Monday, January 5, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Brooke Thomas

I have been working with Dr. Erika Lin for a year and a half now researching festivity in Early Modern literature. The research will be used for her new book which centers on representations of celebrations and holidays in literature in Early Modern England. Most succinctly, I have been doing database research which involves reading and analyzing thousands of Early Modern “books” from the Early English Books Online archive. I put quotations around the word books because they aren’t the normal coda style modern readers and students will think of; books from the Early Modern period can range from single broadside sheets to 800 page treatises on botany. There’s a great variety in the things I have been reading; my favorite has to be a fifty page text on how to blood-let your horse when it gets a headache. I’ve gone through the EEBO database beginning in year 1600 and made it up to year 1610: that’s roughly 4,621 books. Needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of reading.

This semester, however, I’ve paused working with EEBO and began analyzing the English Broadside Ballad Archive, sponsored by the University of California Santa Barbara. In my work, I sort the documents I find based on their relevancy to a list of key terms that have to do with Early Modern festivity and holidays. Then, I read the selected documents, in this case ballads, and mark them for references to festivity. If a document does have festive references, I place it in a secondary database for Dr. Lin to reference. Thus far, out of my nearly 4700 readings, I’ve found about 250 relevant books/ballads.

This week, I’ve been working closely with the EBBA archive. I’ve been focusing on ballads that relate especially to “holidays.” So far, I’ve found a lot about literary representations of festive celebrations for Christmas, Easter, and May Day. My favorite reference from this week concerns men and women placing garlands on each other to celebrate May Day.

My position as an OSCAR Research Assistant for Dr. Lin relates directly to what I plan to do in my future career. I love research and the skills I’ve learned through OSCAR and Dr. Lin, especially with database research, will be especially helpful in setting me apart from other applicants for research positions.