to stage a steamy scene between a man and a woman, and how does acting allow these two women to reveal their true selves?

Our fourth and final panel, “In the Play, Around the Theater,” focused on the experience of theatergoing in early modern London. Diana Solomon (Simon Fraser University) examined comedic entre’actes in tragic plays in her paper, “Play within the Plays: The Eighteenth-Century English Audience’s Taste for Incongruity.” Why, she wondered, did eighteenth-century audiences delight in the incongruity of comedic entre’actes during tragic plays? In “What Else is at Stake in Morose’s ‘baiting’? A Site-Specific Inquiry Concerning Jonson’s Epicoene,” Christopher Foley (UC Santa Barbara) examined the environment of the theater in relation to Jonson’s play. When Morose is represented as a baited bear, this representation is echoed by the play’s meditation on the acoustic similarities between playhouses and bear gardens. Understanding the noise pollution of the play, Foley contended, might shed light on the “silent audience” of the play’s Whitefriars 1609 premier. Finally, Michael A. Winkelman (Owens Tech, Ohio) examined Elizabethan interludes in “Queens’ Games: Imagineering New Realms in Elizabethan Interludes.” These allegorical plays, Winkelman argued, acted to “Imagineer” new futures for the commonwealth. Using neuroscience’s conclusion of the importance of cognitive play, as well as a scene from Addams Family Values, Winkelman concluded that such interludes attempted to bring the realm itself into play.

Young_Lady_with_a_Bird_and_Dog_Cropped_BirdOur final keynote speaker, Bruce Smith (University of Southern California), gave a presentation on “Playing Cuts in Shakespeare’s Theater.” Here, Smith examined the phenomenology of cuts, cutting, cuttings, and cutwork throughout Shakespeare’s plays, focusing on the violence of the cut and on cuts as theatrical metaphors. A cut can be simultaneously the act of cutting and the space left by a cut; it is the piece that is prized and the piece that is trashed. Through his examination, Smith offered thoughts on the experience of plays from the early modern period to our modern era.

This year’s conference brought together some of the brightest minds in the studies of phenomenology, play, and early modern literature. As the highlight of our yearly theme, it enabled a deep and sustained exploration of both texts and philosophical lenses, and gave all of us a chance to mingle and think together about playful experiences in our literary period.


March 30, 2016

Response | A Playful Conversation with Julie Carlson and Aranye Fradenburg

by Joyce King (Ph.D. Student, English, UCSB)

On November 13, 2015, the Sankey Room at UCSB was (as you can see from the pictures) packed with professors and students from the Early Modern Center and Literature and the Mind communities, meeting to discuss the phenomenology of play. The conversation was lively and congenial, and Professors Carlson and Fradenburg were eager to hear from the graduate students, several of whom were then enrolled in Professor Kearney’s course on “Shakespeare and Phenomenology.”

A Playful Conversation with Julie Carlson and Aranye Fradenburg, November 13, 2015

In their opening remarks, Carlson and Fradenburg presented two productively opposing angles on “play.” Professor Carlson began the conversation, describing play or playfulness as a liberating and productive mode of academic inquiry. Play, she suggested, has a special effect on object relations—between one thing and another a “third thing” emerges, and self and object merge, in moments of creativity. Her model of play and thought bears a striking resemblance to a game of catch, a classic metaphor for both conversation and improvisation—the current theme of the Literature and Mind reading group, who collaborated with the EMC for this event. Fittingly, collaboration (with others or within oneself), creativity, and freedom were considered as characteristic of play, and Carlson invited us to consider the conditions that might make such playfulness possible in our work as academics. “What,” she asked, “frees us up to think?”

Reflecting on the final and her favorite chapter of her book City, Marriage, Tournament, Professor Fradenburg turned our attention to the darker possibilities of play, asking us to question whether it is necessarily separate from trauma, violence, reality, and “the Real,” themselves excluded from the play space as “accidents,” and to consider whether play might inherent to “the real experience of surviving and thriving.” For children meeting on a beach, knights meeting at a tournament or on a battlefield, to be present is to be at or in play, to be, perhaps, creatively engaged with environments or creatures, but also to be dangerously exposed to them. Although conversation ranged widely over the course of the event, it did return to the risky borders of play, to the moment when something “isn’t fun anymore” to one person but may, disturbingly, remain fun to someone else.

More optimistically, we also came to consider play, as Professor Fradenburg suggested, as a kind of real experience, enabling a certain creative thriving. Play must be risky, must make us vulnerable, because it is creative and intersubjective, but for that same reason it can also be enabling and lovely. As thinkers, then, we would do well to consider the relation between being academics and being children. How can we see academic space as a playground?

What does free us up to think?

See the event details and photos here.


January 21, 2016

Response | Roze Hentschell’s “Church, Playhouse, Market, Home: The Cultural Geography of St. Paul’s Precinct, 1561-1625”

by Katie Adkison (Ph.D. Student, English, UCSB)

“Space is much more than a neutral box containing people’s lives,” Dr. Roze Hentschell contends in her discussion of St. Paul’s precinct in early modern England. And, indeed, her analysis of the church’s precinct deftly describes the intermingling elements of St. Paul’s and acutely conjures the sense that it is this intermingling, and not merely the individual elements themselves, that most accurately represents what St. Paul’s must have been to an early modern Londoner. An economic center as well as a center of worship, St. Paul’s housed not only clergymen and choir boys – books stalls were profuse in its yard, hawking and selling ballads, books, and other print items. Smoke would have been a regular tenant as well, with the chimneys of each stall pressed up against the walls of the cathedral that the stalls rested against. Like the smoke that drifted from the yard into the church, Londoners would have moved between these spaces, necessarily understanding St. Paul’s as a hybrid location of religious worship and secular, commercial life. Moreover, as Dr. Hentschell argues, the hybridity this space embodied was mirrored by literary elements coming out of St. Paul’s. Sermons here shared formal elements with satirical writing, and vice versa, manifesting in language the effects of cultural intermingling so viscerally present in the materiality of the church’s grounds. Asserting the inescapability of such intermingling, Dr. Hentschell demonstrates that the experience(s) of St. Paul’s would have shaped Londoners as much as it shaped London’s skyline. In fact, she points to the lack of a spire – which had been destroyed by lightning in 1561 – as a way in which Paul’s, in the very skyline itself, would have affected Londoners. A present absence, the cathedral’s missing spire would have marked Paul’s as informed by negative space: the spire not there would have been felt by Londoners as much as the distinctly present, bustling peoples and materials. What her discussion of the spire, and of the St. Paul’s precinct on the whole, reveals is that the space of St. Paul’s cannot be properly analyzed as pure geography; analysis of this church must be informed by the smells, sounds, sights, peoples, materials, senses, and even lacking presences that would have filled such a space. Always a gestalt, always more than the sum of its parts, any sense of St. Paul’s precinct would have actively informed not just religious opinions in early modern London, but also intricately complicated phenomenological senses of intermingled cultures and intermingled lives. It would have, must have, been a site that suggested the way that the experience of the world itself is always one of tangled, complex, intermingled perceptions.

See the event details here.