- Pulpit, Playhouse and Page: online seminars in theatrical and non-theatrical exchanges
- Pulpit, Playhouse and Page: Moving Online
- The Open Digital Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies
- Call for book proposals: Literary and Scientific Cultures of Early Modernity
- Material Cultures of Early Modern Women’s Writing
Like many people, I was looking forward to attending a couple of academic conferences this summer. This year, I was particularly looking forward to a conference being hosted at the University of Sheffield and organised by Emma Rhatigan and Catherine Evans on ‘Pulpit, Playhouse and Page: Theatrical and Non-theatrical Exchanges in early modern England’. It promised to bring together some very interesting papers on topics concerning performance cultures in the early modern period and the transformations affected when those performances (be they from the pulpit or the playhouse) moved into manuscript and print, the media by which they reach us today. Unfortunately, the Lockdown made it necessary to postpone the conference. But this did not mean that the conversations about research needed to stop too.
The organisers and I decided to try and set up a series of rather informal research seminars online. Where larger organisations like the SRS had hosted grand events with several hundred participants, we would host a smaller group that would enable people to talk about ‘ideas in progress’: thoughts that had not yet developed into papers, let alone articles. This would enable presenters to get feedback from other scholars earlier in their development of a project, and in research that often crosses disciplinary boundaries that can be enormously useful.
Our first online seminar took place on 9 July at 3pm, and I gave a short presentation on ‘prosopopoeia’, the rhetorical figure that involves the creation of a fictional voice (or the co-option of a real voice) by the speaker. Dr Jennifer Richards, author of Voices and Books in the English Renaissance (2019) rightly reminded us of how complex this figure could be. I gave one example, from John Foxe’s Sermon of Christ Crucified (1570), which I thought particularly audacious. I was to discover there were more audacious examples still: In 1596, Anthony Rudd had used prosopopoeia to represent the Queen’s prayers to God about her old age in a sermon preached before Elizabeth. (She responded by placing him under house arrest.) We discussed how prosopopoeia could give a speaker greater freedom by allowing them to distance themselves from their own words. We also discussed how far the creation of a persona through prosopopoeia would go, and to the use of gesture or tone of voice that might signal where the speaker’s voice ends and the fictional voice created by prosopopoeia began. And so our conversation ranged over the use of gesture in oratory to the different forms of drama found in venues outside the playhouse.
Those topics will be picked up and explored further in our next three meetings, which are already scheduled. On 30 July, Dr Elizabeth Sandis will talk about ‘Dramatists and clergymen at Oxford and Cambridge: the role of theatre in early modern university education’. On 13 August, Dr Arnold Hunt will give a presentation on ‘Preaching and Gesture’ and on 10 September, Dr Rosamund Oates will speak to us about her current research. Details of the seminars can be found here on the conference website. If you would like to join us for all or any of these seminars, please email: email@example.com
The Open Digital Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies (ODSECS) is the product of a desire to make research culture less costly and more accessible. I’m a specialist in eighteenth-century English literature. In the summer of 2019, I found myself unable to go to the major International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference, which takes place every four years, for two reasons: first, it would have swallowed (in fact, exceeded) my entire research budget for the year; second, my oldest son was leaving primary school that very week, and so was involved in concerts, parties, and other events that he wanted me to be a part of. It struck me then that there must be a way to make our research culture less costly in every sense — less of a toll on budgets and the environment, less of a burden on people with caring responsibilities, less difficult for people who live with disabilities, or whose home is a long way from major cities and universities. After all, if I — a permanent postholder with family backup — was finding it difficult to participate in traditional research meetings, how much more difficult must it be for people in early career and precarious positions, and for people without my kind of support network to fall back on?
I had recently started teaching online using Blackboard Collaborate, and it occurred to me that this platform might be suitable for research talks as well as online teaching. In February 2020, I asked a group of friends and colleagues whether they would be interested in experimenting with formats to get the project off the ground. We set a date in April … and then Covid-19 struck.
Suddenly, everyone was Zooming, Skyping, Teams-ing, Google hangouts-ing, and Blackboard Collaborating like never before. I had worried, back in February, that people might not be willing to sign up to an online format. How wrong I was! The response to ODSECS has been hugely positive. So far, three seminars have taken place, each of them attended by 60-100 participants. More are planned into the Autumn and Spring 2021, and I hope that ODSECS will become a permanent feature of the research landscape in eighteenth-century studies.
There is lots to love about ODSECS. It can serve multiple timezones at once. Seminars at 4pm BST attract participants from the west coast of N. America to the middle east. In September, we’re going to experiment with a seminar at 9pm BST, which will be accessible to people from New Zealand to the UK. Seminars are recorded and uploaded to YouTube, so that people who can’t make it live can catch up later. Many participants have reported feeling as though they are being included in a global research culture for the first time.
