I have a big, squishy, ill-formed, hazy thought about a thing, so where better to start my first-ever session proposal for my first-ever THAT Camp?
For many of us working in early periods, the further back we go the more gaps there are in the record, be that literary, historical, cultural, scientific, or what-have-you. I’m fascinated by those gaps and what can be found by tracking them and their surroundings. I sat in recently on a presentation by some undergraduates who were trying to map the social networks around Inigo Jones and his Jacobean masques. One of their frustrations (amidst some great success) was that it was impossible to tell exactly the nature of some of the relationships they had found. To me, though, that gap in knowledge seems like an exciting point to start from as we are working out the shapes and uses of digital tools in representing knowledge.
We can hypothesize about the ur-Hamlet from references that surround it, though the text is lost. We strongly suspect there was a Love’s Labors Won because of cultural materials that gesture toward it. So what else is hiding in the gaps back there? And how can new methods of representing the relationships between texts (since I’m a text person), between events, between people expose both the gaps and the context that surrounds them?
I’m thinking about gaps most particularly in two mapping contexts:
- First, figuring out how early modern dramatic texts relate to each other—there’s so much allusion and reference happening between 1585 and 1630 and I really want a better way to think about how the plays reach out to each other and what might come into focus (both presence and absence) if we could visualize those relationships.
- Second, can we use the conventions of geo-spatial mapping to think about generic cataloging? My primary example is revenge tragedy, which seems especially self-aware of its tendencies toward specific features. How might we begin to map out what the genre looks like and what kinds of gaps might exist in that map? Could a more representational approach to genre help avoid the anachronism that often occludes an understanding of how the texts position themselves?