Shakespeare Studies Job Opening

Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies

The Northern Arizona University Department of English seeks applicants for the position of Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies. Duties include teaching four courses per semester including surveys, Shakespeare, and other literature courses such as poetry or drama. Additional professional development, research, and service expectations will be determined in consultation with the Chair of English. The successful applicant is expected to teach on-campus and also develop courses for web delivery. This is a non-tenure track, benefit-eligible lecturer position in the English Department, located on the Flagstaff, AZ campus. Review of applications will begin on April 7, 2020.
Minimum Qualifications

Ph.D. in Literature or related field by August 17, 2020
Experience as instructor of record teaching literature at the college level
Graduate coursework in Shakespeare studies

Preferred Qualifications

Teaching excellence in Shakespeare studies
Expertise in a secondary field such as poetry or drama
Online course development and teaching experience
A record of scholarship and publication in Shakespeare studies
Demonstrated commitment to working with diverse populations

Northern Arizona University has a student population of 31,073, including approximately 23,000 on its main campus in Flagstaff and the remainder at more than 20 locations statewide and online. While our emphasis is undergraduate education, we offer a wide range of graduate programs and research. Our institution has carefully integrated on-campus education with distance learning, forming seamless avenues for students to earn degrees. Flagstaff has a population of about 70,000, rich in cultural diversity. Located at the base of the majestic San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff is 140 miles north of Phoenix at intersection of Interstate 17 and Interstate 40. The university is committed to a diverse and civil working and learning environment.

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Three-year position in early modern art at DePauw University

The Department of Art and Art History at DePauw University invites applications for a three-year non-tenure-track position in early modern art (1400–1750) with a transnational focus, beginning August 2020. The successful candidate may have expertise in colonial and/or diasporic histories and/or Islamic, African, or Latin American art. Applicants with a PhD (or ABD) in Art History, African Diaspora Studies, Latin American Studies, Religious Studies or other related areas with an emphasis on art history or visual culture are encouraged to apply. The successful candidate will join the department, in partnership with our accredited gallery program, in our ongoing commitment to shifting the discourse of art history to be responsive to a diverse student body and global society.

Teaching responsibilities include introductory and upper-level courses in the candidate’s area of expertise. A commitment to teaching undergraduates in a liberal arts setting and evidence of effective and inclusive pedagogy are essential. The position includes a six-course teaching assignment (3/3), employment benefits, faculty development funding, presentation opportunities, and mentoring.

DePauw University is a leading, nationally recognized, liberal arts college dedicated to educating 2,100 highly talented, motivated, and diverse students from across the country and around the globe. Connected to the liberal arts college is one of the nation’s first Schools of Music. For more than 175 years, DePauw has created an atmosphere of intellectual challenge and social engagement that prepares students for lifelong success. Located in Greencastle, Indiana, about a 45-minute drive west of Indianapolis, DePauw is a member of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, a consortium affording excellent opportunities for faculty development and collaboration.
Application Instructions

Candidates should submit the following materials through Interfolio []: a cover letter summarizing qualifications, teaching philosophy, and research interests; a curriculum vitae; and three confidential letters of reference. Additional supporting documents may be requested after an initial application review (e.g., a writing sample and evidence of effective teaching, such as sample syllabi or course evaluations). Review of applications will begin March 30, 2020 and will continue until the position is filled. Applicants may direct questions to the Search Committee Chair, Meredith Brickell, Associate Professor of Art and Art History,

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Job Posting


School of Art & Design – College of Creative Arts

Position Announcement


The School of Art & Design in the College of Creative Arts at West Virginia University invites applications for the position of Teaching Assistant Professor of Art History, with a specialization in pre-1300. The position is a full time, nine-month, non-tenure track appointment commencing August 14, 2020. Opportunities for promotion are available. Appointment is 80% teaching, 10% research, 10% service.

Teach a 4/4 load of courses including: Art History Survey 1 course (pre-1300) for Art and Art History majors; period topic courses for undergraduate and graduate students; and art history seminars in areas of expertise/interest.
Mentor undergraduate and graduate students and assist with attracting and retaining students.

• Ph.D. by date of appointment
• University-level teaching experience
• Evidence of scholarly publication or potential

Application: For a complete application, interested candidates should submit the following:
• Cover letter
• Curriculum vitae
• Statement of teaching philosophy
• At least one publication sample or research paper
• Names and full contact information for three (3) references

Interested candidates should apply online at:

Deadline: Review of applications will begin January 31, 2020 and continue until the position is filled.

