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“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

I am very excited to work on this final project. I have just finished re-reading Hamlet for the first time in a few years, and it was a wonderful experience reacquainting myself with the characters, themes and events that occur at Elsinore. For my final project, I would like to take a deep-dive reading into the critical analysis that will further my expertise on my favorite Shakespeare work. I will then annotate the text in Manifold, as I really enjoyed this process for the Group 2 project.

I will be looking for many things within the critical works I read. There are many themes within Hamlet that are crucial to the text. Ultimately understanding these is my main research question; madness, sanity, doubt, guilt, betrayal and redemption being of the most discussed. When reading the critical analysis, I want to get a better idea of the melancholy Danish prince’s state of mind as he is guided throughout the play by the ghost of his father. How mad is he really? Or is he perfectly sane? I suppose there must be a great deal of speculation in that topic throughout the critical literature. Other questions I already have include why Hamlet denies his love to Ophelia, but then confesses it after her death? Why does Hamlet have the theater players perform such a realist reperformance of his father’s death in order to prove King Claudius did indeed murder his father? Or in other words, wouldn’t it have been more strategic to be more subtle and how does the King free himself of suspicion? Is it because he is so blind with guilt? This realist performance was a true risk on Hamlet’s part. Did Queen Gertrude deserve to die due to her own behavior? Is it foreshadowing that the ghost tells Hamlet not to harm his mother, but she dies anyway? Why does the ghost not steer Hamlet to safety, since he is redeeming him? And in that same vein of death, was Polonius’ execution inevitable, as he was quite the meddler? And of course, there is Ophelia’s drowning/suicide… that is surely something to explore in terms of what it does to Hamlet’s sanity.

Annotating the text will help me answer these fascinating questions. I found that I felt as though I got deep within the mindset of Delano and Cereno through the last project, and I hope to have a similar acquaintance with this Shakespeare work as well. By reading many critical works, I hope to develop a deeper knowledge of greater embedded themes as well. Intensely delving into these types of works will help me further cultivate more and better questions to ask and answer through annotation.

Is there a role misogyny plays within Hamlet, and what does this do for Hamlet’s well-being? What does it say of the Queen, who married her husband’s brother (and killer) so quickly after his death? How could feminism have changed the course of action at Elsinore Castle? Another topic that I find intriguing is Scandinavian warfare during the period Hamlet takes place. Warfare is a looming threat throughout the text and is referred to when discussing Hamlet’s father’s life. I wish to know more about Fortinbras’ role within the murdered king’s story, as well as the importance of his reappearance at the end of the play. Ultimately, I just wish to understand the characters in a much deeper way and analyze them accordingly.

I have found annotation to be a very useful tool in being able to fully appreciate a work. Since Hamlet is of my favorite, this is the perfect opportunity to better understand this tragedy. What’s more is I can begin my digital Shakespeare anthology project I’ve already blogged about. There is a great deal of artwork I hope to find that illustrates the events of the story. If I can find open-source performance art clips that would be a really cool thing to include. I also love the musical Hair, and how it adapts the soliloquy in which Hamlet states “What a piece of work is man!” It is a beautiful soliloquy amongst many that I intend to analyze. The OED will be useful in this project in terms of better understanding the linguistics of the text, that will better inform the narrative. I’ll be sure to include any interesting findings from this source as well.

Some sources I have already found are the books Twentieth century interpretations of Hamlet; a collection of critical essays available in the GC library, and Critical responses to Hamlet, 1600-1900. Articles like “The question of original sin in ‘Hamlet,’” “Passion turned to prettiness: Rhyme or reason in Hamlet,” ““Hamlet” without us,” “Wonder and nostalgia in Hamlet,” “Finding freedom in ‘Hamlet,’” “Moral agency in Hamlet” …and many more. The list goes and on. Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespeare Studies, Modern Language Quarterly… these are all journals that have a plethora of useful articles. The digital Shakespeare editions Jeff responded to my other Shakespeare blog will be very helpful too in inciting inspiration.

Insanity, Queerness and 9/11

Annotating this project was a very intense experience for me. It really opened my eyes to the realities of the time the story was written in and the thematic representations of the characters. I have a much fuller and deeper understanding for Melville’s work, and I feel I learned a great deal about the nature of race and slavery in the 19thcentury and today.

