Thursday, 13 April 2017

Foxcroft Lecure on Private Case Collections

My 2016 Foxcroft lecture on private case collections has finally appeared on YouTube (here). I mentioned the lecture in passing here, but more details about the event at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne are now online here.

The year-long delay in appearance was caused by my heavy use of slides, which the in-house video editors at the State Library struggled with a little. After much discussion back-and-forward I asked them to post it online as it is, though there are still a few mis-matches, rather than delay posting it any longer.

Although it is always a little weird to see yourself on video, it is nice that it the lecture is finally available. In the second half of this year I will write up the presentation formal as a formal essay, which will be published by the Ancora Press at Monash University in association with the State Library. Until then, comments, corrections, hints etc. are all welcome!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Eliza Haywood in the Early Novels Database (END)

The Early Novels Database (END) is hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Rare Book and Manuscript Library (PU), and under development by staff and students at the library, Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania. The project has a stated aim of restoring metadata lost in digitisation projects. If this were actually the case then the six-year old project would have to be considered a failure, even in its "Under Construction" form. It is clear, however, that the actual aim of END is to involve undergraduate students in the collection of detailed paratextual information, annotation, marginalia etc. from the "extensive collection of fiction in English published between 1660 and 1830" available at PU. (A 2011 overview of the project is here.)

I am not sure how I have managed to not hear about the project, given that I am interested in annotation, marginalia etc., particularly that in works by Haywood. But once I did hear about it I realised that it was very likely that END included information about works by Haywood, since PU has a large number of books by Haywood. (With 45 items, it has the fifth largest Haywood collection in the States: larger than that at Yale, Princeton, the Clark.) Unfortunately, it is presently impossible to search END for works by Haywood. On the splash page, a visitor is given the choice of sorting results by title or year (not author), or to "narrow results" by browsing "Narrative form," "Author claim type," "Author gender claim" (by which they seem to mean "Author sex claim"), "Person" etc. Since there was no way to narrow results by author, I did what I have had to do so many times, I simply searched through every single title to identify those by Haywood. It is a tedious way of searching, and would have been largely unnecessary if the metadata in the PU library catalogue had been carried over, but it is effective. Below is the list of titles, arranged chronologically.

The busy-body (1742) *
Memoirs of an unfortunate young nobleman (1743) *
Secret histories, novels, and poems (1745)
The fortunate foundlings (Dublin, 1745)
The adventures of Natura (1748)
Dalinda: or, the double mariage [sic] (1749) *
The busy body (Dublin 1770)
The distressed orphan (1770) *
The female spectator (1771) *
The invisibe [sic] spy (1773) †
The female spectator (1775)
Epistles for ladies (1776) †
The Sopha (1781) †
The history of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1783)

There appear to be many cases where there are multiple entries for the one work, and there are three records that are empty—links that lead to a blank page (marked † above). Also, only five of the fourteen entries record marginalia or inscriptions (marked * above) of any kind, and most of these provide few useful details. In almost all cases Haywood listed as a “Person” in the primary record, but no linking is provided to her as a Person. The only case where you can navigate from one Haywood work to another is Secret histories, novels, and poems (1745) which links to The female spectator (1771).

Since I examined all of these books late in July 1997, I am not relying on END for my knowledge of the PU colection. But there are a lot of smaller libraries that I did not visit and it would be helpful if projects like this were more common. Involving undergraduates in cataloguing weird and interesting copy-specific information is a great idea. It is a shame that the basic database structure is not better adapted to searching by author since the vast majority of interest in marginalia is focussed on the annotator (as author) or on the annotations (as a response to an author): i.e., it is ultimately a biographical interest.

The only blog entry (on the END blog) concerning marginalia is this one from 2013. In her reflections on Marginalia, Christina Aruffo explains why "marginalia cataloguing can be sporadic"—even in a project such as this—because cataloguing it can be time consuming, cataloguers have their own "accepted and internalized definition of what marginalia actually is"—meaning doodles and library markings ("library marginalia") get less attention than text, as does anything else that cannot be easily related to the text as text.

For student projects based on END data and texts, see here; for papers, see this (including one by Andrew Piper and Ehsan Arabnejad which "draws on a taxonomy of eighteenth-century novels’ footnotes to advance a simple but consequential argument: despite the claims of almost all scholarship on the subject, footnotes in novels were common and referential rather than exceptional and self-referential, meta-fictional, or “postmodern” avant la letter." Nice.)

A simple measure of media focus or bias?