Additional Opportunities:

Global Positioning Studies-GPS is an initiative of the School of Art and Design that positions students at the crossroads between a local sense of place and a global understanding of that place in the world. Through direct experience, GPS courses encourage students to engage the world as a fertile ground for art making and critical research. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to contribute to the initiative or develop new courses, depending on their interests. For further information, visit

BA in Technical Art History- In addition to offering the only accredited BA and MA Art History degrees in the state, the School of Art & Design now offers the only degree in the country in Technical Art History. The technical art history major emphasizes the scientific study of structures of art and objects, within art historical contexts, and values hands-on experience in preventative art conservation, conservation of artifacts, and reconstruction techniques. Students will conduct research on the physical nature of art and its making through interdisciplinary studies in art history, art, science, anthropology, and more depending on their areas of interest. Through our affiliation with San Gemini Preservation Studies, this program offers the ideal hands-on study abroad program for a technical art history major. Students can take a series of professional place-based field courses in conservation, preservation, and restoration of cultural heritage in San Gemini, Umbria, Italy.

The School of Art and Design ( is a dynamic program with a growing reputation whose mission is to contribute to the greater good of art, education and culture. 270 undergraduate students and 20 graduate students are currently enrolled. The School has 20 full-time and 17 part-time faculty. West Virginia University is the only institution in the state that offers professionally-accredited (NASAD) programs. The degrees offered in the School of Art & Design include: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Art, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education, Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Design for Media, Bachelor of Arts in Art History, Bachelor of Arts in Technical Art History, Master of Fine Arts, Master of Arts in Art History, Master of Arts in Art Education, and a graduate certificate in Visual Arts Therapy.

The College of Creative Arts (, one of 13 colleges within the university, includes the Schools of Music, Theatre & Dance, and Art & Design, and offers the state’s premiere training in the visual and performing arts. Each of these units has a national profile of excellence and all programs are nationally accredited (NAST, NASM, and NASAD). The College of Creative Arts is housed in WVU’s Creative Arts Center and has 85 full-time faculty and 25 professional staff whose mission is to educate succeeding generations of artists, teachers, and scholars through an experiential student-centered approach to learning. The College advocates the Arts as a medium through which the diversity of human experience is understood and valued. Exemplifying excellence and innovation in performance, exhibition, scholarship, and creative research, the College offers artistic and cultural opportunities for the citizens of West Virginia and the global community.

West Virginia University ( is classified as a Doctoral/Research University-Extensive and is the state’s only comprehensive doctoral-granting, land grant institution. The institution holds the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. WVU has a current enrollment of approximately 28,000 undergraduate students and 5,500 graduate students enrolled in more than 184 graduate and undergraduate programs. The university community is committed to student-centered priorities, academic excellence, research, creative activity, and service to the state. Morgantown, has received a number of national rankings, including “No. 1 Small City in America” by for its quality of life. Other city rankings have included: One of the “Best Sports Cities” by Sporting News; 5th “Best Small Metro” by Forbes; 12th overall “Hottest Small City by Inc.; one of “50 Smartest Places to Live” by Kiplinger’s; one of the “Best Cities for Jobs” by MSN Careers; one of the 50 best places to launch a small business by; and the second-ranking “Best College Town for Jobs” by Forbes.

WVU is an AA/EO/ADA institution committed to cultural diversity. Women, minorities, veterans and protected-class individuals are encouraged to apply.

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Six Essays on a Monumental Venetian Painting Series Celebrating the 1468 Wedding of Caterina Corner with the King of Cyprus

Five monumental spalliere are identified as commissioned in celebration of the Venetian wedding of Caterina Corner and the King of Cyprus in 1468, a wedding that would have enormous implications for Caterina, the Corner family, but also for Venetian territorial aspirations. In fact, this is the only known monumental commission for a Venetian domestic palace from the 1400s. The Walters Art Museum’s series on the Abduction of Helen, central to this commission, is the focus of six essays gathered in the Journal of the Walters Art Museum (74, 2019, now open source), led off by that of Joaneath Spicer proposing the new interpretation, attribution to Dario di Giovanni (described by Vasari as a rival of the young Andrea Mantegna in Padua), and the surprising relationship of the paintings to theatricals performed as part of Venetian weddings. Other essays present discoveries on the challenges of becoming a blond and the techniques introduced in creating paintings for such an extraordinary wedding.

