Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Here's my abstract for the Shakespeare Association. My session is on "Shakespeare and Global Capitalism." I'm feeling as though I'm not sure of the topic any more, though. Half of the abstracts submitted so far are on global capitalism in the Renaissance; half are on the currency of Shakespeare in modern global capitalism. Mine is of the former ilk. Here's the abstract:

203 Barbary Apes: Misadventures in Global Capitalism and the Geography of Time in Shakespeare's England

One of the peculiarities of early global trade, from a modern perspective, is the fact that information moved at more or less the same speed as goods. As the distances over which trade was conducted increased dramatically, delays in news and miscommunications also increased. Sometimes the consequences were comic, as with a disastrously mistaken order by a London merchant for "2o[r]3" apes in 1637. More often, however, they threatened to undermine financial markets. A mercantile venture was always, in some sense, a wager against the future. When trade occurred over vast distances, much of that future had already happened; European markets were thus constantly catching up to a future whose dimensions were as much geographical as temporal. The immediate result was a profusion of financial instruments designed to manage and control risk, including aleatory contracts, loans, and investment strategies. More broadly, developments in trade wrought fundamental changes in the understanding of causation, probability, fortune, and even time itself. In this essay I trace some of the connections between the early modern global financial markets and developing attitudes toward causation and probability. These attitudes are clear, I argue, not only in works like The Merchant of Venice where economics plays a key role but more subtly and profoundly in tragedies like Hamlet and Macbeth.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thinking about causality in Star Trek

So I was reading a short interview online with the writers of the new Star Trek movie, and I came across an interchange about coincidences:
Kurtzman: One of the things we're playing to is the theme of destiny ... the idea that it wasn't actually random chance. It seems like random chance if you run into Spock in that cave, but it wasn't. And in some way, the time stream is trying to mend itself.

MTV: And how about Scotty? Is it a coincidence that he happens to be on that moon as well?

Kurtzman: It goes back to the idea that the time stream is trying to mend itself. These characters are essentially destined to find each other in one way or another — and that fate is literally bringing them together.

Where exactly do we get this idea that the "time stream" desires to "mend itself"? It's the modern version of Aristotle's first cause. One of the writers even says that quantum mechanics give a mathematical basis for destiny. I'm not sure how this works, since quantum mechanics only demonstrate a mathematical basis for uncertainty and perhaps for free will. This isn't the same as destiny, quite the opposite.

I've been thinking how astonishingly easily we accommodate the unpredictability of the individual event with the predictability of aggregate events. We can even believe that single events are inherently unpredictable even if the aggregate is entirely predictable. This is a conceptually weird position.

“'Star Trek' Writers Answer Five Burning Questions - News Story | Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV News.” 13 May 2009 <>.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mystery still unsolved

So in idle moments I've been trying to figure out why caterpillars, butterflies, and snails appear on the covers of Psalms. You would think that, having written on the topic of invertebrates, I'd know, but so far I am turning up only negatives. Here are some of them.
a) It's not typological. The caterpillar's transformation to butterfly simply wasn't deployed as an image of transformation or metamorphosis as far as I can tell.
b) It's not part of a traditional iconography of David or of the Psalms.
c) There are very few references to any of these creatures in the Psalms.  OK, there are some, and the melting snail of Psalm 58 is particularly interesting. But overall, the Psalms have fewer insect images than other parts of the Bible.
c) These creatures have uniformly negative connotations.  If they represent anything, it would be the wrath of God, sin, or the fallen world. But they're not unique to the Psalms. 

Very puzzling. I'll keep thinking.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thinking about Goliath

I was struck by a post by Sarah Werner on her blog, Wynken de Worde, on an embroidered binding of a 1639 Psalter. Here's the image she uses from the Folger Library (I hope fair use covers this potential copyright issue):

The binding, which is carefully, if not beautifully, embroidered, shows two images of David, one with a sling and other (on the front) holding the severed head of Goliath. I wondered at the implications of this binding. Of course, the battle with Goliath was certainly one of the famous episodes of the psalmist's life, but since the psalms were frequently deployed in the early modern period as poems about the struggle of the righteous against powerful enemies, this episode has a particularly polemical charge.  William Gouge uses the Goliath story to argue that David is a type of Christ, who "in like manner did Combat with, and overcame that great Goliah the Devil" (190), and he notes the Goliath story in the margins when he talks about David's "putting forth himself to the uttermost for Gods Church" (188). Given the direction that religious conflict was taking in England in the 1640s, it's also hard not to imagine that this image looks forward to the beheading of Charles I in 1649.  In the decade immediately following this event, references to Goliath were extremely common. Usually the story was employed to justify some kind of resistance to the demands of those imagined as more powerful. 

