An innovative, powerful, and exciting digital tool — The Essex LifeMap — is now available on the Earl of Essex website. The LifeMap has been developed in conjunction with Jeff Knudson of W&L’s Instructional Technology group; it combines the best features of both a GIS mapping tool and a digital timeline — linking data points in those two formats and permitting users to take a virtual tour through both space and time.
The Essex LifeMap traces Robert Devereux’s life — following the key events and whereabouts of the Earl. Although much of the action takes place at Court or in London, Essex also traveled extensively throughout England and Wales — and abroad to the Low Countries, France, Portugal, Spain and Ireland during his military career.
Each entry is accompanied by a short (and occasionally more detailed) text, an appropriate image, and often links to other webpages for additional information. Taken in sequence together, the LifeMap entries represent a concise but complete biography of Essex. The LifeMap permits you to “play” his lifetime automatically and “pause” as you read more, or to jump to any one moment by clicking either on a pin on the map or a point on the corresponding timeline. Additional user controls allow you to customize the site for an optimal viewing experience.
As you will see, this new timeline-map tool has unlimited potential for the digital humanities — as a powerful way to display temporal and geographical information in fields such as history, literary studies, cultural and art history, journalism, etc. W&L is hardly alone: other timeline-map software packages are being developed commercially and by educational institutions. However, the Essex LifeMap represents the current cutting-edge of this rich nexus of humanties and technology. My thanks to Jeff Knudson for his creativity, responsiveness, and patience.
On April 4, a small group of Essex scholars convened for the seminar “Reading Essex” at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in Vancouver, British Columbia. The five participants all had written papers that they had shared in advance of the conference; for the two hours of the seminar, the participants engaged in spirited conversation about many aspects of Essex’s life and legacy.
Professor Grace Ioppolo of the University of Reading wrote about Essex’s connections to the players and companies in the 1580s and 1590s. Professor Alzada Tipton of Elmhurst College examined Samuel Daniel’s play Philotas and its connections to the Essex story. Professor Chris Fitter of Rutgers-Camden wrote about the coded language and action of Shakespeare’s plays, arguing that Shakespeare viewed Essex as a dangerous threat to the state and the public. Professor Alan Stewart of Columbia University explored the little-known facts surrounding the 1599 publication of John Hayward’s History of Henry IIII, infamous for its dedication to Essex and the severe response it elicited from the government. Finally, Professor Hank Dobin offered analysis of two obscure 19th century American poems about Essex, Elizabeth and the Countess of Nottingham in order to exemplify the enduring power of the ring story and the tropes of human and divine forgiveness.
Congratulations to Hannah and Ben, two first-year students at Washington and Lee who have been named Summer Scholars for 2015 and will serve as research partners with Professor Hank Dobin for the months of June and July. Hannah and Ben both were standout students in Professor Dobin’s ENGL 252 Shakespeare course in fall 2014. The Summer Scholar award provides funding for W&L students to remain on campus to work alongside faculty members on their scholarly and research projects.
In addition to working with Professor Dobin to continue populating the Essex Timeline with entries, both Hannah and Ben will be encouraged to identify and pursue their own research topic pertaining to Essex. Last summer, Christian von Hassell, 2014 Summer Scholar, discovered a little know Irish novel, The Charming of Estercel by Grace Rhys; he ultimately wrote a 25-page independent paper on the novel, and will present his work at the April 2015 NCUR conference in Washington State.
Christian von Hassell’s essay Grace Rhys’ The Charming of Estercel as an Essex Novel is now available on this site. This essay offers a complex analysis of this little-known 1913 Irish novel and may well be the only scholarly essay on this text.
Please click on Essays in the menu above to find a pdf of the essay.
The Celluloid Shakespeare Timeline, a collaborative project of the ten students in ENGL 380 at Washington and Lee in Fall 2014, is now public. With a rich, interactive design, the Timeline traces films adapted from or inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. The bottom two bands of the timeline provide information about classic films (often with tie-ins to Shakespeare–for example Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and Othello) and key milestones in film history (the advent of the talkies, the Production Code, etc.). For each entry, the students have provided key information about the production of the film, a synopsis of the plot (when necessary), intertextual links with other films and texts, a history of reception, analysis, and accompanying images and video.
