MLA 2022 Session on “New Methods to Explore Digital Archives”

Modern Language Association convention 2022
SHARP session on “New Methods to Explore Digital Archives”

Online, Friday 7 January 8.30am to 9.45am (EST).

Dr Nora C. Benedict
Assistant Professor of Spanish & Digital Humanities
Department of Romance Languages, University of Georgia

Title: “Buyers versus Borrowers: A Look at the Finances of Shakespeare and Company”

Sylvia Beach is known for her “imperfect record keeping” and often indecipherable business accounts (Fitch 161). Joshua Kotin has even gone so far as to say that it would take “[a] team of forensic accountants…to reconstruct the finances of Shakespeare and Company” (121). That said, data from her lending library cards and logbooks provides key insight into Shakespeare and Company’s cash flow. While this financial information is not always presented in a systematic or exhaustive manner, it can still be used to develop a more nuanced understanding of the inner workings of Beach’s literary enterprise. To that end, in this paper I use the Shakespeare and Company Project datasets to examine the exchange of material goods in Beach’s bookshop. More specifically, my analysis centers on the details surrounding purchases and borrows of books from the events dataset. By limiting the scope of my study to only those records that contain transactional data—whether in the form of membership fees or actual book purchases—I unearth a new array of networks that were central to the daily operations of Shakespeare and Company. As a result, in contrast with the common focus on solely the most notable lending library members (or members of the Lost Generation in general), this financial approach brings to light invisible networks and underexplored figures whose monetary contributions were essential to keeping Beach’s business afloat.

Lawrence Evalyn
PhD candidate in English
University of Toronto

Title: “Random Sampling in the Digital Archive”

One of the lessons of distant reading has been that history contains many millions more books than we can actually read. Computational literary study has learned to be explicit about textual selection, but debates about method in non-computational research are often focused on the methods of analysis or rhetorical persuasion carried out by a piece of writing, rather than the work that precedes writing, namely, discovering and reading texts. As a provocation to our expectations of method, I have taken ten entirely random titles published in England between 1789 and 1799, and close-read them for an analysis of that decade’s contentious print culture. I expected this process to be an illuminating failure, but instead have found that critical interpretation is fully capable of locating important narratives about gender, war, racial difference, and religion, even when examining a prophetic pamphlet about a lunar eclipse alongside a budget report for the East India Company. In this paper I will particularly discuss how a random sample sheds new light on eighteenth-century medical misinformation. This experiment highlights the value of embracing the true scope of what is held in digital archives, and suggests that new methods of exploring digital archives could be excitingly alien.

Dr Jennifer Burek Pierce
Associate Professor
School of Library and Information Science, University of Iowa

Title: “Finding Fictional Places on Actual Maps: A Case Study of Methods for Locating Reader Responses in the Digital World”

Matt Kirschenbaum has described the archive as “unbounded” and always in the process of creation, an apt description of digital media that document reading. These media appear on multiple platforms but are otherwise uncollected and unpreserved. Research that analyzes contemporary digital reading must respond to these conditions, particularly as individuals reconsider and remove their accounts from different platforms.

Digital mapping is a distinctive mode of reader response. Google Maps and other mapping technologies allow users to annotate professionally created maps, — a practice known as folk cartography — and readers adapt this technology to their own ends by adding fictional places from favorite books to real digital maps. One example emerges from reader response to Rainbow Rowell’s best-selling Simon Snow trilogy and readers’ decision to put her fictional Watford School of Magicks on Google Maps.1 The hidden school, a parallel to J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts, gained reviews and images that reflected how readers read and envisioned places in Rowell’s narrative. Understanding this practice requires research methods that allow us to locate and study map-based media that document reading.

The Watford example is significant because selective imaginary places have been mapped to the real world. If we search for venues listed in Manguel and Guadalupi’s Dictionary of Imaginary Places on Google Maps, we find that many fictional places do not have digital correlates. This asks that we consider why fictional sites are selected for mapping, how they are realized on technology platforms, and how we locate them.

When fans add fictional places to real maps, their voices are inscribed and stored in ways that augment what Kirschenbaum characterizes as the “heterogeneity of digital data and its embodied inscriptions.”2 Simple searches of maps are not an effective way of finding these sites. Guidebooks, news stories, and social media help highlight these sites of reader response, a kind of triangulation. Crucially, affect, or readers’ feelings for stories, is an important cue to the sort of narratives that might be realized on maps.

