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Staging Poiesis

This year at the Shakespeare Association of America conference in Vancouver, BC, I co-led a seminar with Thomas Ward (Assistant Professor of English, US Naval Academy) focused on how various acts of "making" are represented in Shakespeare. An incredibly smart group of folks working on topics ranging from dance to mathematics to necromancy registered, and we ran a blog aimed at stimulating new, collaborative ideas for several months in advance of the conference. In Vancouver we had a lively discussion about issues including the semiotics of drama, the perceptual modes of playing, the relationship between page and stage, processes of authorial self-fashioning, and the material habits and conditions of playing and literary production. The group was especially interested in moments when diverse types of poiesis intersect, combining and hybridizing musical, gestural, verbal and other types of making: have a look at the seminar description and abstracts for further details.



"Performing Women in English Books of Ayres"

The collection Gender and Song in Early Modern England is just out from Ashgate. Edited by Leslie Dunn and Katherine Larson, it features eleven essays about the gendered practices and spaces surrounding song. My contribution is an essay about female performers' participation in the profusion of lute songbooks between 1597 and 1622 (access it here). These "table books" including music and verse, by poets and composers including Thomas Campion and John Dowland, were designed so that performers could gather around an open copy (see an example). Marketed to be performed in domestic settings including women, books of ayres, as they were called, marked a new, dynamic site for female performers to shape poetic and musical culture.


Hors-texte

In collaboration with Ellen Mackay, I have started a Tumblr site that draws attention to what is fragmented, ephemeral and lost in digital approaches to the early modern period. Digital tools tend to give an impression of completeness, promising a new horizon of quantification and preservation. We proceed from the idea that, if digitization is the tip of the iceberg, the ice melted long ago. The site is inspired by the Summer 2013 NEH Institute 'Early Modern Digital Agendas' at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Ellen and I have several posts up so far, most recently my reflection on the music of the child fairies who pinch Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and the tendency for songs to vanish from early modern playtexts.


Lecture at the IRH, October 2014

On October 20, I gave a lecture at the Institute for Research in the Humanities here in Madison about my current book project, incorporating some of the material on singing boys and sexual abuse that I'm working on now. Presenting my work to scholars across a range of humanities disciplines (from anthropologists to philosophers) and hearing their responses was very helpful. Specialization in the academy can sometimes lead to a feeling of insularity, and it's a useful exercise to try to explain one's project to folks in different fields.


Solmsen Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, 2014-15

I am excited to have been awarded a Solmsen Fellowship for the academic year at the University of Wisconsin Institute for Research in the Humanities. I will be in residence in Madison for the duration of the fellowship, participating in the intellectual life of the Institute and finishing my book about song and mediation in early modern England. With weekly seminars focused on fellows' projects and full institutional support, this is an ideal setting for research. I will be back at the University of Maryland in the fall of 2015.



This July I will be a visiting scholar for the Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library. I'll be leading a lunchtime colloquium on music in Twelfth Night, focusing on how I incorporate song and sound into teaching. Institute participants can view the links mentioned in the colloquium here.


Sound+, March 27-29, 2014


This year I have been co-organizing a major conference in sound studies, multimodal scholarship and the cultural history of listening. Bringing together leading scholars who have helped to reconceive the relationship between sound and text, the conference directs attention to cultures, contexts and objects previously analyzed through approaches that privileged the eye. Workshops, poster sessions, plenary lectures, panels and even an interdisciplinary conversation including neurobiologists will ask how writing encodes or remediates sound, how sound reshapes politics, and how literature is shaped by acoustic technologies from voice to byte.


Graduate teaching, Spring 2014

I'm looking forward to teaching "Early Modern Media," a course on philosophies of communication and Renaissance literature. The readings place texts including Sidney’s Arcadia, Spenser’s Faerie Queene and Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair alongside theorists ranging from Plato, Augustine and Locke to Jussi Parikka, Bruno Latour and N. Katherine Hayles. We'll look at the processes, technologies and cultural protocols that shape literary texts as they move through manuscript leafs, printed books, musical performances, open-air amphitheaters, indoor playhouses, outdoor pageants and more. Have a look at the syllabus here.


Early Modern Theatricality, from Oxford University Press, is just out (Winter 2014)

Each of the essays in this volume takes up a key formal component of early modern playing – an adventurous concept, distilled into one word, that aims at an “exploded view” of the structures and imaginative resources of the theater. My contribution, “Occasion,” takes up outdoor pageantry as an example of the propensity of the theater to extend wildly across space and time. Download a copy of my essay here.


Early Modern Media Ecologies, Modern Language Association, Chicago, January 2014

This winter, I'll be speaking in an MLA panel on the profoundly interactive relationship among diverse media in early modern England. Bringing together young scholars who specialize in Renaissance literary studies and the digital humanities, the panel will use new media to reflect on early modern media hybridities. Our presentations will show how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature is at once biological and technological – how actors, printers, musicians and needleworkers participated in literary processes that cannot be limited to writing. Read Jen Boyle's response paper to the panel here.


