"Shakespeare His Contemporaries": Exploring Early Modern Drama in a Digital Environment

Hilda Hulme Memorial Lecture: ' "Shakespeare His Contemporaries": Exploring Early Modern Drama in a Digital Environment'

Professor Martin Mueller (Professor emeritus of English and Classics, Northwestern University, Illinois)

Students of Early Modern Drama will occasionally look at the "original" text (if there is such a thing), but they will more often work with surrogates, partly because that is all they can get, but also because the surrogate's query potential may in some respects exceed that of the original: given unlimited access to a Shakspeare Folio I may for many purposes prefer to consult the Riverside Shakespeare.

By the end of this decade a young person's first encounter with an Early Modern play is likely to be mediated through some digital tablet. What is the query potential of the digital surrogate, and what does it take to maximize it for "the greate variety of readers, from the most able to him that can but spell," to use the charming language of Shakespeare's first editors?

This talk will focus on three interlocking aspects of this question: 1) curation and exploration as flip sides of the coin of working with digital data, 2) the potential for corpus-wide analysis or more extensive and rapid forms of contextualization, and 3) the promise of the digital medium to support collaboration and let individuals with different interests and talents contribute to the task of improving the texts over time. There are about 500 digital versions of plays by Shakespeare's contemporaries, and many of them could do with quite a bit of improvement.

Martin Mueller was educated at the Universities of Munich, Hamburg, Berlin, Trinity College, Dublin, and Indiana University, where he got a PhD in Classics (1966). He taught at Brandeis University (1965-67) and the University of Toronto (1967-76) before moving to Northwestern University, where he has taught since 1976. At Northwestern he has held various administrative positions, including Director of Comparative Literature (1976-81), Director of the Humanities Program (1979-81), Chair of the English Department (1983-90), and Acting Chair of Hispanic Studies (1997-99).

His primary research field has been the uses of ancient epic and tragedy by European writers since the Renaissance. He has also written on Homer and Shakespeare. More recently he has become interested in the uses of information technology for traditional philological inquiries. Together with Ahuvia Kahane, he is the editor of The Chicago Homer, a multilingual web site that uses the search and display capabilities of digital media to make distinctive features of Early Greek epic accessible to readers with and without Greek. He is the general editor of WordHoard, an application for the close reading and scholarly analysis of deeply tagged texts, and one of the editors of the MONK Project, a digital environment designed to help humanities scholars discover and analyze patterns in the texts they study.

Institute of English Studies
Professor Martin Mueller (Professor emeritus of English and Classics, Northwestern University, Illinois)
Event date: 
Tuesday, 2 July 2013 - 1:00am
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