Dr Zackary Turpin
Assistant Professor / Director of Graduate Studies
English Department, University of Idaho

Since Walt Whitman’s death, the rediscovery of his lost publications has been a surprisingly regular process, turning up everything from manifestos and travel writings to a men’s wellness guide and a serialized novel. The search for lost Whitman works has also evolved substantially, with major discoveries of the poet’s unknown publications coming increasingly through digital means, thanks to his extensive publication record (signed or unsigned) in more than one hundred known newspapers, as well as his fondness for reusing pen names and initialisms. The rediscovery of lost texts, however, formerly done by way of manuscript and bibliographic evidence alone, is today being augmented with new digital methodologies, which enhance researchers’ efficacy and extend their reach into digital newspaper and manuscript archives. In this presentation, I will enumerate the strengths and weaknesses of some of the newest digital methods aiding the recovery of lost Whitman publications, including byline searches, metadata triangulation, computational stylometry, and idiolectic analysis. Such methods may turn up any number of lost texts, including not one but two Whitman novels that may still be missing, The Sleeptalker (ca. 1850-51) and Proud Antoinette (ca. 1858-60).

1 @rainbowrowell, “What do you do … Penny’s mom is going to be so PISSED” Twitter (15 Sept. 2019); @rainbowrowell, “I guess I should leave a review” Twitter (15 Sept. 2019): nhttps://twitter.com/rainbowrowell/status/1173268813451878401

2 Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms, 6.

CfP: Reading for/and Escape: an online conference

17-18 March 2022
Organised by The History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) Research Collaboration, English & Creative Writing, The Open Universityand supported by SHARP (The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing)

The ability of books to mentally transport their readers away from the problems and challenges of everyday life is well established. And yet, reading for escape (rather than self-improvement) has often attracted moral censure for being self-indulgent and wasteful. Despite the plethora of influencers on social media with their lists of ‘10 escapist books to take your mind off the madness‘, in academia, reading for escape (and escapist fiction) has often been derided for being beneath serious intellectual enquiry: the main questions around how, why, where, and when people read for escape and to escape remain critically underexamined. Does reading for escape allow for temporary mental respite and therefore offer a safety valve, a way or normalising profoundly abnormal or traumatic circumstances? Or is reading for escape actually a way of re-engaging with the world around us? This conference will encourage participants to interrogate both reading for escape as an instrumental practice, as well as reading and escape as a series of cultural or personal associations.

Call for Papers, deadline: 7 January 2022

Please see flyer for details.

Contact:
Dr Shafquat Towheed (organiser), Shafquat.Towheed@open.ac.uk
Dr Sally Blackburn-Daniels (co-organiser), Sally.Blackburn-Daniels@open.ac.uk

Call for Proposals – SHARP 2021

SHARP 2021 annual conference
Moving texts: from discovery to delivery

Hosted virtually by the University of Muenster, in collaboration with the Law and Literature research group (DFG SFB 1385)

26-30 July 2021

As Sydney Shep writes in the Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book, “Books as transactions chart complex and often fluid networks between authors and readers, producers and consumers.” (2015, 53) The movement of texts within these networks is facilitated by a range of intermediary agents who shape the life cycle of a textual object from discovery to delivery. SHARP 2021, held as a virtual conference hosted by the University of Muenster, Germany, will be dedicated to sketching out the processes of textual movement, as well as the role of intermediaries in the life cycle of the book, here understood broadly to include literary agents, translators, editors, wholesalers and booksellers, used and rare book dealers, librarians and archivists. 

The conference, held in close collaboration with the collaborative research center for Law and Literature funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG SFB 1385 Recht und Literatur), will seek to emphasize the legal frameworks, informal norms, and business practices that enable, hinder or promote distribution of and access to books and texts.

We encourage participants to help us chart and understand the complex and fluid networks between authors and readers by focusing on processes of displaying, discovery, distribution and delivery, today and throughout history.

For more details, see the full call for proposals.

SHARP in Focus

SHARP would like to invite you all to #SHARPinFocus, a week of virtual events running June 15 through June 19. #SHARPinFocus is open to anyone interested in book studies. However, membership dues allow SHARP to continue to offer conferences, events, awards, and fellowships. Please consider joining at https://www.sharpweb.org/main/join/.

SCHEDULE (status quo: June 2, 2020)

MONDAY JUNE 15

  • Decolonizing Book History (5pm Central Europe /11am Eastern /8am Pacific)
    Join Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, SHARP’s Director of Awards, as she chairs a roundtable discussion on the concepts, challenges, and strategies of decolonising book history. Panelists Marina Garone Gravier (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Priya Joshi (Temple University), Jean Lee Cole (Loyola University Maryland), Kinohi Nishikawa (Princeton University), and Andrea Reyes Elizondo (Leiden University) will explore issues of colonisation/decolonisation, indigenisation, race politics, social justice and equity with regard to, for example, the types and modes of research undertaken in Book History, teaching practices, and the collection, archiving and curation of knowledge in databases and catalogues.
    Please register via SHARPinfocus@sharpweb.org to attend!
  • SHARP Coffeehouse: Reimagining SHARP News (10pm Central Europe / 4pm Eastern / 1pm Pacific)
    Join us as we discuss the new look of SHARP News and think about what role the new version of SHARP News can play for SHARP members and the scholarly community. With SHARP News editor-in-chief Andie Silva, SHARP News head reviews editor Nora Slonimsky, and hosted by Director of Publications, Corinna Norrick-Rühl.
    Please register via SHARPinfocus@sharpweb.org to attend!