The mental illness piece hit home for me because I too suffer from this kind of condition. It was important for me to read that work carefully and look for ways people were othered because of their race, and thus, implied insanity. I thought that article was very thought provoking and had a lot to offer as commentary to Babo, Delano and Cereno’s story. “Crucial to these discussions were questions of obedience and rebelliousness, and the desire to set forth an “expert” language— mixing law and science—that would assure that these “different” subjects would not threaten the security of the community, and specifically the rights of its members to hold property,” (Reiss, 1996). This quote is highly symbolic of the nature of whiteness and slavery in the 19thcentury. A threat to the “insane” property of white people was seen as more important than the humanity of the black individuals that endured slavery. Melville tries to illustrate this in his own clever, between-the-lines way (at least on a first reading). On reading it another time, it becomes much more clear what Melville is saying.

In terms of the article on queerness throughout the text, I did find some of the connections and comparisons a little less convincing. But nonetheless, there are apparent implications that  “Melville, in “Benito Cereno,” elliptically trope queer desire as both enabling and threatening the possibility of hospitality,”(Hannah, 2010). What is valuable about this aspect of the experience was still finding importance and value in what Hannah had to say despite my not necessarily believing or buying into the claims whole-heartedly. This was an interpretation and should be read as such. But I was inspired by the claims that I was convinced of that I wouldn’t have otherwise have connected on my own. Reading these claims and then weeding the story for examples was very fulfilling. It was a game in its own sort and I really enjoyed the process of getting into the mind of the characters in such a unique and intimate way.

 The 9/11 Commission Report article was very impressive. Here, slaves, as others were compared to the slave states the United States government still insist exist, to behoove their own interests. Terror suspects and the Muslim community as a whole was othered in much the same way the black individuals and slaves were during the 19thcentury, and in the case of blackness, this othering still exists today. In this way, it is dissuading how little progress we as a society have made over the centuries but I have hope that all the hard work of race pioneers will pay off, as we are already seeing the benefits in certain elements of society, politics and culture. “Melville’s text invites a consideration of slavery’s role in the preservation of status quo politics, and reveals the means by which the disclosure of secrecy becomes a condition for the legal fiction of slavery to persist. In purporting to reveal the hidden plot of contemporary anti-US terrorism, the US government’s 9/11 Commission Report similarly manufactures an acceptable political fiction that compensates for a still deeper failure to promote democratic structures of feeling in response to national trauma,” (Traister, 2013). What I like about this quote is its reference to “national trauma.” Slavery was and continues to be wildly traumatic to those that suffered its injustices. 9/11 was nationally traumatic in a different way, as was coming to terms with the inhumane practices of our government of terror suspects in the name of finding answers to justify an inhumane war. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and collectively, our nation has to accept our involvement there and the havoc we created. This relates to the text in that Cereno (especially) was affected and traumatized so deeply for what he had done. He manifests a national experience as one individual in a story.

Overall, I was moved by the connections I made between reading the critical responses to the story and the text itself. I would be interested in learning more about many differing points of views and look forward to delving more deeply into the research my colleagues on this project came up with as well. From this assignment, I realize the great value in interpreting texts through different, specific lenses. I am grateful I am more aware of literature being conducive to inferring diverse close readings. This also informs how I can more successfully perform distant readings as I become more aware of digital tools that allow for such work.

Digital Shakespeare Anthology

While reading Blair’s work, I noticed how she left out footnoting as a form of notetaking. I searched the text for the term, and it does actually appear, in a footnote! But she doesn’t spend any time discussing the implications of the footnote in literature, which struck me as odd, because I rely so heavily on them particularly when reading Shakespeare. And then it was Jones’ piece that got me to thinking about annotation in Shakespeare. Which brings me to the focus of this blog in how might we create a digitally open Shakespeare anthology environment that brings together the scholarly conversation afforded by annotation, but further, provides the opportunity for users to link articles, explanations, imagery, sound, and discussion on elements of Shakespeare’s work not to be limited to theme, symbolism, contextualization/historicity, biographical information of the author and characters (the ones that lived at least) and verbiage.