As I look more closely at the binding (the Folger has a great site for high quality images), I notice the odd selection of creatures floating around David: a caterpillar, a butterfly, a worm, a fly, a bird, and a snail. The rendering of the embroidery reminds me of a child's work, too.  Are these creatures are being employed typologically - as images of transformation or the movement of the soul, say? And what does that have to do with the death of Goliath?  Or is it a reference to the taunting in 1Samuel17, where David promises to "give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth" (Geneva Bible)? The animals in the binding, at least, are creatures of corruption, as earthly as one can get. I don't think they're just decorative.  Time for bed. There's lots more that could be done.

Gouge, William. A learned and very useful commentary on the whole epistle to the Hebrews. London, 1655. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Failing to ignore Aristotle

I had hoped not to have to spend much time with philosophy, but this sentence from Arbuthnot reminded me that I need to brush up on Aristotelian causation:
"it is no Heresie to believe, that Providence suffers ordinary matters to run in the channel of second causes."
Easy for Arbuthnot to say, but this is precisely the issue that concerns people in the century before.  A casual EEBO search for "second causes" turns up 796 works... and a quick survey of the results suggests that many are relevant.  I don't know why I haven't come across more references to Aristotelian causation in the period. Well, I guess I do know. It's because the language turns up mainly in religious works -- which is why my student handout on it is in my Milton folder :)  More on this later (lots of work needed first).
Actually, Aristotle's first two causes, final and efficient, are both familiar to us. Modern science admits only of the efficient cause (#2)- the means and manner in which something comes into being, but in the human world we care mainly about final causes (#1)- the purpose for which something comes into being.  The other two causes are somewhat more obscure (they don't seem like causes to me). Chance, of course, is in the modern world a second or "efficient" cause.  Understanding this requires one to realize as Arbuthnot puts it, "that Chance ... is nothing but want of Art" and that therefore the mathematics of probability is kind of a second-best approximation.

Oh, one piece of news. My article on Daniel has actually passed its peer review at Appositions. One thing that can be said for baby journals is that they're fast.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The fungibility of hazard: reading forward

As a useful endpoint, I read John Arbuthnot's 1692 book Of the laws of chance. This was the first English publication on probability theory. It is mostly a translation of Huygens (1657), but of course Arbuthnot's introduction is his own.  I think some of the examples are his as well. There are two things that struck me about this piece. The first is the extent to which Arbuthnot claims that mathematical probability applies to the world at large. "All the Politicks in the World," he says  "are nothing else but a kind of Analysis of the Quantity of Probability in casual Events."  The second is the degree to which he employs economics to convey his ideas.  His most basic principle is that ""Ones Hazard or Expectation to gain any thing is worth so much, as, if he had it, he could purchase the like Hazard or Expectation again in a just and equal Game" (B2). This sounds confusing, but he gives an example to make it clear.  If someone has hidden seven shillings in one hand and three in the other and says "choose one hand and I'll give you the contents" Arbuthnot argues that this is equivalent to being given five shillings. This means that chance itself has a value predicated on exchange.  He's not really thinking of commodification as much as fungibility. This is the real epistemological revolution behind the idea of probability.  It's what I need to look for in earlier accounts.

Arbuthnot, John. Of the laws of chance, or, A method of calculation of the hazards of game plainly demonstrated and applied to games at present most in use : which may be easily extended to the most intricate cases of chance imaginable. London 1692.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mercantilism vs. hazard

Sorry it's been so long... doing some pro bono work, as it were, for the local school.

Now according to most economic histories, early modern England is supposed to be deeply mercantilist, believing that wealth and money are synomous, and interested in hoarding specie [the word itself incorporates the mercantilist view of money] via a positive balance of trade.  I've rarely seen this belief expressed in early modern English texts, though, and a nice article by Mark Notzloff helps explain why. He argues that by the end of the 16th century, mercantilism had become associated in English minds with Spanish policies, and the English colonists weren't finding gold anyway, so they were more likely to laud domestic production and circulation. I disagree with his ultimate claims about the Merchant of Venice (his literary text), but I like the broad historical claim. It reinforces the protocapitalist nature of risk. At this point I don't think there is any historical resolution to the contradictory economic aspects of risk: a) legitimizing because divine and b) the logical end of an idolatrous economic trend.   Tomorrow I'm going to declare a temporary end to the purely economic stuff and turn to games of chance (not literally - a pox upon the new Firekeepers casino down the road!).