TUESDAY JUNE 16

  • SHARP Coffeehouse on the future of academic conferences (5-6pm Central Europe / 11am-12pm Eastern / 8-9am Pacific).
    Join SHARP’s Director of Conferences Josée Vincent and Vice President Will Slauter for a brainstorming session on various aspects of the conference experience. Topics for discussion include: what is distinctive about SHARP conferences? How can we make our conferences more inclusive and more environmentally sustainable? What digital formats seem most promising?
    Email SHARPinfocus@sharpweb.org to register
  • Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Launch Party, hosted by Director of Publications Corinna Norrick-Rühl (7:30-8:30pm Central European / 1:30-2:30pm Eastern / 10:30am-11:30pm Pacific)
    In succinct, 1-2 minute launch slots, we would like to showcase publications from our field of research that have been published since the last SHARP conference, i.e. between August 2019 and June 2020. If you would like to launch your book virtually, please register via email for directions with publications@sharpweb.org by June 12, 2020. For longer-term visibility, all of the books will also be listed on SHARP News on the “New publications by members” page.
    Please note that we will be happy to repeat this event if members wish, so don’t worry if you miss the cut-off or can’t make it this time.
    If you would like to join the launch as an audience member, please register via SHARPinfocus@sharpweb.org for details.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 17

  • Teaching Material Texts without the Material (9-10pm Central European / 3-4pm Eastern / 12-1pm Pacific)
    Join Sarah Werner, SHARP EC Member-at-Large, as she hosts a conversation about how to teach material book history when we can’t access those materials in person. A brief discussion with panelists Megan Peiser, Emily Spunaugle, and Matthew Kirschenbaum will be followed by break-out conversations about teaching strategies for when classes meet online. Peiser (Asst Prof of English, Oakland University) and Spunaugle (Rare Books Librarian, Oakland U) were co-teaching a book history course that drew extensively on their rare books collection when in-person teaching was suspended; Kirschenbaum (Prof of English, U Maryland) was teaching a graduate course on “how to do things with books” in their BookLab, of which he is co-director. The speakers will draw on their experiences in adjusting hands-on processes to online learning in order to help participants brainstorm their own potential pedagogical practices.
    Email SHARPinfocus@sharpweb.org to register

THURSDAY JUNE 18

  • SHARP coffeehouse on diversity, equity and inclusion. (5-6pm Central European / 11am-12pm Eastern / 8-9am Pacific)
    Join Marija Dalbello, Chair of SHARP’s Board of Directors, Jan Hillgaertner, Director of Transnational Affairs, and Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, Director of Awards, for an informal discussion about how academic societies, and SHARP in particular, can better promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. We welcome your comments and suggestions!
  • SHARP Annual General Meeting and Awards (9-10pm Central European / 3-4pm Eastern / 12-1pm Pacific)
    Join the SHARP Executive Committee and members for brief updates on the state of our organization and for announcements by the Publications Committee of the awards for best book and best article in Book History. The live conversation will be followed by break-out rooms for discussion about what SHARP can do for you.
    Email SHARPinfocus@sharpweb.org to register

FRIDAY JUNE 19

  • SHARP Coffeehouse on membership benefits and initiatives (6-7pm Central European / 12-1pm Eastern / 9-10am Pacific)
    Come meet SHARP EC’s Membership Secretary Lisa Maruca and Member-at-Large (Pedagogy) Sarah Werner to discuss how SHARP can best serve its members. What can we do for you? How can you get more involved? Interested in our liaison system to connect with other organizations? Want to share your thoughts about the organization or our field with the Executive Council? This open discussion will help us brainstorm membership services and outreach—we’re eager to hear from you!
    Email SHARPinfocus@sharpweb.org to register
  • SharpFriday: informal happy hour on Zoom, hosted by Marie Léger-St-Jean and Alisa Beer (8-9pm Central European / 2-3pm Eastern / 11am-12pm Pacific)
    Email SHARPinfocus@sharpweb.org to register or DM @Marie_LSJ or @alisakbee on Twitter

Conference: Bookshelves in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dates
Tuesday, November 3, 2020 – 10:00 to Wednesday, November 4, 2020 – 20:00
Location
Online, via Microsoft Teams

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on all aspects of lives, but nowhere has this been more visible than in the conflation of public and private workspace. As we work from home and attend endless online meetings, our bookshelves are suddenly on public display. This conference will ask speakers to critically examine this particular cultural phenomenon, brought to public attention by the pandemic. This online only conference is organised by the History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) research collaboration based in the Department of English & Creative Writing, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), The Open University and supported by SHARP (The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing), the world’s largest scholarly organisation in this research field.

For more information, please visit the conference website and download the call for papers.