bonæ litteræ: occasional writing from David Rundle, Renaissance scholar

How to Research in the Online-Only World, part V

Posted in Academic Practices by bonaelitterae on 3 June, 2020

The use of periodicals was central to the previous tip. Many engage with recent scholarship through reviews or review articles (the difference being that the latter bring together several publications to draw out comparisons and shared themes); some journals, however, do not have a review section. What they all share is that they publish fresh research in the form of articles, usually around 8,000 words, but some journals allow more extensive discussions, while some also includer short notes. So, the latest tip is, put simply, check regularly periodicals, but not just them — do the same also for publishers’ websites.

You might think that if you want to know what appears in a journal, you will simply go to JSTOR. If only it was so easy: that website is a rich resource but, for the vast majority of leading publications, it does not have the rights to the most recent issues. As, then, you want to know what is at the cutting-edge in your subject, and you know you are not going to find that via bibliographies or by JSTOR, you will want to check relevant periodicals. Some of them help by emailing out the table of contents to each issue (e-TOCs). So, it is worth making yourself a list of the major journals, and, where possible, signing up for their e-TOCs. Increasingly, though, journals are listing forthcoming articles or giving some limited access to them by ‘early view’ (Renaissance Studies is an example of this). So, bookmark their pages and check them regularly. Some journals in the list below are annuals, but most publish more frequently (some twice, some four, some five) times a year.

Below I list some examples of leading journals, to which I frequently return for their articles and (where they have them) their reviews. In addition, I list some major academic publishers. That is because, if you want to ensure you are up-to-date with the very latest in your particular topic, you will want to be sure you know what is being published in the form of monographs or collections of essays. Some periodicals might advertise some of these, but the best way to reach them is, as with journals, to visit regularly and look for latest publications on these websites.

So, here are my personal and very selective lists of ‘go-to’ journals and publishers. The selection of periodicals is divided into three, reflecting some of my areas of interest (I omit manuscript studies and the history of the book, because my suggestions for those will appear on the MEMSLib website). The sections are (a) Medieval, (b) Renaissance and (c) History.

1. Medieval

Speculumthe journal of the Medieval Academy of America, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Mediaeval Studiesthe Canadian riposte to Speculum, this annual is produced under the aegis of the Pontifical Institute in Toronto. It carries editions of texts and articles, mainly on historical and literary themes.

Viatora third important North American journal is produced by UCLA and has a special interest in trans-national topics.

Traditio — another major US journal of medieval studies, this annual (with no reviews) is from Fordham and its main remit is intellectual history

Medium Ævumthe remit of this British journal is hinted at by the name of its publisher, the Society of the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature (who are worth checking for their events, grants and essay prize).

2. Renaissance

Renaissance Studies —  the publication of the British Society for Renaissance Studies, this is broader than its name suggests, being particularly strong in early seventeenth-century English literature.

Renaissance Quarterly — the American equivalent of Renaissance Studies but with more focus on the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and with an extensive review section in in each volume. It is published by the Renaissance Society of America, who also organise the world’s largest (indeed, outsize) annual conference on the Renaissance topics.

I Tatti Studiespublished by Harvard’s I Tatti Center, situated outside Florence, it concentrates on the Italian Renaissance.

Rinascimentoas its name suggests, Italian is this journal’s first language but its remit is not confined to the Renaissance in Italy.

Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (known as JWCI)do not tell the Warburg Institute that their annual is about the Renaissance! They insist it is much wider than that and it certainly is but it does frequently include important articles on Renaissance themes (in the latest issue, for 2019, five of the eight articles are relevant). JWCI does not carry reviews.

3. History

English Historical Review (known as EHR) — particularly associated with Oxford, this has traditional strengths in medieval history, though it ranges much more widely.

Historical Journal (known as HJ) — this is associated with Cambridge, and tends to see history as starting in the fifteenth century.

Transactions of the Royal Historical Society — the annual periodical, as its name suggests, of the Royal Historical Society. It concentrates on articles that began life as lectures and has no review section.

Past and Present (known as P&P) — like EHR, published by Oxford University Press. It sees its particular remit as social and intellectual history, and in some ways as a British riposte to Annales.

Annales — perhaps the world’s most famous history journal because of its association with a particular French ‘school’ of historical study, it now appears in English as well as French.

Of course, there is a balance: the broader the remit of a journal, the more prestigious it may be but the fewer the articles it will publish that will be relevant to you. At the other extreme, there are a plethora of publications which are more specialised but usually have a lower academic standing. That does not mean you can ignore them: if they are germane to your topic, it is important to know what they are publishing. These journals might be defined by a relatively narrow time-period (The Sixteenth Century Journal, for instance) or by a regional focus (Archaeologia Cantiana for Kent is a good example) or by affiliation to a cause (The Ricardian was set up by partisans of Richard III against his detractors, but it does now include important scholarly articles).

