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Dividing the Kingdoms: Interdisciplinary Methods for Teaching King Lear to Undergraduates: Digital Humanities

Modules developed for The Folger Shakespeare Library's "Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates" grant

Overview: Digital Humanities

This module introduces undergraduate students to the ways that the digital humanities can enhance analysis of King Lear.  The four activities and assignment should allow students to explore a range of digital tools, from annotation to data mining.  After mastering these methods, students can incorporate them in exercises and/or assignments for other modules.

This goal of this module is to show how digitizing a text opens a new lens on it. Using digital tools introduces expanded ways of seeing and examining a text while also providing unique methods to analyze and represent a text’s meaning through visualizations.

As a supplement to this module, we have digitized two early printings of Lear, an 18th-century adaptation of the play, and Shakespeare’s primary sources (see Digital Texts).

These texts include:

  • The Fourth Folio version of Lear (1685; digitized in collaboration with the Detroit Public Library)
  • The Quarto version of Lear (1608; using enhanced digital images from The Folger Shakespeare Library)
  • Nahum Tate’s adaptation of Lear (1736; digitized from the holdings in Wayne State’s Special Collections)
  • The Leir story from Raphael Holinshed’s The Chronicles of  England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587; digitized from the holdings in Wayne State’s Special Collections)
  • The Lear story from Book II, Canto 10 of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene (1611; digitized from holdings in Wayne State’s Special Collections)
  • The story of the Paphlagonian king from Book 2, Chapter 10 of Philip Sidney’s Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1590; using digital images from The Folger Shakespeare Library)
  • The anonymous play King Leir (1605; using digital images from The Folger Shakespeare Library)

Each text is available for viewing through various eBook readers and analysis platforms, each with distinct capabilities.

  • eText Reader: provides an attractive reading format with page turning capabilities to mimic reading a print text; offers the ability to search these digital texts for keywords related to certainty, identity or other themes, and capture screenshots of specific regions of a page image (example)
  • Mirador Reader: offers the capability of placing two texts side-by-side for detailed text examination (e.g., comparing the Fourth Folio and Quarto, or comparing Shakespeare’s play with its sources); the zooming capability allows for significant magnification (example)
  • Analysis: incorporates the ability to annotate the text publicly, or in private groups appropriate for instruction and scholarly work, and to send it through Voyant for textual analysis, which will produce visualizations such as word frequency graphs, linking, and word clouds (example)

Assignments (out of class)

From the WSU Special Collections

                                                                                   
Nahum Tate’s adaptation of Lear (1736; digitized from the holdings in Wayne State’s Special Collections)

Digital Resources

FOLGER LIBRARY RESOURCES

CONTEXTS

About the Scholar

Judith M. Arnold
Judith Arnold is a Librarian IV and English Language & Literature Liaison in the Wayne State University Library System.