“There's magic in the web of it”
Shelton, Barry Hughes
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This dissertation applies data analytic methods to the study of Early Modern language, history, and cultural memory. Though each of the chapters approaches a drastically different question, ultimately my methodology remains consistent: using computers to trace the lives and afterlives of Early Modern texts. In “An Ingenious Opposer”: Margaret Cavendish and the Drama of Debate, I use keyword analysis and other statistical measures to locate the pervasively unusual grammatical patterns that set Margaret Cavendish’s dramatic style so far apart from that of her contemporaries and predecessors. In “The Proverb is Something Musty”: Shakespeare™ and the Memetics of Phraseology, I examine the complex variation of Shakespearean proverbs and sayings in the Reddit corpus as a way of thinking about flexibility in the supposedly “fixed” idiomatic level of language. I find that proverbs, far from being static units of traditional wisdom, can show us how contemporary speakers continue to play with Shakespeare’s language for rhetorical and humorous purposes, whether or not they are aware of doing so. In Codices, Indices: The London Booktrade 1473-1641 as Social Network, I use heavily processed bibliographic metadata from the English Short-title Catalogue to reconstruct and investigate the socio-economic networks of the London booktrade during the period. These networks offer us an innovative way to visualize the development of an information economy from the mercantilism of the late Middle Ages through the growth of capitalism in the 17th Century. Using the database I built, I trace patterns of familial inheritance, both of intellectual as well as physical property, and graph the dynamic relationships surrounding the material conditions of literary production in Early Modern London.