What all these will provide is insight into what are the ‘hot issues’ in your area, but they do not stand on their own. Alongside these, it is important to be abreast of what is coming out in book-length form, and for that, it will be useful to check what relevant publishers. They divide into three: your first port of call will be the big University Presses, both in Britain (Cambridge and Oxford but also Manchester) and in the States (Yale, for instance, has a high reputation for its books in art history). Second, there is that noble subset of commercial publishers who are willing to commit to scholarly monographs: in Britain, for medieval studies, Boydell and Brewer has a deserved reputation, and their catalogue includes series like York Medieval Press and King’s College London Medieval Studies; across the Channel, in Belgium, a similar service is provided by Brepols (which we mentioned in Tip III). Then they are the learned societies who act as their own publishers of monographs: two with which I have had dealings are the Society for Study of Medieval Languages and Literature (already cited for its journal) and the Oxford Bibliographical Society, which has a fine line in manuscript catalogues.

You may now want to rush off to look at all these websites but feel frustrated: you can find titles and abstracts or publishers’ blurbs for recent items but may not then have full access to them if your institution does not have a subscription. What are the ways around that? We will return to this in the last tip but there is also relevant advice in the next one, Tip VI.

Lucky D?

Posted in Offbeat observations by bonaelitterae on 25 August, 2014

The Times Literary Supplement has been running — and then attempting to call off — a hunt for references to itself in literature. It occurs to me that there are other noble publications that could compile a similar (albeit rather select) collection. Here is my own favourite for reasons that will become clear. It comes from a novel which is more period-piece than classic, Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim (1954). The young academic anti-hero, the dypsomaniac medievalist James Dixon has arrived on campus:

‘Oh, Dixon, can I have a word with you?’ To its recipient, this was the most dreadful of all summonses. It had been a favourite of his Flight-Serjeant’s, a Regular with old-fashioned ideas of getting an N.C.O. out of the men’s hearings before subjecting him not to a word but to an uproar of abuse… Welch [the Head of the History Department] had revived it as a short maestoso introduction to the allegro con fuoco of his displeasure over each new item in the ‘bad impresssion’ Dixon had been building up… Intellectually, Dixon could conceive of such a request leading to praise for work done on indexing Welch’s notes for his book, to the offer of a staff post on Medium Aevum, to an invitation to an indecent house-party, but emotionally and physically he was half-throttled by the certainty of nastiness.

Beyond the intended humour of the passage, there is something comical about the idea that an academic journal like Medium Ævum should have a plethora of paid positions, even or perhaps especially in the early 1950s when it was barely itself in its teens. And I should know because, of course, I have myself had more than a passing acquaintance with said journal — more recently, I should rush to add, than in the mid-twentieth century. I am the person who, for a while, had the post to which Dixon dimly aspired. There is, then, an association between him and me, which makes we wonder or worry: what other similarities might there be?

That is for me to worry about — the challenge for you is to see if you can help add to this start of a catalogue of literary references to medieval studies’ small but, oh, so perfectly-formed green-backed periodical.

Tagged with: ,

Humanism in Fifteenth-Century Europe: the structures of contacts

Posted in Humanism by bonaelitterae on 25 May, 2012

Thanks to those very nice people over at the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature, I can provide a brief update on the volume that has just appeared. In their wisdom, they have decided to make a sample of the latest Medium Ævum Monograph, Humanism in Fifteenth-Century Europe, available on-line for free (none of this nonsense of Open Access at a price) and the sample provided is the front matter plus one chapter — my own on ‘The Structures of Contacts‘. That essay attempts to provide an interpretation that could knit together the other contributions to the volume (though, at times, a critical reader might feel, it unstitches a few of those chapters). The interpretation centres on the concept in which I strongly believe: that quattrocento humanism was, from its inception, an international enterprise, with a cast-list of participants or, at least, collaborators that was cosmopolitan, as were the locations both for humanist invention and of audiences for these works. In discussing this, I attempt to cover the geographical range of the volume, but concentrate on highlighting a series of themes: the differing nature of travel of humanists (the émigré, the migrant, the migratory), the eclectic nature of the community of humanist scribes in Italy, the role of merchants in the humanist enterprise (using a particular example relating to Bartomoleo Facio), and the chronological change over the century and, in particular, the impact of the intervention of print. I end with a side-swipe or perhaps rather a gentle cuff around the head for those early modernists who imagine the Renaissance is theirs. Read on…

Just published: Humanism in Fifteenth-Century Europe

Posted in Humanism by bonaelitterae on 22 May, 2012

Saturday saw the launch in Durham of a book I have edited for Medium Ævum Monographs: Humanism in Fifteenth-Century Europe. It is a set of essays covering much of the geographical span of Christendom, from Hungary to Scotland and from Castile to Poland. In order to make it all the more useful for readers, it also includes a collection of just over sixty potted biographies of humanists mentioned in the volume — an appendix which I compiled with the globe-trotting Oren Margolis.