Notzloff, Mark. “The Lead Casket: Capital, Mercantilism, and the Merchant of Venice.” Money and the Age of Shakespeare: Essays in New Economic Criticism. Ed. Linda Woodbridge. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. 159-172. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Risk and inequities of wealth

I've been reading the book Suellyn lent me, Eric Beinhocker's The Origin of Wealth. I'm struck by the role he accords to chance within an economic system. According to him, it "above all" explains inequities in wealth and perhaps even the dynamic quality (not tending to equilibrium) of the whole system (86). I wonder if this chance is the same as the risk which is managed and cultivated within the system itself?  In any case, if Beinhocker is right, the relationship between risk and return in a capitalist system is mathematically valid (some have claimed that it's only a convention). 

I haven't read far enough to say for sure, but I'm not sure that Beinhocker's model successfully explains the major cooperative undertakings of essentially egalitarian societies in the paleolithic period. If economic systems tend toward the inequality of wealth and if wealth and power are socially synonymous, it's hard to imagine an egalitarian society commanding the kind of complex economy necessary to build, say, Stonehenge. No doubt there's an answer to this further on...

Beinhocker, Eric D. The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press, 2006. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bending the soul

This may be babble. Tell me.

I was reading Colin Renfrew's new book The Prehistory of Mind, and his discussion of the growth of religion in the context of "cognitive archaeology" set me to thinking about concepts of freedom or captivity in the soul in the Renaissance. Given Hawkes' insistence that religious and economic discourse in the period should never be separated, any presumed inclinations of the soul may also be understood as a kind of warping influence upon an at least conceptually neutral (or random) model. This is true even if the inclination in question is "natural" because one can only be inclined from some original imagined position. That some kind of alteration of form is implied seems clear when you look at the early popularity of the word "bent" to describe an inclination as Milton does in his famous sonnet XVI ("When I consider how my light is spent"): "my Soul more bent / To serve therewith my Maker," his speaker says. The "bent of the soul" was a popular phrase in the period.  Donne also alludes to it in his Holy Sonnet "Batter my heart, three person'd God." "Bent" means inclination, but it implies bending, which comes ultimately from binding (and a "bend" in nautical speak is still a binding knot).   There's lots more that could be said about the use of the word in those two poems, but there are epistemological implications as well. The dissolution of Aristotelian teleology in the 17th century could be seen as a kind of unbinding of the soul (and resented as such by many).  I'm thinking that chance, understood in discrete terms followed a similar path.  Chance in an earlier world is bent away from the verticality of the random by the will of God. But that means the concept of such verticality is there, even if it is never supposed to be in operation.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Early modern center conference

This was a great little conference with some wonderful papers. I was intrigued by the fact that so many other presenters used some form of Powerpoint. It's true that the topic was image-friendly, but the tradition in history/literature conference papers is simply to read a paper. Maybe the discipline is changing! My favorite presentation was by Rachel Crawford. She demonstrated connections between English formal gardens and Milton's garden of paradise in Paradise Lost. I'm excited to be able to use this in teaching.

Here's a picture of flowers near the beach at Coal Oil Point from my morning run.

Crawford, Rachel. “Simplex Munditiis: English Formality and the Seventeenth-Century Garden.” Conference Paper, UCSB Early Modern Center, 2009.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Oddly, it seems that people haven't actually read Rowland Vaughan's Most approued, and long experienced water-workes or at least the long (and I mean long) dedicatory poem by Davies. I'd been looking for the smoking gun connecting agricultural innovation with aristocratic pastoral traditions (otherwise pastoralism is irrelevant). Here are some lines describing meadows unimproved by Vaughan's method:
The Brookes runne murmuring by their parched Brincks
(Pure virgin Nimphes) and chide against the Stancks, [weirs]
When as their sweetest profer'd seruice stinkes,
So coyly kisse the chapt-lippes of the Bankes. (4)
Pretty pastoral, eh? This reminds me of Drayton's Polyolbion. As it happens, Vaughan set up his water meadows on the river Wye. When Drayton gets to the Wye in Polyolbion he digresses into an extraordinary celebration of ancient British learning and virtue. Furthermore, throughout the whole piece Vaughan and his cronies cast his enterprise as one of noblesse oblige, revealing the legitimacy of aristocratic control of the land itself. Lots to work with here.