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Mulheres da realeza ibérica mediadoras políticas e culturais – Mujeres de la realeza Ibérica mediadoras políticas y culturales

In this book, part of the texts were presented at the seminar Mujeres de la realeza Ibérica como mediadoras políticas y culturales held in Instituto Cervantes de Lisboa with the support of CHAM FCSH / NOVA-UAç and the FCT.
Starting from the collective strategic project “Borders” of the CHAM, this book gathers a set of articles by historians and art historians that analyzes the limits of the diplomacy of royalty women of the Iberian Peninsula and its different forms of political and cultural mediation from the 16th to the 18th century. The book pays particular attention to various aspects of the mediation of royal women such as diplomatic relations between monarchies and the signing of peace; the negotiation of marriage contracts for children and family members, the articulation of networks as a variable of the increase of their influence and power. Another main thematic core is that of devotion, which is analyzed as a profound constituent element of the identity of these women. Finally, a multidisciplinary analysis of the cultural exchanges that occur thanks to them is approached.

Llorente, M. & Epifânio, R. & del Puerto. G. (eds.), Mulheres da realeza ibérica mediadoras políticas e culturais – Mujeres de la realeza Ibérica mediadoras políticas y culturales, MIL & Instituto Cervantes, Lisboa, 2019. (ISBN 978-989-54464-3-8).

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New book, Women and Geography on the Early Modern English Stage, by Katja Pilhuj

Title: Women and Geography on the Early Modern English Stage
Author: Katja Pilhuj
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Series: Gendering the Late Medieval & Early Modern World

In a late 1590s atlas proof from cartographer John Speed, Queen Elizabeth appears, crowned and brandishing a ruler as the map’s scale-of-miles. Not just a map key, the queen’s depiction here presents her as a powerful arbiter of measurement in her kingdom. For Speed, the queen was a formidable female presence, authoritative, ready to measure any place or person. The atlas, finished during James’ reign, later omitted her picture. But this disappearance did not mean Elizabeth vanished entirely; her image and her connection to geography appear in multiple plays and maps. Elizabeth becomes, like the ruler she holds, an instrument applied and adapted. Women and Geography on the Early Modern English Stage explores the ways in which mapmakers, playwrights, and audiences in early modern England could, following their queen’s example, use the ideas of geography, or ‘world-writing’, to reshape the symbolic import of the female body and territory to create new identities. The book demonstrates how early modern mapmakers and dramatists — men and women — conceived of and constructed identities within a discourse of fluid ideas about space and gender.

Download Table of Contents & Introduction here:

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Vanderbilt Philosophy TT Position in Early Modern

[The Vanderbilt University Department of Philosophy would like to announce the following position to the SSEMWG community, if that is OK. If it is not OK, my apologies and please remove this. Thank you! Also, if SSEMWG has any questions about this, please feel free to contact me at]

The Vanderbilt Philosophy Department invites applications for a full-time tenure-track faculty position at the rank of Assistant Professor, to begin in the fall semester of 2020. AOS: Early Modern Philosophy. AOC: Open. Four courses/year (2/2), undergraduate and graduate. Usual non-teaching duties.
Applicants must have successfully defended a PhD dissertation by the start of the Fall 2020 semester, must show promise of leading-edge scholarship in early modern philosophy, and must have a record of teaching effectiveness.
Applicants should send a dossier containing a letter of application, a CV, a statement of research, a writing sample, evidence of teaching effectiveness, and graduate transcripts electronically via the link below. Applicants should also arrange to have three references submit confidential letters of recommendation. In order to ensure full consideration, all materials must be received by November 15, 2019. Initial interviews will be conducted via Skype.
Vanderbilt University has a strong institutional commitment to recruiting and retaining an academically and culturally diverse community of faculty. Minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and members of other underrepresented groups, in particular, are encouraged to apply. Vanderbilt is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified candidates are invited to apply by clicking on the link here .
For more information about the Vanderbilt Philosophy Department, please visit

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November 2019 – “I leave the Reader to judge and compare ’em”: Computational Explorations of Aphra Behn’s Dramatic Dubia

Mel Evans for the SSEMWG Blog

Aphra Behn and her literary works, as is often the case with pioneers, have been subject to extensive criticism and derogation. Accusations of plagiarism, salacious and bawdy content, and poor literary merit were directed at her theatrical, prose and poetic works throughout her lifetime, and subsequent criticism and popular opinion has often adopted a similar stance. More recently, Behn’s achievements have, of course, been increasingly recognised and celebrated as part of the endeavour to rehabilitate and reposition women’s writings in Anglophone literature; Virginia Woolf’s famous eulogy to Behn, as the woman to whom all subsequent women writers owe their opportunity, has been followed by literary and critical scholarship. The forthcoming Cambridge Works of Aphra Behn, for which the present author is a General Editor, along with Elaine Hobby, Gillian Wright and Claire Bowditch, is part of this effort to properly contextualise and appreciate the social, textual and literary qualities of Behn’s diverse writings. Because the general editors, along with Alan Hogarth, the postdoctoral research fellow focusing on attribution matters, work very closely together, this post refers to ‘we’ and ‘our’, although the author on this occasion is Mel Evans. Collectively, we are the members of the AHRC-funded project ‘Editing Aphra Behn in the Digital Age’.

