Prof. KAB CPB 2020

Topic: Translation

  1. Beowulf will be read differently if it is imagined to have been produced in the time of Bede (c. 725) or Alfred (c. 880) or AElfric (c. 1000). The earlier we think the poem to be, the more potentially authentic its historical material; a later Beowulf, more openly fictional, is a more complex and “literary” work. Moreover, the more closely we try to assign a date and place of origin to the poem, the more closely we must read it as a text, the intention of a single author or a reflection of a particular ideology, rather than a product of an oral poetic art whose composition may have been collective and whose traditional roots are beyond discovery” (“Beowulf.” BABL Concise, Edited by Joseph Black et. al., 2015, p.60)

Topic: Pagan/Christian themes

  1. “Then, as I’ve heard, four swift horses, / fallow as apples, well-matched, followed / that war-gear” (Beowulf 2163-2165). Allusion to Four Horses of the Apocalypse?

September 2018

Monograph plans:

The last revised chapter from my 2013 dissertation, “Thomas Nashe and Early Modern Protest Literature” has been recently published in Marlowe Studies: An Annual. Additionally, The Thomas Nashe Project has, to my great delight, featured additional chapters that I’ve revised as articles in their Bibliography of selected recent works. So, what’s next?

Here’s the “bumper-sticker” version:

My research into “Englishing”  vernacular protest literature from Chaucer’s time to Shakespeare’s has led me to realize that I simply can’t stay away from satire, from classical models, or their medieval and early modern translators and imitators. Presently, I’m developing a book proposal entitled A Tin Age: Englishing Satire (c. 1400- 16??). I will replace the question marks with numerals once I’ve fixed on which arguments from my research I plan to include.

For a comprehensive list of publications, please see my CV. I have also posted selected publications on Moving forward, I will relocate my publications and talks to this site.

2018 Projects-in-Progress

I was delighted to launch The Kit Marlowe Project as one of eight digital exhibits featured at the 2018 Shakespeare Association of America Annual meeting in Los Angeles (3/27/18). The Kit Marlowe Project is a digital space designed to introduce undergraduates with diverse majors to research-based learning and digital humanities practices in the context of studying one of Elizabethan England’s most intriguing literary figures. The site has been designed so that undergraduates may contribute exhibits, encyclopedia entries, and TEI-encoded (Text Encoding Initiative) archival works to a real-world digital project that will be maintained by future classes.

Because I continue creating student-scholar, research-based pedagogical models in my classroom, I need to keep up with my students’ output! I am currently collaborating with students to edit earlier encoding projects for publication on the University of Victoria’s Map of Early Modern London (MoEML) website. I’ve also been co-writing with MoEML’s Janelle Jenstad about our experiences teaching cognate courses at the University of Victoria and Stonehill College – “bibliodigigogy” will be making a comeback! If you are interested in learning more about MoEML’s Pedagogical Partnerships, please visit their site.

In my capacity of Research Partner with Northeastern University’s Women Writers Project, I have recently submitted a web exhibit entitled “Reading Elizabeth I in Women Writers Online” that explores early modern women writers’ treatment of this Tudor Queen. I gave a paper entitled “The Queen’s Two Corpora: Elizabeth I in Digital Contexts” on this work in progress in collaboration with Mary Erica Zimmer at the Women and Culture in the Early Modern World seminar at Harvard University’s Mahindra Humanities Center in February 2017. I’ve also written a blog about this project for NU. Working in the WWO corpora has invited a transatlantic approach to this project that has been extraordinarily exciting. I am eager now to explore the shared points of contact between this project and “Englishing” early literature – across genre, gender, and a giant ocean.





Kit Marlowe Project

Please click on #MetaKitMarlowe, #MarlowesMinion, #TheCatMarloweProject (hashtags courtesy of my colleagues on Facebook) to read updated posts about the evolution of an undergraduate course that teaches students how to be DH “makers.”

