Hank Dobin participated in the Shakespeare Association of America’s annual conference in March 2016, presenting the Essex Timeline as part of the Digital Salon. Approximately 16 digital projects were demonstrated at the Salon, as hundreds of conference participants wandered the room. Interest in both the content and the design/capabilities of the Timeline was considerable.
Cecelia Weingart ’19 will work with Professor Hank Dobin this coming summer on the Essex Timeline. With Professor Dobin, Cecelia was awarded a summer research fellowship by the W&L Digital Humanities Working Group and funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.
On December 5, 2015, Hannah and Ben presented their research at the Tenth Undergraduate Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. At the Digital Humanities Conference at Davidson in November, the focus was on the timeline itself. At Moravian, Hannah and Ben had almost an hour to present their own research — Hannah’s on the three operas that feature Essex (Mercadante’s Il Conte d’Essex, Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, and Britten’s Gloriana) and Ben’s on the connection of Shakespeare’s Richard II to Essex and the February 8, 1601, uprising. Unlike many of the student presenters at the conferences who simply read their papers, Hannah and Ben stood and spoke spontaneously and articulately about their topics, using only prompts from their Power Point slides and the Timeline itself.
The rest of the day proved very worthwhile, as we attended diverse sessions on “Differing Desires,” “Others and Outcasts,” “Rethinking Shakespeare,” and “Mothers and Motherlessness.” We also enjoyed a lively keynote talk on Beowulf by Professor Michael Drout from Wheaton College.
“A Thousand Times Worse than Death” was one of six featured digital humanities projects at the first Undergraduate Network for Research in the Humanities conference held at Davidson College, November 6-8, 2015. UNRH brings together students from around the country (and Canada) who are developing digital humanities projects, either on their own or in conjunction with a faculty member’s research program. More than 30 students participated; a lightning round of presentations permitted the students to learn about each others’ projects and make fruitful connections with each other. On Saturday morning, six projects were presented to the entire group. Hannah and Ben did a fantastic job of presenting the scope and depth of the Essex timeline and of fielding questions.
For more information about the conference and the projects, see http://unrh.org/. A Youtube video of the presentations will be available soon.
Although still only 20% complete at best, the Essex Timeline is now open to everyone. The Timeline is the centerpiece of the larger ongoing research project called “A Thousand Times Worse Than Death: A Thanatography of the Earl of Essex.” Please be sure to read the introduction and instructions when you first access the Timeline. We invite feedback of any sort on the Timeline–its design or the content of individual entries.
Hannah and Ben presented the timeline and their own scholarship at the 17th Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference for Undergraduate Scholarship (MARCUS) held at Randolph College, in Lynchburgh, Virginia, on October 10, 2015. Although a necessarily quick summary of the digital timeline, the lifemap, and their own particular contributions to the Essex scholarship, Hannah and Ben’s presentation was enthusiastically received by the audience of other Virginia college students.
The University of South Wales hosted a conference titled “Representing the Tudors” in mid-July, 2015. Hank Dobin delivered a talk on “The Lore of the Ring”–offering both a survey and analysis of the apocryphal tale of the Essex ring.
The basic story is this: in happier times, Elizabeth gives Essex a ring, pledging to forgive him–no matter how grievous his offense–if he sends to her for pardon. In the Tower awaiting execution, the desperate Essex attempts to send the ring to the Queen, but it falls into the hands of the Countess of Nottingham, his enemy, and the ring is never delivered. Two years after Essex is executed, the dying Countess confesses to the Queen, who famously exclaims “God may forgive you, but I never will!” The Countess expires on the spot, and Elizabeth–out of rage, grief and regret–spirals into her final decline and death only a month later.
Over 400 years, this ahistorical story has been told and retold in plays, fiction, operas, images, and film. Dobin’s talk traced the doubtful provenance of the tale, its proliferation on the continent and in England, and its many variants in an effort to understand the fascination and function of re-imagining history in this way.
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.