One continuing thread between the criticism of Behn’s works in her lifetime and that of present-day scholarship is that of authorship: debate and evaluation of what Behn really wrote, and what she did not. The value of authorship, as a singular and proprietary activity, was of course a significant conceptual development during the latter half of the seventeenth century (see Kewes 1992), and Behn’s works reflect this context. In addition to the accusations of plagiarism, which were made most famously in relation to The Rover, provoking a vigorous defence from Behn in the published play’s postscript (the titular quote for this blogpost is taken from that postscript), others sought to benefit from the association of Behn’s name. There are several prose fiction works published after her death (in 1696, 1698 and 1700) that raise suspicions. For example, in 1698 Charles Gildon (a well-known literary hack) prepared the volume All the histories and novels written by the late ingenious Mrs. Behn entire in one volume which included short fiction and translations associated with Behn in her lifetime, such as ‘Oroonoko’, as well as ‘three Novels not Printed before’. Gildon takes care to inform the reader that ‘The Stile of the Court of the King of Bantam, being so very different from Mrs Behn’s usual way of Writing’ could ‘perhaps call its being genuine in Question.’ Gildon explains such deviation by way of a wager, Behn being challenged to write ‘in the Style of the Celebrated Scarron.

Figure 1: Title-page of The Histories and Novels (1696), held at the National Library of Australia. (

Subsequent volumes in 1700, prefaced by Samuel Briscoe, add a further five works of English prose fiction ‘never before Printed.’ This series of ever-expanding volumes containing new-found works by the ‘incomparable Mrs. Behn,’ of course raises suspicions for the present-day scholar. It may well have led to similar doubts among contemporary readers, although we have not yet encountered any examples (for a discussion of the bookselling context of the period, see Maureen Bell’s forthcoming essay in Women’s Writing, 2020).

In the twenty-first century, the focus on authorship remains a cornerstone of cultural and literary appraisals of historical women’s writing. Despite the shift to other non-authorial frames of analysis, for scholars interested in destabilising the traditional canon, discovering what, how and where women were able to write – and in some cases even make a living from their pen – remains of high importance. This stance informs The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Aphra Behn, which will include texts with a longstanding association with Behn, even if they lack either Behn’s name on the title-page or a lifetime date of (first) publication. The collection of such dubia is considerable, and spans across all the genres (drama, poetry, prose fiction, prose nonfiction, correspondence and works of translation) that Behn was known to write and publish. In order to produce an informed and fair editorial apparatus for these works, the edition combines traditional literary critical approaches to authorship with non-traditional computational techniques, known as computational stylistics, or stylometry.

Computational Approaches to Authorship

Computational approaches to authorship and attribution date back over fifty years, with the publication of Moesteller and Wallace’s Inference and Disputed Authorship: The Federalist in 1964 generally considered the landmark initiation of the field. Since then, literary scholars have focused on applying computational methods primarily to a particular subset of time periods, works, languages and authors. The debates – often heated – surrounding Shakespeare’s authorship are perhaps the most familiar for readers of this blog. The approach is essentially interested in the likeness between a questionable text (a work of dubia) and works known to be by a given author (such as Shakespeare, or Behn). The identification of this likeness is based on the quantitative profile of one or more linguistic and textual characteristics of the texts in question. The specifics of our approach are outlined in more detail below, although what we wish to explore in the following discussion are some of the challenges that have arisen in our attempt to investigate works by Behn, and those of her post-Shakespearian contemporaries.