Vaughan, Rowland, and John Davies. Most approued, and long experienced water-workes. Imprinted at London, 1610., 1610. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lady and the Tramp

I'm turning my thoughts about Veronese into an abstract responding to a call for papers on dogs in early modern culture at the MLA.  I'll turn in the edited version tomorrow, but here's the rough cut:

Lady and the tramp:
Canine metonymy in Paolo Veronese's Family of Darius before Alexander


     The paintings of Paolo Veronese abound with animals. Monkeys, parrots, horses, and especially dogs appear in nearly all of his major works, and Veronese himself appears to have been particularly conscious of their artistic place. Once, in 1573, he even refused a direct request by the Inquisition to replace a dog in a painting with an image of Mary Magdalen.  Veronese's animals have remained untheorized, however, in part because art historians have treated them as purely decorative and in part because  Veronese's reputation itself has suffered among critics in recent generations. To a modern eye, his bright colors and huge ceremonial paintings can appear trivial. Compared to Titian and Tintoretto, for example, Veronese has been accused of being “unconcerned with the intellectual challenges of meaning.”[1]  Yet Veronese has always been popular, and his work, if not self-consciously intellectual, nevertheless speaks to some of the most deeply held beliefs of early modern European culture.  One painting in particular, the celebrated Family of Darius before Alexander (c. 1569-71), is an allegory of the confrontation between the worlds of Europe and Asia. It depicts an event following the battle of Issus when Alexander the Great and Hephaistion are supposed to have visited the mother, wife and two daughters of the defeated Persian king, Darius. The ostensible subject is magnanimity or nobility, but the painting also develops a series of symmetrical contrasts. On the viewer’s right are European men, on the left, Persian women.  The men are towering, the women supplicating. The Europeans form a coherent dark mass, a Macedonian phalanx, while the Persians are disordered, a jumbled group of women, eunuchs, children, dwarves, and clothing.  This symmetrical opposition finds its extreme in the animals that inhabit the painting. On the viewer’s far right is Alexander’s dog, large and dignified.  On the extreme left are a pair of small lap-dogs, tumbling awkwardly out of the hands of a dwarf. Drawing on zoological and philosophical works, early modern historians, literary passages, and contemporary portraiture, I argue that the dogs of Veronese’s painting, posed at opposite ends of the canvas, serve as metonymic vehicles for a growing sense of regional differentiation, a sense in which hopes and anxieties about race and gender coincide.

[1] Rosand, David. Painting in cinquecento Venice : Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto. (New Haven: Yale UP, 1988) 145.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Magritte à la sixteenth century

I've laid out my plans for my conference paper (at UCSB) on early modern environmentalism. I know that others will be using Powerpoint, and that frees me up to add some visual arguments (including, yes, counting). Here's a thought for a hook. I want to begin with a problem. Before you can be even precociously environmentalist you need to have a concept of the environment itself. There is some good evidence that this concept was lacking, at least in the early sixteenth century. I thought I might use the changing meaning of the word "desert," which to us signifies a particular environment characterized by lack of water. It once meant something like "uncultivated," though (and Keith Thomas and the OED will back me up on this), a fact which leads to phrases like this one from As You Like It:  “In this desert inaccessible, / Under the shade of melancholly boughes.”  The result would be a slide like this:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lose the dog for Mary Magdalen

Paolo Veronese is called upon to paint a masterpiece version of the Last Supper for the dining room of the Dominicans in Venice, at Santi Giovanni e Paolo. It's a giant painting, over thirty feet long. Veronese, who loves lively figures and especially animals, figures that he might as well fill in the huge expanse with things like a dwarf, a man with a nosebleed, some German mercenaries leaning on pikes, and a dog (center, foreground). The Prior, appalled, complains to the Inquisition. They tell him to instruct Veronese to replace the dog with Mary Magdalen. Veronese points out that he can't just drop Mary Magdalen in where a dog is sitting scratching for fleas. The Inquisition hauls Veronese in and questions him at length about the painting. Veronese pleads artistic license. He points out how big the painting is. He says all the funny details are "per ornamento, come si fa" (for ornament, everyone does it). The Inquisition tells him to change the picture.  Veronese returns to the now-finished painting, takes a brush, and writes on it "Feast in the house of Levi." Voilà, no more scandalous Last Supper.  I like this guy.  Michele does not.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wow, that's a lot of beer

I had to do a lot of math to figure this out, but according to Gregory King, the annual consumption of beer and ale in early modern England was 381 liters/person.  That would mean that my family (five of us) would drink approximately 9.5 gallons of beer every week. Wow. We only drink 3 gallons of milk a week, and I thought that was a lot. 