The launch itself was a jolly affair, rounding out the Annual General Meeting and Lecture of the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature, who publish the journal Medium Ævum and the Monograph series. The Annual Lecture was given by Prof. Helen Cooper and was a scintillating discussion of ‘The Ends of Story-telling’, reminding us how at a most basic level story collections sought to comprehend, to come to terms with or to cheat the final end of existence, through the character of the story-teller. The volume I have edited occupies similar chronological territory to Helen Cooper’s lecture (though she ranged beyond one century or even one millennium), but deals with a set of scholars for whom death was to be defeated by their achievement of fame, in their own country and elsewhere.

The launch was presided over by Anthony Lappin, both President of the Society and its managing Monographs Editor, with a response — brief to avoid keeping the audience away from the alcohol that followed — by myself. As you can tell, even if the speakers were not elegant, the setting of the Senate Suite in Durham’s Castle certainly was.

Tony Lappin watches in stunned silence as David Rundle turns Humanism on its side.

As I explained in my short speech, the volume is part of a new story for the Society — a collection of essays rather than a single-authored volume and one which has developed out of another new initiative, the Society’s one-day conferences. At the same time, it is in ways a return to an old story, for the casus belli for this project was the related one of creating a new on-line edition of Roberto Weiss’s Humanism in England during the Fifteenth Century, a book which was itself one of the very earliest (old series) Medium Ævum monographs.

One thing I did not have time to note in my comments was that this volume is the thirtieth Monograph in Medium Ævum’s ‘new series’. The fact that the number appears in Roman numerals allows all sorts of possibilities: I could claim that this is a volume which is XXX-rated, which could boost sales (available from the Society website at a very reasonable £40 – or just £20 if you join the Society). Or perhaps it should signify that you shouldn’t give a XXX for any other study of humanism in fifteenth-century Europe.

Weiss on-line

Posted in Blogography, Humanism by bonaelitterae on 23 October, 2009

One hears that there as many resources available on-line for the louche and the aficinados of the demi-monde as there were courtesans in Renaissance Venice. Now there is one more site for Weiss. Pardon the pun, out of which I should have grown by now, but it still amuses. Me, at least.

The Weiss in question is Robert(o), and more specifically his Humanism in England during the Fifteenth Century. Habitués of these postings may recall that my summer has been spent writing addenda to his work, which remains the main guide to its subject. The first instalment of the new, fourth, edition is now available at the Medium Ævum website. Others will follow in the coming weeks and, eventually, it will not be just the text, with addenda, that is available but also a new appendix of unpublished texts and an introduction by myself.

The instalments each appear in two pdf formats, one closer to a printed version and one with the new addenda inserted as marginal glosses  (how unhumanist!). I would be interested to hear views on both of these. My fellow editor, Anthony Lappin, prefers a style that moves us away from the printed version and, as I’ll mention in a moment, it has its real advantages, but I also have a sense that we need to keep in mind the concept of the old-style hard-copy book. That is partly because there will be those who prefer to print off and read than to view on screen; indeed, I could name those scholars in this subject area who would do just that. But there is also a wider point: scholarship still conceptualises itself in paginated, paper format and to deny that is to leave the on-line world as a ghetto blocked off from the greater universe of scholarship. We have to take the older styles of learning with us if what we do is to be of relevance.

But there are advantages to a version designed to be viewed rather than held. I have consciously attempted to include in the addenda references to works now available on-line, so that the extra information links this work with the wider web of knowledge that subtly criss-crosses the ether. The technology is not ideal: even with Firefox, a click on a link takes you from the pdf to the next site within the same pane; I refrain from using the obvious pun, this time. My advice is to have open the pdf in two tabs (or windows if you are bounded by timid Explorer), so that one can trawl beyond the text, while the other can by your port and portal. The result, we hope, is that the effect of attaching together text with other on-line resources is like providing the thin but perceptible bonds that tie together the figures in the Allegory of Good Government in the Palazzo Publico of Siena: it helps to found a well-ordered settlement — far from the sites of vice — in the new republic of letters.  This is a community with no illiberal limits on immigration, so come and join us.