For my part, I am interested in designing a digital humanities project that I can fully realize in the course of my time in graduate school, but that can be scaled up later if desired. My starting point will be the collection of Stephen Black-related manuscripts held by the National Library of South Africa , which, from what I understand, is a significant but by no means unmanageable assemblage.
The challenge, however, is how best to present the texts of plays for which no definitive script exists, since Black was constantly revising and recalibrating his work. Again: Shakespeare is hardly understudied, but when it comes to marginalized or semi-forgotten playwrights like Stephen Black or Gibson Kente, I feel an ethical responsibility to see my project through to a certain level of completion, not to leave it half-constructed in cyberspace because I had insufficient funding or a hankering to move on.
Donaldson has since moved to even more innovative work co-directing the M. Global Shakespeares project, which collects videos and scripts from Shakespeare productions and adaptations around the world, with a particular focus on Asia. It all underscores the importance of strongly committing to a project from the outset and setting realistic goals that can a team can actually follow through with.
Another issue is that the Stephen Black texts I plan to work with are manuscripts and not printed editions like the Shakespeare folios and quartos. Problematizing the standard notion that the only moment that matters in the life is the moment at which the final draft of a manuscript is handed over to a publisher, Bryant dives deeply into the versions and revisions of Typee in an attempt to reconstruct the process of revision at the most granular possible level.
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Though the full fluid text edition is not available for free, a preview explains the system used for transcribing and presenting the text s. This undeniably exhaustive project incorporates the following components, according to the project website:.
I truly doubt such an exhaustive set of tools would need to be applied to the Black corpus, but, even so, it would be interesting to take a deep dive into the revision process. How might Black have changed his productions based on venue or location? How did shows change over time we know that in many cases shows of his received thorough rewrites, since they were fundamentally concerned with current events and had to stay fresh.
Textual fluidity as a premise could also serve an advantageous pedagogical purpose. The next step for me is clear: to get to South Africa this summer and find this archive, as well as any collections of material related to Gibson Kente that still exist as Kente only died in , I am sure there is material left in various places by people who worked with him, even if most of his own papers were destroyed in a fire. As of , however, the Gibson Kente Foundation does not appear to have any kind of web presence, nor is there any sign that these goals have been seriously pursued.
Building relationships within the South African theatre community is going to be crucial to my further progress.
Last but not least, it is important to note that there are two digital projects related to South African theatre that I will be watching with great interest. It has a long history, having been originally conceived as a print publication in the mids. As the years went on and the project gathered steam, the amount of material collected became so unwieldy that publishers became reluctant to publish something so gargantuan. So the encyclopedia moved online, into a wiki-style format though this is somewhat deceptive; members of the public are allowed to contribute material, but are not allowed to make edits on their own.
I would be very interested in getting involved with the encyclopedia if there are any opportunities to do so. Another initiative, about which I know even less but am perhaps even more excited, is the Segopotso Project , announced via press release less than two months ago. The Segopotso Project aims to develop an electronic archive of South African theatre from to The archive will consist of synopsises of political and community plays; the history of venues where theatre has taken place over the past four decades; and profiles of people who have made theatre happen across the provinces.
The archive will include photographs; interviews; and audio and audio-visual recordings. There will be several volumes of play-scripts published over the years, looking at mainly but not exclusively at plays that have never been published. These publications will be presented free of charge to universities, colleges, and NGOs dealing with theatre studies, as well as libraries and archives, free of charge.
So far, all that exists of the Segopotso Project in the public domain appears to be this press release and an inactive Facebook page. Since the Grahamstown Festival captured my heart last summer I finally made significant progress, I think, towards figuring a way in to the history of South African humor and performance. Before any technical considerations, however, I will need to build relationships with people, and this is what I need to set my mind to as the Fall semester becomes Spring South Africans are obsessed with soap operas. When I was in South Africa this past summer, the Zulu-speaking family I lived with followed an ironclad schedule in evening: do whatever you want as the sun goes down, but when rolls around, the T.
At , we would watch the news in either Xhosa or Zulu it alternates by day as we ate dinner; then, at , we would switch to e.