One observable facet of past computational authorship and attribution work is that it remains largely canonical in its interests: focused on removing or restoring works to male authors traditionally heralded as the vanguard of English literature. As editors of Behn’s works engaging with computational approaches to authorship, we are therefore in a fortunate position to offer a modest corrective: not to the language under analysis, which remains early modern English, but in our exploring a period of early modern literature that is not Shakespearean, and in our focusing on a woman writer. Another (perhaps related) facet is that the field of stylometry and authorship attribution, as it pertains especially to early modern literature, is surprisingly male dominated; this is despite the increasing equality in genders in other English literature and English language sub-disciplines. The field can also be somewhat heated and passionate, and not always constructively so. For us to place a new focus on Behn, and to do so as scholars with a vested interest in getting her works and writings better known, understood and appreciated, is therefore a challenging and occasionally risky (from a professional perspective) enterprise.

The dramatic dubia

At its core, non-traditional authorship attribution relies on the premise that each writer (or speaker) has their own distinctive voice (idiolect) that is created by the frequencies and sequences of the words they use. Despite, or perhaps because of, the field’s relatively youthful status, a variety of methods abound in how this authorial signal can be identified. Our approach has been to trial a combination of approaches, looking for continuities and coherence in the results. If our findings point consistently in the same direction, then we have some evidence from which we can make an assessment as to the likelihood of Behn’s involvement in any given text. In taking this somewhat egalitarian approach, there arise opportunities as well as challenges; opportunities, because it enables us to discuss and draw on the expertise of scholarship across the field; yet challenges, in that because of the divisions that already exist, there can arise assumptions that in using one particular approach or method (first), you are therefore aligning yourself to any associated ideologies and arguments. As newcomers to the field, and as scholars whose agenda is primarily to do the best by Behn, we have sought to negate such assumptions whenever possible.

The analysis of Behn’s dubia has thus far focused on Behn’s drama, with some preliminary explorations of her prose fiction and her correspondence (literary and otherwise). Still to come are her poetry and translations. The kinds of insights produced by non-traditional approaches to authorship, as well as the challenges of working on less-established periods of literature (within this particular research context), are diverse and numerous – some have been as expected, others less so. One exciting aspect of using computational methods to investigate Behn’s authorship is that it has necessitated a focus, for the first time, on what characterises Behn’s style, as well as that of some of her contemporaries. Attribution work has not always dwelled upon the attributes that inform verdicts of a dubious text’s likeness or otherwise with a candidate author; but our exploration of Behn’s drama and prose fiction has revealed the variety and scope of her writing in ways that complement and expand upon existing literary criticism. As we report elsewhere (Evans, 2017), Behn’s dramatic style shows changes over time. Whilst the development of a literary author’s style is not a new concept, the ways in which it changed is striking and of interest to literary scholars, showing a shift in language forms that focused on the self (e.g. first-person pronouns, exclamations conveying emotion) to a more interactive, interpersonal set of features (e.g. second-person pronouns, adverbial markers of place and time). Whilst of merit on their own, such as informing discussions surrounding Behn’s flexibility in attending to, or anticipating, the requirements of the stage over the course of the Restoration period, these findings also inform assessments of authorship. The research has shaped our thinking as to how the investigation of the late seventeenth century, and a writer like Behn, is best configured, as against studies working with earlier or later periods of English literature.

Our exploration of the drama, as it presently stands, has produced a range of findings.

Figure 1: Results for a Rolling Delta analysis of The Revenge; lower scores indicate a greater stylistic similarity (i.e. in the word frequencies) between each author’s plays and The Revenge.

Reported here for the first time, our work suggests that The Revenge – a play first performed and published in 1680, and long recognised as an adaptation of Marston’s The Dutch Courtesans – shows a strong likeness with Behn’s dramatic works. This likeness is consistent across a variety of different linguistic measures and statistical treatments (Figure 1 provides a representative set of results). Behn’s stylistic profile and therefore likeness to The Revenge is unwavering regardless of the other authors included in the text (based on a sample of works from dramatists including Dryden, D’Urfey, Shadwell and Ravenscroft, among others). Importantly, it is the consistency of the finding for the analysis of The Revenge that gives us most confidence and allows us to propose that the long-standing attribution of this play to Behn can be considered robust and reliable. Although there are no certainties in this kind of work, we consider the results persuasive – and ones that can be critiqued and built upon by traditional approaches to authorship.

The results for the other drama dubia have not offered so clear a picture. One of the dubia associated with Behn is The Counterfeit Bridegroom (1677), a modest reworking of Middleton’s No Wit, No Help like a Woman’s, probably written in the 1620s or 1630s, although not published until 1657. The prominence (i.e. replication) of the source text is a feature that complicates our aim to identify the degree of likeness between the Restoration elements of the dubia, and Behn’s known plays. One strategy has been to incorporate Middleton’s works, including the source text, into the comparison when examining the linguistic profile of The Counterfeit Bridegroom.