 

When I got to the part in Blair’s article about Francis Bacon saying “I think… that in general one Man’s Notes will little profit another, because one man’s Conceit doth so much differ from another’s; and also because the bare Note itself is nothing so much worth, as the suggestion it gives the Reader,” I shuddered. Fortunately, she goes on to explain that using others’ notes was and is quite common and has value, but for the sake of this project, how great would it be to include Shakespeare’s own notes to be read in tandem with the plays and sonnets? Those that have been archived could easily become part of this effort and could really help the user get an in-depth justification of what is being read.

 

I think my favorite part of this would be the possibilities for annotation of artifacts related to the symbolism and themes within a text. For example, in Hamlet, Ophelia’s flowers that she hands out after she goes mad represent different emotions and representations of the characters. When she gives King Claudius fennel, it was because these flowers were believed to ward off evil and thus, that King Claudius is evil. Imagery of the flower and information explaining this interpretation could be provided that make for a richer digital experience than just reading Hamlet on a screen.

 

Furthermore, in college, I did a project on Jewish mysticism in The Tempest. Bits of the story that relate to the Kabballah and the Talmud (the second time this week we’re discussing the Talmud!) could send the reader off to any number of sources. Being able to make digital connections between the text and what Shakespeare was saying beneath the words is a very exciting concept to me.

 

Jones recollects being in Santa Cruz and exploring alternative-metered poems of Robert Browning. Couldn’t Shakespeare’s sonnets be played within a similar way? And also explained and elaborated upon for the reader. And read aloud (the audiobook project “layers” Sabina discussed during the presentations come to mind). Not to mention, the sonnets (and the plays) use language quite playfully and multi-definitionally. Annotation that explores this aspect would really bring the work to life.

 

And to have this project open-source, in that it could be added to by anyone, makes it participatory and inviting. But Anthony’s point about a fine balance in his blog between the “laws of Wikipedia” and the fear of fake news from non-creditworthy sources is a concern. I guess that is something I will have to muddle over. But the implications for the livelihood of Shakespeare’s work, and the pedagogy therein makes me think this would be something really valuable to work on. And really, this could be done with any writer’s work, I just happen to be engulfed by all of Shakespeare’s universal wisdom.

 

Art, music, live performance, recitation, these are all things that could be part of a digital anthology. Maybe this is already happening and I missed the boat… let me know if you know of something along these lines! Bush quotes “The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world’s record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected,” and I think that nicely summarizes my vision. And if I am going to quote, I may as well throw in the big guy himself: “All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.” Such is the case for a digital Shakespeare anthology.

Texts, Works, Objects and Signs

Patrick Grady O’Malley

 

Considering the “Text” as a “process of demonstration” and not a “reduction of reading to a consumption” transcends how many people likely think of the reading process. With our recent discussions on audiobooks, I wonder how Barthes would react to this form of media as being consumed or if he would be open to the idea of an audiobook as something to be experienced.

 

To comprehend a work is to do more than merely interact with the words of that text but to be part of the “biological conceptions of the living being.” This largely paves the way for Barthes to make his argument of a text as a “network,” something to be lived and interpreted. However, it is also this reason that makes his statement “the Text is not to be thought of as an object that can be computed,” confusing. Networks are always computed, and he seems to be countering his own argument by saying the text is one but cannot be the other. What’s more is that if a text is a “process of demonstration,” than again why can it not be computed? Computation and demonstration go hand in hand with one another, and the work that Digital Humanists do with text mining and more, demonstrate more about a text than most comparative studies or close readings do, all through computation. There is a generational delay or two from when this article was written to the advent of Computational Linguistics and Digital Humanities, but by the 1970’s computers were already changing the way that so much work was being done, if Barthes, so profound, prophetic and wise, were really on top of his game, I don’t think he would ever make the statement that text not ever be computed.