Kit Marlowe (the cat) “helping” me edit Kit Marlowe (the project)


Learning Community: Pop Culture and Bibliodigigogy in Early Modern England

The Team (Spring 2016)

Stonehill College: Kristen Abbott Bennett, Katie Joy (TA)

University of Victoria: Janelle Jenstad, Kim McLean-Fiander, Kylee-Anne Hingston

Course Description:
This class integrates bibliographic and digital humanities practices to reflect on the 21st Century shift into virtual worlds in the context of popular, generically diverse early modern texts. We will research early modern print culture and collaboratively publish an encyclopedia entry on a selected stationer (pending peer review). We will also learn how to access early modern digital texts and have the opportunity to publish an introduction to one of your own choosing on the Map of Early Modern London website (pending peer review). Additionally, students will dig deeply into bibliographic details of the popular texts we’ll study and move beyond using pre-fabricated web tools to learn the ins and outs of TEI and CSS encoding. In the culminating project, students will collaboratively apply their learning by encoding and publishing a digital text on the Map of Early Modern London website (pending peer review).

What you’ll do:

Work collaboratively with your classmates * Publish your work on the Map of Early Modern London website * Learn how to read early printed texts with wonky fonts * Touch history with your own hands in the Boston Public Library Rare Book and MS Room * Use oXygen XML encoding software to digitize and publish a book online * Think about the intersections of early modern print culture and 21st Century digital cultures * Prepare yourself for the next generation of digital culture studies!


Sequence of Events:

Unit 1: In the Author’s Absence? Early Modern Print Culture
In our first unit, we’ll work with The Stationers’ Register to learn about printing practices in early modern England. We will also go to the Boston Public Library Rare Book and Manuscript Room to work with material books from the period and learn how to conduct document analyses. You’ll learn about the idiosyncrasies in the spelling and formatting of these works – and how they’re not so different from the ways you text, tweet, Snapchat, and Instagram. (In fact, in 1558, “to twit” meant “to taunt” (OED) – makes us rethink our posts, no?). At the same time, we’ll learn how to navigate Early English Books Online, English Short Title Catalogue, British Book Trade Index, Six Degrees of Francis Bacon, and Shakeosphere. Your culminating project will be carefully research and collaboratively write an essay about one stationers’ output for publication on the MoEML site (pending peer review).

Unit 2: Early Modern Pop Culture
Have you heard the hit tune: “A Looking-Glass for Lascivious Young Men”? Well, in this unit, thanks to the English Broadside Ballad Archive, you will! We’ll read rarely studied texts to get a real idea about what people actually read at the turn of the seventeenth-century. In addition to ballads, we’ll read how-to books, pre-Googlemaps directions about the best route from York to London, plus plague and punishment proclamations, and funny laws about wool-winding. For your culminating project, you will write an introduction to a little known text you find using EEBO and edit it carefully for publication on the Map of Early Modern London website.

Unit 3: Thomas Dekker’s “The Wonderful Year” (NOT)
In this unit we’ll read, transcribe, collate, and use TEI and MoEML guidelines to encode Thomas Dekker’s popular pamphlet “The Wonderful Year (1603): Wherein is showed the picture of London ly-ing sicke of the plague” in partnership with our colleagues at the University of Victoria for publication on the MoEML website (pending peer review). At the unit’s close, you’ll write a metacognitive reflection essay about how your encoding experience changed, illuminated, and informed the way you digest digital information.

Thomas Nashe, DH, and me

When I recently returned to Tufts for commencement, a friend still in the English grad program was surprised by my active use of digital humanities tools for research and teaching; she knows how much I love spending time in archives. On reflection, my early research on Elizabethan satirist Thomas Nashe directly anticipated what I like most about working in the digital humanities – getting “under the hood” of a text or corpus, taking it apart, figuring out how it works, and then re-framing extant arguments to create original scholarship.  Nashe utilizes extraordinarily dense intertextual networks that juxtapose prose, drama, poetry, chronicle history, chorography, philosophy, multitudes of Latin tags, and topical in-jokes that required me to learn about early modernism across disciplines and often languages. He also frequently deploys allusions to classical, medieval, and contemporary works as defensive postures designed to occlude subtexts of often seditious criticism of his Queen, her court, and Crown politics. Until his works were summarily banned in 1599, these maneuvers worked.

This image was designed by “the whimsical arm” of Digital Renaissance Editions, a project that publishes open-access critical editions of early modern English drama.

Nashe remains my spirit animal in part because one cannot read his work in isolation. That is to say, if Nashe makes sense, then he makes sense in conversation, in the context of these multitudes of intertexts. The Thomas Nashe Project is currently using digital tools for authorship attribution. Someday I should like to see a database vast enough to analyze Nashe’s works in the context of of his intertexts – and that day is not too far off.