Figure 2: Results for a Rolling Delta analysis of The Counterfeit Bridegroom; lower scores indicate a greater stylistic similarity (i.e. in the word frequencies) between each author’s plays and The Counterfeit Bridegroom. Adapted from Evans and Hogarth, forthcoming.

To a degree, this technique has been effective: it has isolated those parts that are least deviant from Middleton, and means we can control for “Middletonian” language features when looking at the profile of the play (see Evans & Hogarth, forthcoming in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities). However, unlike the results for The Revenge, the results are very inconsistent in terms of the play’s likeness with Behn’s known drama. Some tests show a potential similarity between Behn’s plays and the final acts of The Counterfeit Bridegroom, whereas others suggest that Behn’s contemporaries are much closer in linguistic style for the exact same sections. It seems probable that the degree of “collaboration” between Counterfeit Bridegroom and its Middletonian source text creates a linguistic profile for which it is very difficult to isolate any clear-cut authorial signal for the Restoration additions; that, and/or our tests have not been focussed on the right candidate author that would provide a clear and consistent result, akin to that achieved for The Revenge. As it stands, Behn’s involvement in The Counterfeit Bridegroom cannot be as confidently asserted as for The Revenge, but nor can it be ruled out.

The Debauchee is another play commonly attributed to Behn. It was likely first performed in 1676/7, the same season asThe Rover, and is another adaptation of a play written earlier in the century: this time, Richard Brome’s A Mad Couple Well Matched (written c. 1639, pub. 1653). As with Counterfeit Bridegroom, the computational tests produce inconsistent and inconclusive results with regards to Behn’s authorship. The role of Brome’s source text in the play, however, is a strong and persistent finding throughout.

Figure 3: Results for a Rolling Delta analysis of The Debauchee; lower scores indicate a greater stylistic similarity (i.e. in the word frequencies) between a play and The Debauchee. Scores show the lowest scoring segment of a play for each author in the test. In the case of Middleton, this is the source text, Mad Couple, throughout.

Depending on the quantity of words included in the analyses, which ranges from 100 – 1000, in intervals of one hundred, and the statistical techniques applied, the play can profile as being remarkably like Behn’s known comedies or, conversely, as being very dissimilar. Including Brome’s Mad Couple and a selection of his other plays in the tests pointed to the sections of The Debauchee that are least modified from Brome’s original. However, isolating a salient authorial signal in the Restoration additions using the evidence available did not show any consistent likeness with Behn’s dramatic style. Tests that use a greater number of words for comparison (e.g. the 500 or more most frequent words) are more likely to show a similarity with Behn. This is a finding that could suggest that (some of) the similarity is a result of topical similarity, rather than because of the less conscious linguistic preferences associated with function words that are captured more acutely in the tests using a small number of words (i.e. less than 500 most-frequent words).

What are the implications?

The three cases reported briefly here are, it should be acknowledged, valuable for what they can tell us about computational methods and how they respond to complex cases of collaboration and adaptation (what Love (2002) calls ‘precursory authorship’). The analyses have also offered new – somewhat unexpected – perspectives on Restoration dramatic practice, highlighting, for instance, the persistent unoriginality of Edward Ravenscroft’s plays, such as The English Lawyer (1678). His works often group with the pre-1660 source texts and others by those authors, reflecting Ravenscroft’s tendency to undertake only minimal revisions of the sources of his plays. Our investigations of Behn’s potential authorship of the dramatic dubia have also, of course, provided new perspectives on what constitutes Behn’s style, and the ways in which it aligns with and diverges from that of her contemporaries. A quantitative and corpus-linguistic perspective of her dramatic writing is an important contribution to the literature, in that it parallels the kinds of analyses more commonly undertaken for dramatists from earlier periods – the exemplary work of Jonathan Culpeper and colleagues on the Encyclopedia of Shakespeare’s Language is one such example.

However, there are also less positive outcomes that may arise from our computational investigation of the likelihood of Behn’s authorship of the dramatic dubia. One challenge that now faces our editors and the edition is how such inconclusive and ambiguous results are to be accounted for and used effectively. Here, the editorial ethos of the project is important. We made an early decision that the results of the computational analyses would only inform editorial approaches, not determine them – regardless of the result. That is, the editorial treatment of a play or other work of dubious attribution, would be on par with that of those of Behn’s securely attributed work. This principle has offered the editors scholarly freedom to develop their interpretations appropriately, sensitive to the specific findings of each case (e.g. The Revenge versus The Debauchee). This informs how they frame their play in their headnote, and in the kinds of editorial clarification offered in the commentary notes.