At we would be back on S. But what does all this have to do with the digital humanities, and my own prospective project on Stephen Black? Criticized by some of his contemporaries for his apparent ambivalence towards the anti-apartheid struggle, Kente was nevertheless deeply interested in the everyday realities of life for black South Africans.
As the sociologist Herbert W.
Another unfortunate similarity to Stephen Black is his elusive documentary remains. In almost all of his papers were destroyed in a house fire. More often than not…Kente would build the storyline around a song or melody, with any writing down of dialogue and script coming later in the process. Thinking back to my reflections on the M.
Global Shakespeares Project, the point is underscored again and again that theatre is so much more than just a script, and digital spaces afford us the opportunity to preserve and present theatre and its memories in tremendously exciting ways.
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Any digital space dedicated to them must emphasize fluidity and malleability, must be aware of the limits of our understanding. Such spaces should aim at facilitating creativity on the part of the user, because the benefit of preserving the embers of that creativity is, ultimately, the reason why we should care about Black and Kente to begin with. What is the use of laughter in the face of injustice? By the same token, what is the use of spending two and a half hours almost every night following the travails of fictional characters?
My suspicion is that the ability to imagine the world in a different way is fundamental to our experience as human beings. In a country like South Africa, where the future has often seemed so uncertain, this seems doubly true. A Stephen Black digital archive would not speak for itself; it would need curation and presentation. Over the course of this semester, our digital humanities class has been centrally concerned with the postmodern and the ways in which the internet and digital scholarship reflect a shift in paradigm away from the ideas and infrastructures that shaped it in the twentieth century.
In fact, at a time when job prospects for new humanities Ph. Digital humanists are frequently criticized for contributing to this unfortunate state of affairs, and I sympathize with that critique to the extent that digital humanities projects tend to be more expensive and outcome-oriented than other humanistic projects. They also produce things readily suited to the contemporary needs of universities—one can easily show off glossy D. Mainstream perceptions of D. If digital humanities as a field rose to prominence in a neoliberal, post-Fordist era, it is, I think, to be expected that it reflect that era in its values—disruption, flexibility, interdisciplinarity, and a fundamental optimism about the promise of technology, even if paired with elements of critique.
Not unlike digital humanities projects, then, book projects that fall outside the stylistic norms of a given subfield are consigned to the periphery. If the academy is seen as irrelevant to those outside it, we should seek to engage with a wider audience. However, if we try to do just that, by challenging the boundaries of genre, medium or discipline, we forfeit their chance at a slice of the shrinking academic pie.
In a recent article, William G. Thomas III argues that as far as the digital humanities are concerned, the problem is infrastructural. Scholars in the disciplines perceive an inherent contradiction between that form of scholarship and criticism, review, and evaluation. Genres seem like a fairly prosaic solution to such a radical problem. I was struck, however, by the beautiful artwork of Kevin Pyle, juxtaposed with explanatory text and quotations from important Letterists such as Guy DeBord and Raoul Vaneigem. This is not just because its materiality and method of production are different, but also its objectives are also quite distinct.
My basic thought here is that if we are to take digital humanities boosters seriously that the digital realm has the potential to radically transform the academy, we should seriously consider how that might look at every level, right down to the deep epistemological assumptions at the core of our enterprise. Are we serving the ends of an academy, a historically specific infrastructure, or the proliferation of knowledge itself?
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I ask these questions not to be wantonly provocative, but, once again, to stress that thinking the rhetoric of digital humanities through to its logical implications demands a radical transformation of the world as scholars know it, and, indeed, we may not be ready to stare into that abyss. Such a transformation would necessarily produce winners and losers, new costs and new benefits.
I have submitted a set of questions regarding more specific aspects of the M. Shakespeare archives to the Global Shakespeares co-founders, and I look forward to incorporating their answers into this post at a later time.
Project MUSE - The Drama of South Africa: Plays, Pageants and Publics Since (review)
In the meanwhile, here are some of my reflections on their pathbreaking work and its possible relevance to my own endeavour]. The first thing that attracted me to the M. In both cases I remember the look of our scripts: spare, no-nonsense Times New Roman printouts from the internet, with an shakespeare.
Peter Donaldson, who currently serves as M. For some plays, multiple scans and H.
Related The Drama of South Africa: Plays, Pageants and Publics Since 1910
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