Help me find academic Elizabethan drama references.
June 2, 2010 3:44 PM   Subscribe

AcademiaFilter: Help me find some references for my first thesis chapter. JSTOR and similar resources aren't yielding a lot of hits. I need background material for justifying selecting editions of Elizabethan dramatic texts.

Long story short: I'm doing a stylometric comparison of two Early Modern English playwrights' texts. Does anyone know of any academic papers and/or books relating to the subject of choosing texts for this kind of analysis, considering factors such as not having any original manuscripts, the existing texts having been through the hands of editors and compositors, etc.?

I've been searching through all the usual academic databases, but so far I'm drawing a blank. If anyone can even point me in the right direction, I'd appreciate it. Thanks in advance.
posted by Mr. Bad Example to Education (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Whoa, you should be using the MLA International Bibliography (JSTOR is find, but it doesn't focus on literature, and, with a few exceptions, it doesn't have anything more current than a few years ago).

Even if you already are using MLA: make thee an appointment with your subject librarian post-haste. This is his/her job. They will love to have this conversation with you.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:08 PM on June 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm not familiar with anything that explicitly offers a defense of choosing certain editions over others, but you might want to take a look at how other stylometrists justify their choice of editions. You're probably familiar with Jonathan Hope's Authorship of Shakespeare's Plays and Brian Vickers's Shakespeare, Co-author, both strong models of stylometric scholarship.

Your worries-- about not having the original manuscripts, and about the mediation of editors and compositors-- make me wonder if your question doesn't point to some deeper problem with your methodology. What are you trying to use stylometry to prove? Does the validity of your results hinge on whether the language you're analyzing *fully represents* the intention of the author? If so, would it be worth redefining your central question to deal more with the "language of the age," rather than the language of an individual? Not sure if this gets at your question, but I hope it's a start.
posted by ms.codex at 4:12 PM on June 2, 2010

Your school has a professional librarian who is paid to do this. Send them an e-mail and schedule an appointment.
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:15 PM on June 2, 2010

What does your thesis adviser suggest?
posted by zxcv at 5:01 PM on June 2, 2010

For stylometric stuff specifically, I'd try digital humanities journals - Literary & Linguistic Computing and Computers and the Humanities, if your institution has access.

Thirding speaking to a subject librarian, too.
posted by Catseye at 5:24 PM on June 2, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the database and subject librarian suggestions. I'll definitely check both out, although I must admit the subject librarian thing didn't even occur to me--the university library is a good hour away from me, and every time I've been there, the staff hasn't seemed all that enthusiastic about helping me.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:56 PM on June 2, 2010

Mr. Bad Example, that is likely because your requests have been vague, leading them to believe that you are asking them to do your work for you.

Work with them. Show them that you know your stuff. They'll jump into action.

posted by Short Attention Sp at 6:00 PM on June 2, 2010

Best answer: I'm a subject librarian and I'll second the suggestion to talk to the one at your library. I can recommend general starting points, but this kind of things really requires a conversation about your goals and methodologies for it to work well, and your subject librarian will also know resources that are specific to your institution.

In general, if you're using JSTOR you want to go into the advanced search screen, limit to articles, and limit to the Language and Literature subject area. Then come up with terms that will be likely to show up in papers written on your topic but (hopefully) not used in other papers. You can string together "conceptual synonyms" by putting uppercase OR in between terms, so putting (theater OR drama) together would bring back articles using one, the other, or both terms. (One thing to know about JSTOR is that it very rarely contains anything more recent than 5 years old because of licensing restrictions.)

MLA International Bibliography will probably be more comprehensive, but you'll have to rely on titles and descriptors since there won't be any abstracts, so pay attention to those terms, collect the ones that seem to work well for you, and then build new searches using those descriptor terms.

The English Short Title Catalog is free online and will let you know all printed versions of any work printed in English-speaking countries between 1473 and 1800. You can then use that information to search WorldCat to see what libraries own the texts you have. If your library has the collection Early English Books Online, you may find copies of your texts there.

But really, talk to your own librarian. He or she will be able to give much more specific advice.
posted by lris at 6:44 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and since it wasn't clear in my last comment, the MLA International Bibliography is a GREAT place to be. Better than JSTOR. The Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature is another great place to search.
posted by lris at 7:24 PM on June 2, 2010

Yes, absolutely find out who the subject librarian is that you should be talking to—there's probably one who specializes in literature—and e-mail them to set up a time to chat. I've only used my own subject librarian a couple of times but was amazed at how enthusiastic and eager to help they were. We didn't turn anything up that I hadn't found on my own but I was a lot farther along than you are and had a much more specific query. In any case, it was worthwhile just to make sure that I didn't leave that avenue unexplored.
posted by synecdoche at 4:57 AM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks again for the subject librarian suggestions--I met with ours today, and he was tremendously helpful. He pointed out the MLA database that's been mentioned already, and a couple of others I hadn't heard of. All three already look like they're going to be much more useful than what I've been using.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:14 PM on June 11, 2010

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