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REED-L  March 1996

REED-L March 1996

Subject:

Mentioning More Methodology (Not *so* long)

From:

J C Cummings <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

REED-L: Records of Early English Drama Discussion

Date:

Wed, 6 Mar 1996 15:25:51 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (79 lines)

Dear REED-l,
 
        I'm pleased to discover that my last post of naive questions and
unfocussed rambling has provoked some useful discussion.  As well, several
people have written me privately with many useful comments as well as
offers of unpublished papers, etc. My thanks go out to them and REED-L,
though I heartily hope the discussion continues.  Many have answered the
last question I wrote, concerning techniques of MS reading by their
assurances that they read every line/word etc.  I didn't actually doubt
this, but thought that it was still important.  It is obviously necessary
to understand each word before passing it by, lest some important, yet
undiscovered, piece of information come to light.
 
        William Ingram writes concerning the different motives enforced
on the publications of records.  In wondering what we would do if money,
time, and other constraints of publication where non-existent I get the
impression that the reply is supposed to be that one would wish to publish
full transcriptions of everything with photographic facsimile's, translations,
and full crossreferencing of every proper name, noun, and subject in some
form of hypertext index.  However, when I sit down and think about it,
although I was sitting the first time, this is not the answer that most
reed-lers (I think) would give.  While I'm sure that most people doing
records research would love to have all these things(supra) but it certainly
isn't the place of REED to provide them.  Even if the above were in existence,
which I doubt ever will be so, a REED-like project would still be needed to
publish (at least) an index to all the dramatic activity.  Alexandra
Johnston, I hope not too embarrassed in being one of those who inspired me
into this area, answers concerning the realities of finance and publishing
constraints.  She also mentions the document descriptions that are a standard
part of REED volumes.  One of the things I've wondered is why documents in
which no record of dramatic activity is found don't seem to be listed
somewhere?  That is when the patient and conscientious researcher has trawled
through a long series of chamberlains' accounts and found absolutely nothing
for REED purposes, shouldn't that be listed somewhere?  My prompting for that
query is, in truth, not REED but Malone Society's Collections.  In tracing
people's steps I'm lucky for the bureaucracy of the archive in that I know
how many documents, total, the researchers looked at in King's Lynn (norf.).
However, this was before they started recording exactly what documents a
person looked at.  Lest this all sound a bit 'Big Brother'-ish my intent is
not to go through and 'check up' on previous research, but instead to help
interpret what information they did find.  Of course, it would be equally
wonderful to find information in mss they didn't have a chance to look at.
(Or have come to light since then.)
        The question of inclusion/exclusion in relation to REED's
principles of selection is still quite important.  I understand that
REED has to draw the line somewhere, financial constraints alone make
that necessary.  Likewise, their initial avoidance of private papers
makes sense because of other difficulties.  However their decisions still
confuse me at some points. (Include instruments, but not some texts, etc.)
They are not to include court cases in which the case has nothing to do
with performance, where for example the minstrel is just a character witness,
but in doing so we get a much more limited view of minstrel life.
        In providing 'contextual' interpretation one might wonder to what
length one should go.  For example, if freeman's rolls exist for the town
then when a name is mentioned couldn't it be cross-referenced?  But then the
question remains about where to stop, for if birth/death information, relations
etc. exist then a small (well brief couple lines) could be written about
many of the people in question.  The task shortly becomes unmanageable.
        In my searches for information about people mentioned in dramatic
extracts how far should I then go?  Obviously much further than REED is
able to because of their publishing constraints.  Let's say I have a
name in a payment thus: "Item paid to Joe Bloggs, harper,  3s 4d".
Where do I start for information about him?  The freeman's rolls, if they
exist might tell me if he has another profession, and reading the rest of
the accounts might tell me if he is paid for anything else, or an important
person in the city etc.  Parish information might tell me if he was married,
or daughters of sons getting married, and information about children/etc.
But what does this tell me, in all honesty, about his life _as a harper_?
I guess my question is, faced with this type of entry, what kind of information
should we be trying to find about performers lives, and where should we be
finding it?  I apologize again for the length and hasty writing.
 
James Cummings
School of English
University of Leeds
 
--
<A href="[log in to unmask]" target="_blank">http:[log in to unmask]">
James Cummings, [log in to unmask], English, University of Leeds</A>.

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