OK, the real reason I'm looking into this has to do with my EMC article. I wanted to determine the relative importance of pasture vs. arable land in the 17th century. Approximately 62% of England's agricultural economy was pastoral, according to King. That's roughly twice the value of the arable economy. Fun stuff.  And you can track some of the anxieties about this in popular ballads of the period, too. In one of these, we hear that, "the Shepherdes God, / Doth deface Ladie Ceres crowne, / And Tilli[n]ges doth decay / Doth decay in every Town." Pasture was sometimes associated with the wool industry and thus with foreign trade and wealth rather than food.  Sounds a bit like the complaints about ethanol and corn these days.

Anonymous. “A Songe Bewailing the time of Christmas, So much decayed in England.” Old English Ballads 1553-1625. Ed. Hyder Rollins. Cambridge, 1920. 372-375. 

King, Gregory. “Natural and Political Observations and Conclusions upon the State & Condition of England (1696).” A reprint of economic tracts. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1936. 12-56. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Database day

I spent some of the day finding some sources, not enough time reading. Happily, there is lots of work being done on the concept of Fate, although I think too much attention has understandably been devoted to Fate-as-an-element-of-tragedy. But at least I ought to be able to use that material to be able to lay some issues aside.  

My Albion website is finally uploaded.  It needs a bit more work before I can safely leave it alone for months at a time (my goal - I hate constant web page updating). I think I will save enough time to make it worthwhile by not having to spend so much time emailing students about the required texts for classes.

Monday, February 2, 2009

fiddling while Rome burns...

Lots of busy work today, including two meetings, doctor's office (yay no ear infection any more), applications to be a GLCA liaison to the Bratislava Institute of Liberal Arts, a blurb for Communications, and updating my long-overdue-to-be-updated Albion web site (the update should be posted by noon tomorrow). Then Lanya accused me of procrastinating on my main sabbatical project, so now I'm going to show her the money. Oh yeah.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nobody likes Veronese any more

Or so it seems. Modern critics often find his bright colors and flat processional paintings trivial. Compared to Titian and Tintoretto, for example, Veronese has been accused of being “unconcerned with the intellectual challenges of meaning” (Rosand 145). I would be pissed off if someone said that about me!  Anyway, in looking back at what I have, I can see about 1200 words in which I basically argue that the animals in the painting  are a vehicle for expressing a growing sense of national differentiation, a sense in which hopes and anxieties about nation and gender coincide.

 I like what I've got but I'm hampered by my sources because, of course, some of my best items are in English.  Since my argument is basically that the painting speaks to some of the most deeply held beliefs of early modern European culture as a whole,  I don't mind crossing national boundaries, and there is, thankfully, Castiglione, but otherwise, the Italian archives are not well-represented in the digital world.  This will be fun and challenging. I'll give myself till Tuesday to put together a case, but then I may have to abandon it for a while to return to bigger things.

Rosand, David. Painting in cinquecento Venice : Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Art history interlude

Glad to finish with those two items.  Before I get started on my upcoming paper for the Early Modern Center's conference "Before Environmentalism" I thought I would see what I could do this weekend to work up a little foray into art history on Veronese's "Family of Darius before Alexander" (at the National Gallery).  I have a short essay on it that once served as a long hook for a journal article... until the editors told me to lose it (it didn't fit the topic and it made the article too long).  Here's the picture I'm talking about. I also have to figure out what journal would take a piece of cultural studies centered on art history!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

And now for editing

OK, I've finished a rough cut of the paper for Appositions here and would be VERY glad if anyone would like to take a look at it.

I'd like to know, among other things, whether I can let the implied antecent alone in the first sentence.