There are drawbacks too. So far, we’ve experimented with Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate as platforms for the seminar, neither of which enables automatic captions. It’s also difficult to generate the same opportunities for networking that traditional, face to face meetings enable. We’ve tried breakout rooms with some success, but this aspect of conference and seminar life is difficult to replicate online.
Still, ODSECS will, I hope, continue to grow and change as time goes on. If you’d like to join us for one of our meetings, you’d be most welcome. Details of future seminars, and links to recordings of past ones, can be found here: www.odsecs.org.
Call for book series proposals: Literary & Scientific Cultures of Early Modernity
For more than a decade now, Literary and Scientific Cultures of Early Modernity, http://www.ashgate.com/LITSCI, has provided a forum for groundbreaking work on the relations between literary and scientific discourses in Europe, during a period when both fields were in a crucial moment of historical formation. We welcome proposals that address the many overlaps between modes of imaginative writing typical of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—poetics, rhetoric, prose narrative, dramatic production, utopia—and the vocabularies, conceptual models, and intellectual methods of newly emergent ‘scientific’ fields such as medicine, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, psychology, mapping, mathematics, or natural history. In order to reflect the nature of intellectual inquiry during the period, the series is interdisciplinary in orientation and publishes monographs, edited collections, and selected critical editions of primary texts relevant to an understanding of the mutual implication of literary and scientific epistemologies.
As the series continues to evolve, we particularly seek submissions to do with:
· science in the New World
· knowledge networks
· global science
· poetics and science
To submit a proposal, or for more information, please contact: Erika Gaffney, Publishing Manager,firstname.lastname@example.org
November sees the publication of a collection of essay, Material Culture of Early Modern Women’s Writing, edited by Patricia Pender and Ros Smith and sponsored by the Early Modern Women’s Research Network. Many of these essays arise out of papers delivered at the Reading Early Modern Studies Conference in 2013.
On Wednesday 12th November, Dr Hannah Newton will speak on ‘The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720’, the title of her recent book published by OUP,
at 1.15pm in HUMMS 127, University of Reading.
The American Society of Church History and the Ecclesiastical History Society (EHS) will hold a joint meeting in in Oxford, UK 3-5 April 2014. The primary theme of the conference is Migration and Mission in Christian History. Further details may be found here: http://www.churchhistory.org/conferences-meetings/
An essay by EMRC member, Rebecca Bullard, has been awarded the Sylvia Bowerbank Award 2013 by the International Margaret Cavendish Society. Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, was an extraordinary woman — one of the first female scientists in England, she was also a political exile who spent the Civil Wars in continental Europe on account of her royalist beliefs. Rebecca’s essay, ‘Gatherings in Exile: Interpreting the Bibliographical Structure of Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life (1656)’, published in the journal English Studies, takes a closer look at the physical composition of the large folio volumes that Cavendish published throughout the 1650s while she was in exile. It argues that we can read the material structure of Margaret Cavendish’s volume — the way it was constructed out of folded and bound sheets of paper — as a form of autobiography.
Like many researchers at the University of Reading, Rebecca is interested in tracing the ways in which the physical or material aspects of early modern books might be read and interpreted alongside their literary characteristics.
This year’s conference features sessions and a book exhibit celebrating the long and continuing success of the book series affiliated to the Early Modern Research Centre at Reading, Early Modern Literature in History. Its founding editor and current co-editor Cedric Brown began the series in 1997 in association with the high-profile international Literature and History conferences inaugurated at that time. The list has now grown to more than 60 titles and includes the work of scholars from many countries.
The 2013 conference programme includes two sessions sponsored by EMILH, one chaired by Cedric Brown, the other by Andrew Hadfield (the other current co-editor), both sessions built around recent work published in the series. EMLIH is also in collaboration with the Australian research group, Early Modern Women Research Network (EMWRN), associated with several recent and forthcoming volumes in the series and the sponsor of a series of sessions at the conference.
There will be a book display dedicated to the series, showing not just current and recent titles but the whole range going back to the founding titles in 1997. The co-editors wish to thank Palgrave-Macmillan for their co-operation in mounting this display.
The Italian Academies Project is hosting a one-day conference at the University of Reading on Monday 24 June, 2013. The plenary lecture will be delivered by Professor Roberto Gigliucci (La Sapienza, Rome), who will speak on “The Academies and the Creation of New Genres between the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries”. The Italian Academies Project is a collaborative research project between the British Library, Royal Holloway University of London and the University of Reading, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). For the programme, visit http://italianacademies.org/.