The ENGL 380 students did a wonderful job. Nevertheless, with approximately 50 film entries, the Timeline is far from complete; the work has really just begun. As Dobin teaches the course again over the coming years, each cohort of students will add more entries to continue filling in the rich history of Shakespeare on film.
Click here to visit the Celluloid Shakespeare Timeline.
Christian’s essay on Grace Rhys’ novel, The Charming of Estercel, has been accepted for presentation at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research to be held this March at Eastern Washington University. Christian wrote this 25-page paper as an independent study project with Professor Dobin during the fall 2014 term at W&L. In addition to presenting his ground-breaking work on this little-known novel, Christian will also discuss the larger project and demonstrate the Essex Timeline.
Christian’s full essay can be read by clicking on the Essays link in the menu above.
Hank Dobin presented and demonstrated Semper Varia, the Elizabeth timeline, at the Sixteenth Century Society Conference in New Orleans, October 16-19, 2014. As part of a larger cohort of digital humanists, and more specifically a panelist in a session on Digital Humanities Pedagogy, Dobin described the development of the timeline tool and the winter 2014 course, Representations of Elizabeth, in which the timeline was first deployed and tested. Even with an audience of digital humanists, the timeline–and the pedagogy of the course–intrigued and enthused listeners. Several gathered afterwards to ask questions and to copy the URL in order to play with the timeline themselves. Clearly, in the arena of digitizing time, the timeline we have developed at W&L remains a cutting-edge tool for both collecting and displaying information. Although other tools, such as Palladio now being developed at Stanford, hold great promise, nothing currently matches the functionality and quality of the Elizabeth and Essex timelines.
Hank Dobin has joked, that like a little kid with a hammer for which everything now requires hammering, he now thinks that everything he does requires a timeline.
Having proven itself so well in the winter 2014 course, Representations of Elizabeth, the digital timeline is now being put to use in a new course on Shakespeare on film, called Celluloid Shakespeare. In this seminar for advanced English majors, students are each presenting several oral reports — about additional Shakespeare-adapted or inspired films we will not have the chance to study together, about important classic films, and about milestones in film history. After each report, the student will complete a timeline entry. By the end of the term, we will have a useful and fun Timeline of Shakespeare on film with well over 50 entries complete with music, movie stills, video clips, links to scholarship, and more. It will be made available to the public and will continue to grow with additional postings as the course is offered again in the future. A link to the Celluloid Shakespeare Timeline will be made available at the end of the fall term.
Christian von Hassell presented the work that he and Hank Dobin have accomplished in the summer of 2015. After introducing the project and giving a brief biography of Essex, he demonstrated the Timeline and its features–explaining that maybe 3% of the total representations have been posted thus far.
Finally, he spoke about his own research discoveries: representations of Essex in Irish literature. Most importantly, he found a new text, The Charming of Estercel, written by Grace Rhys and published in 1913. His research radiated from that find and led to his keen insights about the rather gentle treatment of Essex in Irish literature, especially in the period of rising Irish nationalism in the later 19th and early 20th centuries.
Today we launch the public face of the research project A Thousand Times Worse Than Death: A Thanatography of Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex.
This site, and this project, are meant for scholars, students, and members of the public who are interested in the culture of Elizabethan England — written, performed, and visual — as well as the history of the period. However, the Timeline spans more than 400 years of representations of the Earl of Essex and Queen Elizabeth — and so will be of interest to anyone who studies theories of representation as well as the histories of literature, drama, film, and other genres. Finally, of course, it is dedicated to all of us intrigued by the two historical figures at the center of this fascinating story and its multiple re-tellings — Essex and Elizabeth.
Please return regularly to see our latest blog posts, research, and progress reports on the Timeline.