In other news, I recently discovered a cache of wool socks, lost for several years. I forgot how nice they are. I think whoever discovered wool socks, pale ale, and French bread should be rewarded in some small way before the end of the world.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

heigh ho

1200 words. This is faintly depressing when you consider that Isaac Asimov wrote 2000 words a day every day in his life.   Tomorrow the patient will come to the crisis, and I'll find out whether I have a good argument or just an argument.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Apples and oranges

Writing all day. I only produced about a thousand words, but that should mean I can finish by the end of the week.

I always find the experience of writing in cultural studies hugely labor intensive. Here I am, trying to use a sermon (1609), a letter from the Venetian ambassador (1610), an advertising jingle (1612), and a poem (1606) all in the same paragraph (or two). It feels like trying to make a toy house out of mismatching Lego pieces. If only I could just stick to poetic analysis like the old days :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Buttock lines

I'm under the gun now for the piece for Appositions, hoping to get a lot more done tomorrow. In the mean time, I can procrastinate by thinking about language.

You know, a lot of fun can be had by taking quotations out of context, particularly from the magazines we seem to have lying around the house.  For example, in one I can read about "relatively firm bilges and easy sweep to the buttock lines back aft" or "She is certain but stately in stays" (both from Boat Design Quarterly). And I recently encountered "DID YOU USE ANY FROZEN SEMEN IN 2008?" (from the Journal of the American Morgan Horse Association).  Finally, there's a great line in an upcoming essay by my colleague Nels Christensen that goes like this: "It's at times like these that I'm reminded of just how many of my most
remarkable outdoor experiences occurred with my pants around my ankles."  Mine too, except for the poison ivy Michele and I encountered as teenagers over in Pennypack Park.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why online databases are like pregnancy tests

So here's the thing. We don't really expect fallibility from computerized systems, and for scholars such systems increasingly mean online databases. I've grown to trust the MLA database, Google Scholar, the OED, etc. How else can we know what has been written and where we can join a scholarly conversation? But these databases are only as good as the data that is put into them, mostly by imperfect humans. That means that they tend to err in omission rather than in commission. If something appears in a database, it definitely exists. But if it doesn't appear in a database, it may still exist. This is a lot like pregnancy tests that have false negatives but never a false positive. I can use my own work as an example. My dissertation (UVa 1995) appears in the MLA database because it was indexed by Dissertation Abstracts International (DAI). It also appears in the UVa library catalog where the only paper copy (other than my own) resides. But it does NOT appear in a WorldCat Dissertation search, nor does it appear in a Google Scholar search (possibly because Google Scholar relies on WorldCat). Why? Who knows? Conversely, my very first published article, on early modern stigmatics and politics (Viator 2000) turns up in a Google Scholar search (use "MacInnes" and "Nun of Portugal") but only in a French database. It's not recorded in the MLA database even though the MLA does index Viator. For some reason, only one article from the whole 2000 edition made it into the database. Is this because some of the articles are not deemed to be literary? Who knows. What all this means is that it's really difficult to determine what has not been said on a given topic. One can try a variety of searches, but even if each one returns a negative result, it doesn't mean the information does not exist. Perhaps, given the amount of information that is now being put online, the newest kind of research will operate on the basis of finding and using "hidden" sources, the things that fell through the cracks in the digital world. They will be really hard to find!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

writing, writing

I spent the afternoon writing, allayed with reading about the 30 years war and attempts to learn how to play scales with both hands on the piano. I'm regretting not having typed in notes from a conference presentation I heard several years ago because now I need them and don't remember where I put the paper notes.  I always think I'll have the time to put in notes after a conference, but then I always get caught in the swirl of teaching, and somehow it never gets done. Aarg.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural speeches

I think this will be a good one to add to my list of useful speeches to cover in writing classes. I heard some pundit call it "flat," but that's got to be part of the nature of the appeal. He had to offer hope but in a down-to-earth way; people would have distrusted a more flowery rhetoric. I finally turned in Joe's entry to the animation festival. It's a lego stop action documentary. A little odd.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lotteries and public relations

As evidence of the huge public relations quality of the Virginia settlement, here's a broadsheet advertising a lottery to raise money for the venture.

The text reads, in part,
Who knows not England once was like
a Wildernesse and savage place,
till government and use of men,
that wildnesse did deface:
And so Virginia may in time,
be made like England now;
Where long-loud peace and plenty both,
sits smiling on her brow.
“Government” and “use of men” are the tools of civility. It's clear that the concept of transformation (rather than simply greed) was a part of the discourse from a very early stage.