A linguist made an observation to me last year concerning media focus, which has been at the back of my mind of late. Responding to a student project on media focus and bias, they wondered whether another way of measuring media bias might be to count how often different media outlets use the phrase "far right" versus "far left"—since these are, at least in part, terms of abuse: ways of labeling political views or actions as extreme.

The linguist reasoned that, if there is a fairly-even distribution of votes for centre-left and centre-right parties, there are probably as many far-left as far-right voters too. And if the left is just as active as the right, you would expect an unbiased media to label as many ideas or actions as far or extreme left as right.

It did occur to me at the time that, if "far left" activists spend their weekends knitting, while "far right" activists are burning down refugee centres, the media would have good reasons to refer to "far right" more than "far left". Or, reporters might fill newpapers with glowing reports about "far right" fascists and attacks on "far laft" Marxists, so the number of references might be equal but a bias still be present.

Still, as I said, the question got me thinking. There did seem to be a lot more discussion of the "far right" than "far left" in the media. So, when an acquaintance decried the right-wing drift of the ABC, I started thinking about this "test" again. And every time since, when I have read an accusation of left-wing bias at the ABC, I have thought that I should have a go at this test and see what the results are.

Since I'd really rather think about something else, and it was obvious that the only way I could stop thinking about this was to take to Google to do a series of site-searches, I decided to do this, post the results here, and return to my Haywood research. I looked at all the major local newspapers and a few famous US papers for comparison. I have sorted them according to how many more times the site refers to "far right" than "far left" (the multiple).

As you can see, on this measure: The Daily Mail is, improbably, the least biased of all media outlets in its labeling of political ideas or actions as "far" (50:50 split in references to "far left" and "far right" on its site [multiple equals one]). Brietbart—the only site to refer to "far left" more than "far right"—is about as focussed on left-wing extremism as The Australian is on the right-wing extremism (!?!; with three times as many references to either "far left" or "far right" [the multiples being one-third and three]).

The Age is obsessively-focussed on right-wing extremism (with six times as many references to "far right" as "far left" [multiple of six]), while the SBS is almost twice as obsessed as the obsessively-focussed Age (making them "madly-" or "insanely-focussed"? [multiple of eleven]). The ABC is so far beyond "insanely-focussed" on the right, by this measure, that superlatives fail me: a multiple of seventeen! I.e., seventeen times as many references to "far right" as "far left"—94 percent of all reference to "far-[anything]" being "far right." The numbers are amazing too: the ABC has a few more references to "far left" than The Australian, but more than six times as many references to the "far right"!

Obviously, there are lots of problems with this as a measure of focus, and even more with translating focus to bias in labeling people, ideas, actions etc. as extreme: it may be that all forty-thousand ABC references to the "far right" are objectively-speaking, unbiased and even-handed, with no suggestion that the "far right" are extreme in any way. It may be that, every other news outlet is massively under-reporting "far right" activity. And, as I said, it is unclear whether this is actually right-wing bias: with innumerable glowing reports about fascists mixed with a small number of attacks on Marxists (or even an uneven number of references to people sitting in the "far left" of pubs, clubs and stadiums).

However, if Brietbart is itself usually described as a "far right" media outlet—because of its obsession with, and attacks on, what it calls the "far left"—that does suggest that The Australian is "far left," since its references to extreme left and right activity are the statistical mirror-image of Brietbart. And this suggests that the ABC would have to be described as far-far-far-far-far left (i.e., more than five times as far "far left" as Brietbart is "far right"?). It seems unlikely that the ABC is five times as biased as Brietbart, but the fact that the ABC has almost three times as many references to "far right" as Brietbart has references to "far left" does suggests—at the least—something about the usage of these terms.

A general Google search does bring up twice as many references to "far right" as "far left" so, perhaps, the Daily Telegraph is closer to the centre than the Daily Mail, SBS is only as biased as Brietbart (the former have six times more references to the "far right" than the internet average, the later roughly one sixth), and the ABC is only eight or nine times as focussed on the "far right" as the rest of the world combined (as represented on the internet), or only 1.5 times as far to the left of the internet-average as Brietbart is to the right. Perhaps.

Anyway, as should be clear, linguistics and media/communications are not really my forte. I couldn't work out how to get Excel to establish a multiple based on the internet average of 2:1 for far right:left. And I haven't done enough maths to confidently discuss any of the above in relation to standard deviation, which I suspect I should. But I have pretty-much satisfied my own curiosity, so I am quite happy to let the subject go.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Informal Haywood criticism, blogs etc

[I have moved this on section of my Eliza Haywood Links here, since my 2009 post was becoming unweildy. I hadn't updated it for years (since 2012?), and I don't plan on updating it again any time soon. Now that so much formal criticism is readily available online, there is less need for it. And since this type of ephemeral and informal discussion is very prone to dissapearing from online, it is a constant battle maintain the links—time better spent keeping up with the primary and secondary texts.]