My journey from Nashe to working with digital media distantly echoes media guru Marshall McLuhan’s. McLuhan pioneered digital media studies after writing his Cambridge dissertation about Thomas Nashe and the Learning of His Time. McLuhan’s dissertation examined Nashe’s work in the context of the classical trivium: grammar, dialectic, and logic. What struck me when I read McLuhan’s diss was how deeply intertwined writing styles and the writers’ theological and political positions were.


McLuhan understood that the parallel explosions of information technology at the turn of the seventeenth-century and the turn of the twentieth offer an ideal opportunity to think critically about how knowledge is created in the public sphere.  Print culture directly informed early modern rhetorical practices across discourses and vice versa. He is also said to have been highly amused when a print run of his influential text The Medium is the Message was misprinted as The Medium is the Massage. I too prefer “massage” – digital media does not directly translate or convey information, but represents an act of mediation, and subsequently interpretation.  Whether the intermediary is a human or a computer, there’s always more to digital media than meets the eye. And, one can discover much by using DH tools to explore any kind of digital artifact’s metadata – the stuff under the hood.

But many still ask: what are the digital humanities? Digital Humanities Quarterly offers a useful definition on their “About” page:


I like the three “E’s” in this definition and I would argue that the goal of digital humanities is to explore, evolve, and engage in ways that help us re-frame our conventional understandings of information processing and knowledge making.

Tufts’ own Perseus Project offers a watershed example of digital humanities in action – I have seen the project evolve from hero to hydra as they work toward their goal of making the “full record of humanity” accessible. The Perseus team has devoted extraordinary amounts of time to translating, transcribing, and encoding pre- and early modern texts. (And, I’d like to thank everyone involved for continually helping me stretch my Latin proficiency.)

Perseus’ digital curation efforts – like those at The Folger Shakespeare Library, The Map of Early Modern London, and The Kit Marlowe Project  are critical for cultural preservation. Plus, these digital resources provide opportunities to explore how patterns of language and knowledge making emerge across works, time, and discourses in ways that material texts cannot.

At a DH talk I gave with my colleague Mary Erica Zimmer at Harvard’s Mahindra Humanities Center in February 2017, the moderators invited the seminar attendees to introduce themselves by name, affiliation, and discipline.  When the introductions reached Northeastern’s Syd Bauman from the Women Writers Project, he replied: “undisciplined.” Syd might be on to something.

One talks much about “interdisciplinarity” in the context of digital humanities. But the prefix, “inter,” or “between,” suggests precisely the kinds of gaps one encounters institutionally. More often than not, “interdisciplinary” courses are a pastiche of content areas and methods that illuminate shared practices and points of content – and that’s great! (I’ve taught a few of these myself.) But the prefix “inter-” insistently informs disciplinary difference.

Such disciplinary difference appeals to educational systems and institutions because it facilitates creating manageable taxonomies, specifically, manageable taxonomies that can be assessed. But knowledge does not evolve along disciplinary boundaries. Scholars understand this fact.

DH platforms and projects do not simply connect the space between disciplines – as the “inter,” the prefix to “interdisciplinary” suggests. These connections enact not just links, but extensions of knowledge that are extensible – like the XML (extensible markup language) we use for markup.  To be fair, knowledge has historically been extensible, but written representations of knowledge have conditioned humans to think linearly and two-dimensionally.

Until now.

The Perseus Project’s ambition to make “the full record of human knowledge available” is wildly exciting – in part because they’re clearly not worried about scope-creep! In all seriousness, at the crux of every project I’ve worked on is a desire to aggregate as much data as possible so that one may explore the evolution of knowledge in the context of its inception. By building increasingly large datasets of that reflect “the record” of human knowledge, we will have the opportunity to recognize contingencies that make discoveries possible, we will realize that what seems like a fixed “record” is anything but.

I can’t help but think that by translating knowledge into the language of computer networks, we transform it into energy. 

Already, DH projects emerging around the globe are, like Gutenberg’s printing press, agents of change, traversing discourses and simultaneously extending them node by node to revolutionize the way we make knowledge today — or, perhaps, better reflect the way knowledge has always already been made.

– Kristen Abbott Bennett, 16 March 2018

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