"Multimodal Sidney: Digital Curation and Early Modern Poïesis," November 2013

On November 8, I'll be giving a lecture in a colloquium called Digital Humanities / Early Modern Texts at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. My presentation will show how audio- and image-rich web interfaces offer a means of exploring early modern poetic and musical culture, including William Byrd's musical settings of Philip Sidney's verse. The digital humanities present an opportunity to bring out the kinds of interactivity among media sites that would have been intuitive to the Sidney Circle. You can view the links mentioned in my presentation here.

 

Early Modern Digital Agendas, July 2013

I'm excited to be participating in the NEH-funded Early Modern Digital Agendas at the Folger Shakespeare Library this month. This three-week institute will act as a kind of lab for current and emergent digital and online projects, allowing scholars to communicate and collaborate on research that moves into new media spaces. The institute also offers the opportunity to theorize and evaluate the current state of the digital humanities, specifically as they intersect with early modern literary studies. Follow us on Twitter #EMDA13.


"'Effeminate Carriage': Gendered Performance in Thomas Campion's Lute Songs"

On April 26, I'll be giving a presentation on Thomas Campion’s "books of ayres," or songbooks for lute and voice, and their fascination with ambiguously gendered singing voices. Designed for a domestic performance milieu that included women, Campion's songs betray uneasiness about a poet and a composer's capacity to determine gender and to control performance. Through their dynamic, collaborative mode of production, books of ayres enabled female performers to shape poetic and musical culture.


"'Unto the World's Ear': Wyatt's Psalms Beyond the Court," Spring 2013

My article on Thomas Wyatt's Penitential Psalms is now out in the spring issue of Studies in Philology: you can download it here. I argue that the fluid relationship between the coterie manuscript practices and wider print readerships that came into contact with Wyatt’s paraphrase of the penitential psalms helps to situate his work within a broader interpretive milieu than the Henrican Court. The Psalms themselves bear out this context by dramatizing a desire to reach readers and listeners beyond the monarch. Wyatt’s poem fashions an interlocutory, adaptable mode of address that displaces David’s own voice and opens it to communal reception.


Conferences, Spring 2013

I'll be presenting new work at two conferences this semester that I expect to incorporate into my book project. Both papers concentrate on the medium of the boy's singing voice and its relationship to the extra-dramatic music of children's companies. For the Shakespeare Association of America, my paper (abstract here) focuses on the ways in which boy actors' bodies are, in phenomenological terms, extended or attenuated through song. My talk for the Renaissance Society of America (abstract here) will look at how music challenges our conceptions of the boundaries or outlines of theatrical representation.


Teaching, Spring 2013

My courses this spring are "Shakespeare: The Early Works" (from Titus Andronicus to The Merchant of Venice) and "Critical Methods in the Study of Literature" (the introductory English major course at the University of Maryland). I put a lot of emphasis on verse in both of these courses because this helps students to develop close reading skills and to grapple with formal and figurative dimensions of language. Shakespeare's Sonnets and Venus and Adonis also serve as a way of wedging open the relationship between poetry and performance in his early career.


Ben Jonson and Literary Form, Fall 2012

On November 5, I'll be giving a lecture on the category of "form" in relation to the work of Ben Jonson. I will speak about what Jonson means by the "invention," "soul," "fable" and "fiction" of an artwork, how he stakes out the form of masques and pageants including the 1604 Magnificent Entertainment for King James, and how we might refine our terminology for form in literary and cultural studies. The event is sponsored by the Graduate Field Committee in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Maryland.


Teaching, Fall 2012

This fall I am teaching two early modern drama courses: "Shakespeare, The Early Works" and "Shakespeare and His Contemporaries." Both courses ask how embodied performance became such a vibrant medium in the course of the 1590s and into the seventeenth century -- and both courses work to situate Shakespeare among his peers and competitors. You can gather a sense of the issues we are exploring by visiting our course blogs and viewing my syllabi.


Early Modern Theatricality, Winter 2011

I recently participated in a conference that brought together twenty-five scholars of early modern drama to rethink the state of the field. Each contributor was charged with defining an essential formal component of early modern playing – an adventurous concept, distilled into one word, that aims at an “exploded view” of the structures and imaginative resources of the theater. My contribution, “Occasion,” takes up outdoor pageantry as an example of the propensity of the theater to extend wildly across space and time. The essays are forthcoming in a collection edited by Henry S. Turner and published by Oxford University Press.


Performing the Book, Spring 2011

Last spring I organized a conference entitled “Performing the Book: Multi-Media Histories of Early Modern Britain”: a summit of some of the leading scholars of early modern sound studies. Have a look at our conference blog, which includes a synopsis of the papers, and our spiffy conference poster. Our aim was to open up new ways of thinking about intersections of pen, print, sound and performance during the period, addressing the following questions:

How can scholarship on acoustic and performative multi-media in early modern Britain contribute to or intervene in methodologies associated with the history of the book? How can we theorize the categories of “book” and “text” in relation to the circulation and performance of sound? How can studies of the early modern acoustic world nuance the received wisdom about bibliographic and literary cultures and traditions? What media technologies and protocols were understood as new during this period, and how were they associated with literary, musical, or theatrical collectives? What does early modern aural performance tell us, or ask us to reconsider, about the hybridity of media from Gutenberg to Google?