For a defunct blog titled A Blog to be Let, see here.

November 2005: Janet posted her thoughts on Eliza Haywood "Fantomina"

February 2007: The Literate Kitten posted her thoughts on Love in Excess by Eliza Haywood

November 2007: P. Brigitte posted her thoughts on The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless

July 2009: Stephen J. Gertz posted his thoughts on The Secret History of … the Court of Caramania in a post titled Sex! Scandal! Political Intrigue! (What Else Is New?)

December 2009: The students of St. Christopher’s and St. Catherine’s posted their thoughts on Fantomina in a series of posts here

January 2010: J. Y. posted her/his thoughts on The Great Debate in Love in Excess

February 2010: Kate Wallis posted her thoughts on Love “Barter’d” in The City Jilt

February 2010: Stephanie Jarnold posted her thoughts on Fire and Seduction in Eliza Haywood’s “The City Jilt”

March 2010: Kristen Eggen posted her thoughts on The City Jilt – Fall from Hopes

June 2010: Meminsanebrane posted her/his thoughts on Fantomina is a creeper

October 2010: Liz posted her thoughts on Haywood's appearance in Clara Reeve's The Progress of Romance in Sisters under the dust-jacket.

December 2010: Jill Domschot posted her thoughts on Eliza Haywood: from The Female Spectator, Vol. 1, No. 1

January 2011: Students at the University of Illinois doing Engl 206/CWL 257: Enlightenment Literature and Culture posted their thoughts on Fantomina in a series of posts, mostly here and here.

May 2011: Kat Aubrey posted her thoughts on Eliza Haywood, Remarkable 18th Century Author

August 2011: Students at The University of Illinois doing Engl 429: The Eighteenth Century Novel posted their thoughts on Fantomina in a series of posts, mostly here and here.

February–April 2012: Students at The University of Colorado at Boulder doing ENGL 1260-002: Intro to Women's Lit: Adventures in Form posted their thoughts on Fantomina in a series of posts, mostly here and here.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

First Exhibition to Focus on Eliza Haywood

In 2004, in the literature-survey section of my Bibliography of Eliza Haywood, I explained that

no public or private library has approached completeness in gathering together the works of Haywood. Indeed, it appears as if no library has ever made the attempt. The best Haywood collections are those held by the largest academic and public libraries, which have such collections by virtue of the fact that they have a lot of books. Consequently, no auction or library catalogue has offered a useful substitute for a Haywood bibliography or offered substantial assistance in compiling this bibliography. Also, there have been no substantial exhibitions of Haywood’s works and no substantial collections offered by booksellers and hence no accompanying catalogues to draw upon.

I am very pleased to say that this situation has changed. In a footnote to this passage I acknowledged that "Sandy Lerner has collected nineteen Haywood items since 1990 as a part of a larger project at Chawton House to promote research into the writings of English women before 1830." Though their collection is small (it just scrapes into the top thirty collections, in a tie with New York Public Library at no.29/30), the context is important. Chawton House is a collection with a purpose. Chawton House has made an attempt to collect Haywood and other women writers like her. And Chawton House does not have a collection of her books only "by virtue of the fact that they have a lot of books." It is appropriate then, that Chawton House will be the location of the first Haywood exhibition (details here), and it is a huge achievement that the collection has so quickly reached the point where they are able to host an exhibition of Haywood's works at all.

Though not credited online, the exhibition ("Naming, Shaming, Reclaiming: The ‘Incomparable’ Eliza Haywood") has been curated by Dr Kim Simpson, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Chawton House Library. If you read her bio (here), you will see that Kim is interested in the contribution made to the development of fiction by anonymous and unattributed texts—texts which are rarely taught, edited or discussed by an author-obsessed academy. Given my own focus on Haywood, I must plead guilty to contributing to this unhealthy, anachronistic obsesson with authors—and I must admit to regularly having to do battle the urge to suggest any new, plausible attributions—but in my defence I would point out that I kept these unhealth urges in check and dismissed more attributions (45) than I added (2). And one that I dismissed (Ca.36 The Prude) is Kim's "particular favourite for its libertine villainess, Elisinda."

The exhibition is open for more than two months. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it, so I hope that lots of people post pictures and descriptions online and that a catalogue of some sort is printed—since that too would be a first!