Author Archives: Daniel Powell

Day of DH – Under the Wire

Although I’ve posted a bit here before today, and had this marked down on my calendar, I have an embarrassing confession: I kind of forgot it was the Day of DH. Now this isn’t a reflection on what folks are posting, which is really fascinating stuff. When I checked in with twitter around 6 pm this evening, I got a great sample of what people across the country and beyond were up to. I even got some updates from my labmates, because I wasn’t in the ETCL today.

Which brings me to my point, if I have one, when I’m thinking about today. I’ve mentioned before in this space, I’m trying very hard to balance the in-depth study of DH methods, projects, and practices with complementary period-specific knowledge. For me, that manifests in a wide ranging interest in various issues related to the digital turn in the humanities including speculative computational and deformative practices, the scholarly edition in virtual social media spaces, scholarly communication and the nature of academic publishing, and graduate education and digital practices.

At the same time, I’m studying for a second comprehensive exam focused on medieval and early modern drama, bibliographic & textual studies, stagecraft & theatre history, and digital projects focused on the early modern period. Practically, this means that some days are more balanced than others.

Thus, without further ado, I present my major accomplishments for the day:

  1. Reading the anonymous play Arden of Faversham, a late-16th century retelling of the historical murder of Thomas Arden of Faversham. His wife Alice, along with her lover, the lower-class tailor Mosby, some servants, and a few hired murderers, try to kill Arden throughout the play, eventually succeeding as Arden sits playing dice in his own house. 
  2. Reading Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday. This one is a bit more lighthearted, featuring the fictional shoemaker Simon Eyre, who advances from guildsman to sheriff to alderman to Lord Mayor in the space of 30 pages. Along the way, he helps the nobleman Rowland Lacy marry the lower-class Rose over the objections of both their parents. It’s ok though, because the King pops up at the end and basically tells everyone to chill out and that marriage is a bond that should never be broken. Ever. Better to die.

In other words, my day was spent doing the most traditional of humanist activities: reading. I take my exam in May; I’m in the crunch time here.

It does bring up an interesting point though, one that has been raised before: how do “we” handle DH when doing DH often involves doing DH AND doing what everyone else considers normal academic work in the humanities? I’m feeling quite stretched at the moment, having just returned from the Renaissance Society of America convention in San Diego. I have another conference at the end of the month, and the aforementioned exam in May. So was I “doing DH” today when I was reading two 16th century plays? Granted, I used my iPad to take notes and was on and off wireless to check dates and historical background. I tweaked some web content at the site for Early Theatre, a journal published using BePress for which I’m an editorial assistant. But really, I read and took notes. Sometimes its hard to remember in those moments that I think of myself primarily as a digital humanist; alternatively, sometimes when I’ve been grantwriting or wrangling XML for 8 hours I find it hard to remember that I got into this because I enjoy literature and got intellectual sidetracked years ago by weird Tudor plays no one else reads (well, except for my mentor Erin Kelly and a few others, that is).

So my Day of DH seemed, even to me, like anything but. I know, however, that all of these various pieces fit together somehow in my head, and the early modern literature is important to our digital age in manifold and subtle ways. Even when I feel like I’m studying one and not the other, I come back to that, and to those connections–no matter how hard they seem sometimes to parse.

Every Day I’m Juggling

One of the most important aspects of being a digital humanists (however we want to use that term) is that often, in a scholarly context, you must have both a ‘traditional’ academic focus and a DH side specialty. Not always, and it’s changing, but it can become difficult to juggle what seems to be two more or less full academic directions. Making them cross-pollinate, and thus not redoubling your efforts, is key.

So, to illustrate that, a brief list of what I’m working on today (and the last few and coming weeks):

  • Comprehensive exams. I’m on my second one, focusing on early modern drama as a textual & staged media artifact. My first was on DH as a field. Currently working through the 1590s. 
  • Collaboratively drafting a paper on A Social Edition of the Devonshire MS for the Renaissance Society of America meeting in April. Also creating a Powerpoint to accompany.
  • Developing a six-person, Pecha Kucha style MLA 2014 session proposal on new models for the dissertation. We’re all graduate students, and all working on or planning non-traditional dissertation projects. Not to spoil, but these are some great people, working on everything from hybrid digital-print projects to the dissertation as graphic novel to situating the traditional dissertation in an #altac context.
  • Corresponding with folks at MediaCommons and the Scholarly Communication Institute to develop a collaborative cluster of content focused on graduate education in the humanities in the 21st century, with all that technological advances entail.
  • Drafting a whitepaper on the Renaissance English Knowledgebase (REKn), the early modern node in the Laura Mandell-led Advanced Research Consortium (ARC). When fully online, REKn will join NINES, 18th Connect, and MESA as a federated database system allowing research into digital resources spanning centuries.
  • Planning another paper for the RSA convention focused on visualizing networks of dialogue in the early modern play Ralph Roister Doister using Gephi.
  • Trying to read David Golumbia’s post on definitions of DH, which has been open for a few days.

That’s a snapshot of my day in very brief form. I’m busy, as are all of you, I’m sure. 🙂

Off to read!