It might also be argued that the computational analyses – because of their inability to offer a consistent picture of The Counterfeit Bridegroom and The Debauchee – are in fact rather redundant: they offer no clarification or definite outcome in favour of either side of the attribution debate. To this, we would propose that the linguistic findings enrich our understanding of Behn as a writer, regardless of the verdict on the authorship of the dubia, as well as offering another perspective on why the dubia may have been associated with Behn in light of its lexical make-up. In the inconclusive tests, the results show that the dubia are more likely to be identified as “Behn-like” when the wordlist is larger, and therefore picks up on vocabulary linked to topic and content – rather than meaning the most frequent words (around the top 100-200), which tend to be grammatical items. This offers a perspective on why such works may have been attributed to Behn: words such as young, name, night, marry, heaven and fair may collectively indicate preoccupations associated with Behn, in contrast with the works of her contemporaries, bound up with her preferred plot structures and character interactions. It also suggests something about how Restoration authors went about adaptation, retaining the dialogic structures and patterns created through grammatical vocabulary, but incorporating new content words. As Hugh Craig and Brett Greatly-Hirsch have recently shown, there are interesting and relatively under-investigated developments in the language and style of drama post-1660, and our findings add to the growing and nuanced picture we have of this period of English literary history.

A third, related point are the implications that such inconclusiveness has on the perception of computational stylistics and its relevance to literary and editorial endeavours more generally – particularly in light of the work required to prepare texts by less mainstream authors. Attitudes towards computational evidence remain largely sceptical, sometimes antagonistic, and not unreasonably so: we still struggle to explain quite how the lexical profiling approach works at the level of an individual’s cognitive processes, as well as how such individual preferences intersect at the socio-cognitive level. Whilst computational stylistics, as we’ve tried to argue, offers more than authorship and attribution, this still remains an expected application of the approach. In seeking to promote Behn’s works and writings through new scholarship, we have the opportunity to demonstrate how this method of investigation can be useful for other works and periods. The digital preparation of the texts and the development of new analytic approaches are themselves a testament to the worth of the author or period under investigation. And there is the potential, too, to use the results for new authors, periods and, indeed, languages, to hone and refine the methods and burgeoning theoretical models of computational stylistics and attribution research. Behn’s literary writings, her social context, and her linguistic environment are radically different to that of Shakespeare or Henry James (two authors whose works have received extensive attention within the field), and the computational approach may actually force us to confront assumptions about what we think we know about authorial style, dramatic collaboration, and processes of adaptation.

Looking forward

Whilst we may be nearing the end of the formal, funded project (AHRC ‘E-ABIDA’), our work on Behn’s style and authorship has only just begun: we turn our attention next to the prose fiction and her poetry, as well as her spying correspondence composed in Antwerp in 1666; Akkerman’s recent, excellent scholarship has questioned the authenticity of some letters purportedly copied by Behn from her informant and possible former lover, William Scott. We anticipate similar challenges and discoveries with these genres as those encountered over the last few years with Behn’s drama – as well as the prospect of gaining insight into the degree of likeness between Behn and the dubia, and gaining further insights into an author for whom we have, almost exclusively so, primarily words on a page.


A Brief Overview of Method:

To establish the likeness between one text and the linguistic attributes most typical of the works of a given author, computational approaches involve two main methodological decisions. The first is the way that the language of those texts (the dubia, and the author’s known works) is measured. In our investigation of Behn’s writings, we have primarily focussed on lexical units: looking at the words that make up a text, and identifying their frequencies separate from their original syntactic context (known as the ‘bag of words’ approach). As established in the work of John Burrows, David Hoover and others, high frequency words can be very significant for attribution and authorship. High frequency items, often grammatical (function) words, such as conjunctions, pronouns and prepositions, are the “glue” of a text, but how an author applies that glue seems to be very idiosyncratic. Other studies have looked at word sequences (for instance, 2-grams are two-word sequences; e.g. for instance, instance 2-grams, 2-grams are, are two-word, two-word sequences), character sequences (so the sequence of graph-forms that make up the words of a text), and efforts are also turning to exploring the propensity of words to co-occur in particular spans of a text; e.g. within a ten-word span; every other word). Computer software, such as the University of Newcastle’s (Australia) Intelligent Archive, provides a swift and replicable way of collecting word frequencies in a text or set of texts.

