ASECS 2011

Posted by Jenny Batt on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 with No comments
I'm just back from this year's ASECS conference in Vancouver, where, alongside bumping into a racoon in Stanley Park, eating some excellent sushi, getting rather damp in the rain, and finding this cool little shop which celebrates all things textual, I spoke about what the Digital Miscellanies Index might reveal about the reception of poetry in the eighteenth century. I focused on one poem in particular, the Earl of Roscommon's imitation of the twenty-second ode of the first book of Horace, addressed 'To Orinda', a poem which appears more than 20 times in miscellanies in the first four decades of the eighteenth century. By looking at the miscellanies in which this poem was reprinted, I tried to answer the question: what made this poem so popular, and what, if anything, does that reveal about eighteenth-century poetic culture?

The highlight of the conference for me was the session on lyric poetry, which included fine papers given by two of the most illustrious scholars of eighteenth century poetry, David Fairer and John Sitter. Other interesting papers about poetry and publishing included Michael Edson on the reception of retirement verse in the later eighteenth century, Emma Salgard Cunha on the role of hymns in the Spectator, Christopher Donaldson on location and locality in sonnets, and Shirley Tung on the publication of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's '1736. Addressed to --'. There was a provocative panel on the new Clarissa abridgment edited by John Richetti and Toni Bowers, and, provocative in a different way, a panel on teaching eighteenth-century literature as a twenty-first century feminist scholar.

There were also a number of stimulating papers and roundtables that explored digital resources. Amongst the items discussed were two online journals: Digital Defoe, dedicated to 'Studies in Defoe and his Contemporaries' and Aphra Behn Online, an 'Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts 1640-1830', the first issue of which was launched this month. It was interesting to hear from Laura Mandell on the exciting link-up between 18thconnect and ECCO, which should lead to crowdsourced corrections to ECCO's OCR data and which will, in time, make that resource a much more reliable search tool. Another important crowdsourced project is Ben Pauley's Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker, and I'll be blogging about that website, which identifies freely available facsimile reproductions of eighteenth-century works and matches them with bibliographical data, when I've had a go at adding some miscellanies to it. At ASECS, Ben and Brian Geiger (from the ESTC) spoke about the recent grant they won from Google to work on improving the metadata for eighteenth-century books in Google Books, again, an important project which will make that resource ever more useful for scholars.