Digitising the Humanities: Poetry By Heart, the "digital anthology" - dr Julie Blake - 11 February

This event is a part of the GhentCDH Digital Humanities Research Lab's Digitising the Humanities lecture & workshop series. Participation is free, registration is mandatory via this link. Library Lab (11/02/2020 14:00-17:00)

The meaning and making of the “digital anthology”

The poetry anthology in modern European vernacular languages dates back to the beginning of print. In English, the first was Tottel’s Miscellany in 1557, in the preface to which its printer, Richard Tottel, exhorted his “unlearned” readers to “purge their swinelike grossness” by reading and emulating the courtly poetry it contained. It was only a matter of time before the genre was appropriated for all kinds of schooling in English, and it continues to be the prime vehicle by which children in England are introduced to poetry.

So far, so good, but as we shift from the age of print to the digital age, what will happen to the poetry anthology? This is a question my colleague Dr Tim Shortis and I have considered extensively since 2012 as we have innovated online collections of poems for the Poetry By Heart national poetry recitation competition for schools in England. When the web seems to offer the possibility that we can have “everything” all of the time, customised to our individual tastes and preferences, is there any role for the anthologist’s expert curation, authoritative sequencing and clustering, and page-technology visual design? In school contexts, do we still need the anthology’s pedagogical conventions – footnotes, questions, poet biographies, line numbers, vocabulary glosses – when we all have Wikipedia at the click of a mouse? In this talk I will share what we have learned about “the digital anthology” by building and developing www.poetrybyheart.org.uk over the last 7 years. 

Dr Julie Blake

Dr Julie Blake currently combines roles as a Digital Humanities Methods Fellow at Cambridge University and as co-director of Poetry By Heart, the national poetry recitation competition for schools in England. She is interested in how and why literature (in particular, poetry) gets configured as it does in the school and how this impacts on popular taste and public understanding. Her doctoral thesis What did the national curriculum do for poetry? Pattern, prescription and contestation in the poetry selected for GCSE English literature 1988-2018 paid empirical attention to the recent history of English literature as a curriculum entity, using a singular combination of digital, quantitative, bibliographical and literary methods. She is currently thinking about how to create a double-faced digital anthology of children’s poetry, capable of surprising and delighting primary school children and informing and enriching adult understanding of the history of children’s poetry.

This talk is generously supported by the UGent I@H intiative.