Virginia Company. “Londons Lotterie:With an incouragement to the furtherance thereof, for the good of Virginia, and the benefite of this our natiue Countrie; wishing good fortune to all that venture in the same..” 1612.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A promising vacuum

It's nice to find out that articles you thought might have scooped you are really not all that pertinent.  Lisa Hopkins has a piece on The Winter's Tale that talks a lot about Prince Henry, but most of what she says is recycled from Roy Strong's history, and there's nothing at all the kind of counsel PH was receiving.   Work continues on the review.  I also had the privilege of reading a draft of Cathie Grimm's new essay on Bettine von Arnim (abstract here).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Upcoming posts

I'll be out of town for the next few days and out of reach of the Internet most of the time. I'll keep writing (and reading Cathie's essay!), but the posts will be intermittent.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

heroic minds

I spent far too much time today helping my son Joe with his submission to the Kalamazoo Animation Festival (animation takes forever), but I did get to think about some words in Daniel's epistle.  First of all, the last line in the manuscript (which I didn't have till Sunday) is a sarcastic echo of Drayton's sycophantic poem "Ode to the Viriginia Voyage" in which he calls explorers "great heroic minds." Daniel also coins the word "transpass" meaning "cross a boundary" (far antedating any OED mention). Given his attitudes toward exploration and his explicit references to Eden and the fall, I'm pretty sure he invented the word to echo "trespass."  There are some interesting things going on with enjambment too. All in all, I'm happy that the poem is standing up to closer scrutiny.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tethys gives advice

In the same year that Daniel wrote his little verse epistle, he was requested to write a masque for the queen on the occasion of the Prince's investiture as a knight of the Bath.  The result, Tethys' Festival was not a success, and hardly anyone pays much attention to it, but there is a passage in which he gives pretty much the same advice (if less elegantly) to the Prince.  Tethys gives the prince a scarf that she says shows,
"Let him not passe the circle of that field,
But thinke Alcides pillars are the knot
For there will be within the large extent
Of these my waves, and watry Government
More treasure, and more certaine riches got
Then all the Indies to Iberus brought,
For Nereus will by industry unfold
A Chimicke secret, and turn fish to gold."  (F1)
The whole fishing thing sounds a lot less impressive as an alternative to imperialism but the sentiments are the same.

Daniel, Samuel. The order and solemnitie of the creation of the High and mightie Prince Henrie. London, 1610.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gotta love those Venetian Ambassadors

They kept detailed records on what was going on at the English court, and they were (naturally) concerned with the character of the heir to the throne.  I spent part of the day in the Michigan State University library, trying to get a better sense of the atmosphere at court in 1609/10, of Daniel's relationship with the Prince and of the major issues. I got a facsimile of the manuscript.  It's part of a small collection that includes two other short pieces from slightly later (after the death of Henry). The first editor of the collection, John Pitcher, thinks that they were intended to work together to suggest Daniel's disillusionment with the Jacobean court after Henry's death (vii). He reads the first epistle as heroic, but I think it already shows a kind of disaffection with the aggressive imperialism that was so popular at the time. I also got a line on a couple of other sources, including a prose text by Cotton that may well be a contemporaneous response to the same issues that Daniel is responding to (though published much later). Time will tell. 

Cotton, Robert. An answer made by command of Prince Henry to certain propositions of warre and peace delivered to His Highnesse by some of his military servants. London : Printed by Roger Daniel ..., MDCLV [1655], 1655.. 

Pitcher, John. Samuel Daniel: The Brotherton Manuscript: A Study in Authorship. Leeds: U of Leeds, 1981. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Zotero is like magic

Have I sung the praises of Zotero yet? I'm seriously getting into it. It's like Endnote but designed by people who actually do research. And it's free. Zotero is a Firefox add-on, so there's no need to run a separate program to collect sources, and it can add sources from libraries and databases while you're looking at them, not via some arcane (and usually buggy) filter format.  And it can attach files and store snapshots of data with one click. Best of all, I've begun using the "sync" version of Zotero (in beta), which stores a copy of one's library on a server.  This means that I can get access to (and add to) my research from any computer that runs Firefox.  It has already saved me hours of work. How ironic that after all those years of crusading for Endnote at Albion, the college now springs for the program just when I move on.   Oh yes, and Zotero will import data from an old Endnote library too.  So I've just quietly moved house.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Animal fodder and literature

The Early Modern Center at UCSB has accepted my proposed paper (abstract below) for their upcoming conference on early modern environmentalism. Before you exclaim on the eclectic nature of my research, I should say that this is actually an offshoot of my earlier work on animal bodies and national identity. It's kind of a leftover, in a way, although I haven't fleshed out this particular angle. So, more work to do.