The second dimension to the computational approach is the statistical treatment of these frequencies: an analytic step necessary to establish that the distribution of the linguistic items is significant, rather than due to chance, as well as to offer an exploratory means of identifying macro-level patterns within the data that are not evident to the human eye. Whilst we may all be able to identify that whe is a particularly idiosyncratic interjection favoured by Behn in her drama between 1677 and 1682 simply by reading her plays, it is more difficult to assert without computational assistance that she uses the relative markers which and who more frequently than many of her contemporary male dramatists (who prefer that). Whilst the individual merits of these quantitative observations are something to be determined on a case-by-case basis, collectively the statistical distribution of word forms and their frequencies determines the profile of a text. From this, the likeness of this profile to that of other works – such as those by the same author – can be established in quantitative terms.

A vital part of non-traditional authorship attribution are the texts themselves: texts that represent the purported author (Behn), the dubia themselves, and a set of texts representing other candidate authors or writers of the period in a more general sense; the last of these provide a valuable contextualising perspective on the quantitative results. All these texts have to be digital texts, and prepared in such a way that allows for a robust and replicable means of analysis. In practical terms, this means removing paratextual materials that are representative of the text as a whole (e.g. title pages, dedicatory epistles), as well as sections of the text that are not associated with the main author of the work, such as songs, epilogues, or forewords. Because of the variability of early modern spelling and its speculative connection to that of the presumed author in printed texts, it is typical practice to regularise the spellings of all texts to one consistent system. This can be achieved rapidly using software called VARD, developed by Alistair Baron at Lancaster University, although manual proofing is still required. Finally, it is helpful to use a mark-up language to allow different parts of a text to be extracted and analysed quickly and consistently: for example, focusing on all the dialogue in a play, rather than stage directions; or to remove all examples of direct speech in prose fiction, to analyse solely the narrative prose. XML tagging, whilst laborious to apply, allows for such flexibility in textual analysis.

In our preparation of Behn’s texts for the attribution analyses, we have followed these principles. Restoration literature, it seems, is something of a poor cousin – or the younger sibling – of Shakespearean and Jacobean texts, and pre-existing digital texts with the kind of mark-up and preparation we required are limited (unlike, say, the voluminous work done on Shakespeare’s contemporaries; in our exploration of some dubia, which relies heavily on earlier source texts, Hugh Craig has generously shared his corpus of Early Modern plays to allow us to investigate this dimension of the drama). Consequently, we had to prepare many of the texts from scratch, using EEBO-TCP versions where available and manually transcribing from the original volume when not. One of the trials of digital work such as this is the amount of time and effort that goes into text preparation, but which goes relatively unnoticed and unappreciated after the fact.

Mel Evans is a Lecturer in English Language & Linguistics at the University of Leicester. Her research explores the relationship between language and identity, with a particular focus on early modern English. She is a co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded ‘Editing Aphra Behn in the Digital Age’, in which she is leading on the computational analyses of Aphra Behn’s style and authorship, as well as editing Behn’s correspondence.

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cfp: “Women’s Voices of the Middle Ages and Renaissance”

CALL FOR PAPERS: “Women’s Voices of the Middle Ages and Renaissance”
A symposium to be held on March 13, 2020 in the Joseph F. Smith Building on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, sponsored by BYU’s Department of French & Italian, Global Women’s Studies Program, and Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

A Keynote Lecture will be delivered by Elissa Weaver, Professor Emerita of the University of Chicago and author of *Convent Theatre in Early Modern Italy: Spiritual Fun and Learning for Women*. In the evening, Suzanne Savoy will perform her one-woman theatrical performance, *Je Christine, A Medieval Woman in Her Own Words*.

We welcome proposals related to the conference topic from faculty and students at BYU and other universities, as well as from independent scholars. Please submit one-page abstracts and a 200-word academic biography by December 7, 2019 to and to Decisions about the program will be made by December 14.

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Paper of interest

Hi Everyone,

At the SCSC in St. Louis, I will be giving a paper that might be of interest to scholars of early modern women and gender: “The Materiality of Last Will” in the panel The Materiality of Writing: Social Norms and Performative Text in Premodern Towns, # 46, Mill Studio 5, 8:30-10:00. The paper considers last wills of seventeenth century Tuscan women as performative acts to understand women’s legal literacy and how they used it.



Giovanna Benadusi
Professor of History
University of South Florida
4202 East Fowler Avenue, SOC 260
Tampa, FL 33620-8100
(813) 974 2807 office
(813) 974 6228 fax

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