 

I do appreciate Barthes’ distinction of “work” as a “general sign” and a “Text” as “the signified.” I say this because I like thinking of work and text as two different entities (even though as I argue below, they are a bit closer to one another than Barthes suggests), work is the sign that represents all that went into its production, and perhaps also its appeal to a reader, whereas text as signified works on a deeper level as something that is to be interacted amongst/with, or as Barthes puts it: “the Text is radically symbolic: a work conceived, perceived and received in its integrally symbolic nature is a text.” This element supports my first statement saying Barthes’ perspective could shift the way people perceive the act of reading and writing.

 

But my only question is if a “Text” is an “object,” what of a work? Is that also an object or is it always going to be a “general sign?” Can a work never achieve what a text does, and does a text automatically fulfill the requirements of a work? The “interdisciplinarity” of research leads me to think that the two work in tandem a bit more than Barthes would like for us to believe. Or at least perceive as we ponder over his writings. If we could attest literary texts as always being products of “linguistics, anthropology, Marxism and psychoanalysis” then I don’t see the harm in thinking of them as “works” at the same time.

Editing Bartleby

Patrick Grady O’Malley

Editing raw sound files in order to contribute to a cohesive project such as a complete audiobook was very fun and fulfilling. My role was largely taking everyone’s individual reading files and putting them together into one large, usable piece. This was a bit cumbersome as there were many different files, as well as some retakes that needed to replace other bits of audio already recorded. This entire process jogged my memory rather quickly on the ins and outs of using Audacity successfully. It has been a long time since I used that software, so there was a rather steep re-learning curve, but once I got used to what I was working with, the how to’s of usage came back rather quickly.

 

As I mentioned, I was more in charge of putting the files together to flow nicely, I had less creative decisions than say Kat who was more in charge of putting effects within the sound. However, I still had to come up with some executive decisions on my own. These included how long certain pauses were between paragraphs, how loud or quiet to adjust the volume and getting the fades right that we used to transition between readers.

 

We all agreed we wanted our audiobook to be as experiential as possible. In order to do this, we felt like we needed our book to come off a little quirky and unique, and I tried reflecting this spirit in the way I spliced and added audio files to one another. The readers did a great job in staying true to the essence of our project and also Melville’s story. My job was to see their (the readers) commitment to the well-being of the project was not lost and that the sound reflected the readers distinctive styles of storytelling.

 

I felt we challenged the notion of providing a “Reading” and a “reading” experience that Rubery distinctly defines [61]. Since we wanted our book to be experiential, it had the qualities of a public “Reading” in that we hoped the user felt like our readers were almost performing the text. However, it is still a private, “reading” experience. Hearingthe text brings Bartleby new life, and it was fun to consider the ways I could alter that as I manipulated the sound files to make our project consistent with itself. It is my belief that the digital voice we left behind is there exclusively for the reader to encounter Bartleby and his world.

 

“Voice characterization” was something to listen for while editing. This helped me choose when to start a certain passage or how quickly to make a conversation begin and end. Thankfully, the readers were very creative with how they presented themselves in the reading, so editing their files was very meaningful. The narrator of the story’s voice was always distinct, especially in comparison to the other characters, so it was especially enjoyable playing around with how he came off.

 

Overall, this was a great collaborative project. Everyone worked really hard and I think our finished product is something we can all be proud of.

 

More Than Zero Audio

For this assignment, I read/listened to Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. I don’t have much experience with audiobooks, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from trying it out, other than the obvious. However, I’ve found that I really enjoy “a-books” and that I am able to visualize the story much differently in my head when listening to the words as opposed to reading them with my eyes out of a book.

The production values are rather flawless in my audiobook. The voice actor (Christian Rummel) has many other books available on Audible and when I Googled him I learned he is a professional actor, namely a voice actor for video games like Call of Duty. As I listened, I kept thinking how if it were me narrating, I would surely breathe through my nose too hard or cough or anything of the sort without realizing, however this voice professional did not. So obviously, there was some scrupulous editing in the background because there is zero percent chance he was able to read through the entire novel so flawlessly.

The style was my favorite part. He very actively did “voice characterization,” bringing to life the very dry, lax subtlety of the story in a very dynamic way. His voice would change believably between characters of the same or different gender. Even though that while “occasionally readers are themselves celebrities (for example, James Mason or Jeremy Irons reading Lolita) whose name recognition promises to boost sales [66],” the voice actor in this case is very dedicated to working almost exclusively with the audiobook medium and takes his work very seriously. While it will probably never bring him fame, it is funny that I never thought of reading audiobooks as a profession worth pursuing, but I am really impressed with what I heard in this book in terms of the scope of this blog’s requirements.