Showing the mettle of your pasture:
Animal fodder as national identity in early modern England

Robert Trow-Smith’s classic history of British livestock (1957) argues that demand for meat and dairy products in growing urban regions fueled a revolution in early modern English livestock husbandry.   Other historians such as Peter Edwards have since shown that the number of animals used for transport (horses and oxen) also increased dramatically in the period.  All of these creatures had to eat, and their growing appetite resulted in increasing concern over the productivity of English pastureland and the quality of its hay, oats, and other green stuff. Much depended on these, and much more was thought to depend.  The quality of English plant life became a fundamental part of the national imagination. Drawing on works ranging from traditional natural history and agronomy to commonplace books and mathematical texts, I argue that English pastures and the plants growing in them became metonymic vehicles for the expression of concerns about the English people as a whole. This metonymy, I show, underpins many of the references to national climate and character in literary works like Shakespeare's Henry V, which begins with the youth of England selling their pastures to pay their way to war. In France they are exhorted to show the value of their English pasture, and the French first mock and then are astounded that English “barley-broth” should produce such success. Throughout the play the value of England as the ground for English valiance is both questioned and insisted upon, an uncertainty that reflects back to deeper seated ecological concerns. 
Here's an aerial phot of a water meadow (the remains, anyway), one of the early 17th century innovations in pasture technology.  Basically it's a fancy way of irrigating fields so that they can double the amount of hay produced.  Nobody does this anymore because it's incredibly labor intensive.

“Chesterblade catchwork water meadow (RAF CPE/UK/1944 2248) : English Heritage : English Heritage.” 9 Jan 2009 <>.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Can a novel from 1919 be picaresque?

Sadly, I had to spend most of the day writing recommendations for colleagues (4 are up for interim or promotion in the department this year). Lots of reading.

On the bright side, I've been reading James Branch Cabell's Jurgen, an odd little novel from 1919 that is apparently hailed as a early work of fantasy fiction. It's definitely picaresque, a little sinister, and sometimes obscene. It seems to me that most modern fantasy, by contrast, has been ruined by Tolkien's ponderous and humorless epic. These days fantasy seems to rely on huge elaborate depictions of alternate (but always medieval) worlds, and the bizarreness of folk-narrative and "fairy tale" has faded from view. Here's a fragment. A ghost king is referring to the ghost of his ninth wife, Sylvia:
"And I regret, I bitterly regret, to confess that, in a moment of extreme yet not quite unprovoked excitement, I assassinated the lady whom you now behold."
"And I am sure, through no fault of mine," says Sylvia Tereu.
"Certainly, my dear, you resisted with all your might. I only wish that you had been a larger and brawnier woman."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The effeminacy of Asia

Spent the morning investigating Daniel's anxiety that the New World would prove to England as "Asia to Rome."  Daniel actually fairly early in announcing such an idea, although I've encountered a few proverbial indications as in Nicholas Ling's Wit's Commonwealth, where he says "Excesse came from Asia to Rome, ambition came from Rome to all the world" (263).  Otherwise, the association of dangerous luxury with Asia has an interesting linguistic history, as this little graph I put together from a survey of Early English Books Online will show:

The gap is worth thinking about.  My tentative theory is that as the Civil War approached, England's anxieties were more focused on internal affairs than with fears about empire, but that these fears emerged and accelerated after the death of Charles I.  Overall, the information here confirms my suspicion that Daniel's epistle is one of the first English works to express what will be a growing concern of imperialism.  If I wanted to include drama, I could certainly use Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, though...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Abstract accepted!

They liked my abstract on Daniel. Now I have to write it up! I'm actually looking forward to this little piece, though.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What a brave new year that has such people in it!

Road race in K'zoo this afternoon. Otherwise, I spent some time reading, working on Latin vocabulary, and taming my Zotero library. It's definitely better than Endnote for most purposes. A new issue of Shakespeare Quarterly is out. Very exciting.