The conversational nature of the book is not lost within this audiobook, to say the least. All the while, all the actor’s different voices would stay consistent with each character throughout the book, and apparently he has a very convincing and impressive registry of individual Californian voices/accents. The characters sounded like I’d imagine the author imagined them. Everyone is so lost in this story, so detached, and the voice actor really and truly personifies this.

I don’t have the text nearby, so I couldn’t compare if every word is the same, but from what I remember when I read this book, it is not abridged or changed from the original. The author writes in a very lucid, conversational way and I would imagine it would have been a good experience for the actor bringing the audio of this book to life.

As far as what I experienced, I didn’t realize I would be so gripped to listen. It really drew in my attention more than I thought it would. I first imagined I would be easily distracted but this was not the case at all. It was very easy to get caught up in imagining the playout of scenes of the novel in my head as I listened. Perhaps even more so than when I read without audio. Definitely food for thought about the medium as a whole. If I could enjoy literature even more than I already do by tweaking how I obtain the narrative, then sign me up.

DH & English Departments & Twitter

Patrick Grady O’Malley

Blog 1

What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?

MATTHEW KIRSCHENBAUM

When we look throughout humanities departments, it isn’t difficult to find a place for the Digital Humanities within most of the darkest corners of the many factions of study. Take art history for example, and how with imagery recognition, the entire field could be revolutionized. While the author takes a more meta approach than the title should suggest (largely talking about humanities departments in all as opposed to strictly English), I believe the article is stronger for this. As readers we gain insight into what has formed the Digital Humanities over the years and what they are to become. The author reserves only one of the final paragraphs for purposes of comparing Digital Humanities strictly to English departments.

While the author doesn’t necessarily stay strict to the English department as the sole home to Digital Humanities work, he does invoke ideas of textual representation that could be computationally monitored and explored in some way such as through social media, namely Twitter, but he also mentions “electronic discussion lists, blogs, Facebook walls” to give us the impression that the Digital Humanities, while new and still forming, are everywhere and have been for some time. Even his overarching/working definition comes from Wikipedia (and Google), the hubs of internet textual data. It is also interesting that Kirschenbaum briefly mentions some of the more notable Digital Humanities projects happening in labs across the nation, all that largely have to do with text.

To me, an interesting project would be taking the many academic journals that focus on the digital humanities, and text mine for words that can be said to define the field from different periods within said field’s history. What would the Chronicle of Higher Educationsay differently about the Digital Humanities now versus five, ten years from today? How different/necessary/helpful would Digital Humanities be to institutions at these various time frames and what could articles root in its study have to tell us about such an inquisition?

As mentioned, the author is largely devoted to social media outlets such as Twitter to pursue Digital Humanities research. But what of Instagram and the many hashtags used as well as captions and comments? What could we learn of image recognition through the use of such text? There are surely many interesting projects on social media that extend beyond Twitter. Obviously, his choice for focusing on Twitter is obvious, as this seems to be the industry standard of DH/SM choices, probably because it has a largely cosmopolitan/coastal following (at least more so than Facebook, which has likely become more generalized), it is rooted in text, and tweets are very, very short bits of data. But just as with Instagram, let’s suppose we were allowed access to Snapchat’s secretive, but surely available, data storage and able to mine through images and videos along with the many hilarious textual narratives compiled amongst the Snaps themselves? That would surely be a new way of harboring data from social media that must be possible in some way (unless Snapchat actually deletes what we create after it is seen, but who believes that!)

While the author is more dedicated throughout the text to explain the convoluted history of Digital Humanities, as least more so than to explore the nuances within social media, both past and future. However, this is just as much an element within as the Digital Humanities belonging largely to English departments, in that he explores many of the realms Digital Humanities fit and have been tried to be part of. I’d have been more interested if instead of English, we were talking Comparative Literature, and the usage of multiple languages had been discussed than Twitter mining, but maybe that’ll be in the sequel.