Northern Renaissance Seminar with CREME 22/02/2014 by James Mawdesley

Northern Renaissance Seminar

in association with Corpus Research in Early Modern English,

Lancaster University

The University of Lancaster

Saturday 22 February 2014


‘To set the word against the word’: new directions in early modern textual analysis


An interesting conference at Lancaster University showcased some of the wide varieties of work currently being undertaken into early modern English writings with CQPweb. The keynote paper was delivered by Dr. Andrew Hardie. Dr Hardie is ‘one of the lead developers of Corpus Workbench, a powerful, open-source system for corpus indexing and querying’ and he ‘created the CQPweb system as a user-friendly front-end to the Corpus Workbench’ ( As well as impressing his audience of primarily historians and literary scholars with the sheer amount of computer code which lay behind making CQPweb user-friendly, also took the opportunity to provide his audience with a valuable trouble-shooting session, with there being several keen participants!


If Dr. Hardie’s paper focused on CQPweb itself, the day’s other papers demonstrated the multifarious ways in which the system is being put to scholarly use. Prof. Jonathan Culpeper and Prof. Alison Findlay opened proceedings with an exploration of the words which William Shakespeare used to describe Celtic ‘others’ in his Henry V, showing that whilst the Welsh were described in generally complimentary ways, the Scots and Irish were not so fortunate, with fears about the future of the English Crown and the Earl of Essex’s activities in Ireland providing an important context for the play’s first performance in 1599. Helen Davies then gave an overview of what promises to be an important doctoral thesis about perceptions of disability in early modern England, with CQPweb again offering exciting possibilities for examining the discourse of disability in the Tudor period. The morning session concluded with Amanda Pullan using embroidered and written sources to examine the how the Biblical characters of Hagar and Ishmael were used as political allegories, particularly in the context of banishment, with early Quaker authors in the 1650s hoping that the clergy would become the Ishmaels of their day as they were banished from religious practice.


The opening paper of the afternoon saw Jake Halford demonstrating how CQPweb can point to broader questions about the uses of literary texts in early modern England. By way of Sir Francis Bacon publications, Mr. Halford considered the citations of the polymath’s texts in the seventeenth century. Rachel White then introduced the audience to the intrigues surrounding a circle of largely East Anglian-based writers who utilised the motif of ‘Areopagites’ in their work, and how their texts may have been linked through their adoption of this word. Finally, Liz-Oakley-Brown rounded off the day by using CQPweb to analyse a corpus comprised of Thomas Churchyard’s works. Dr. Oakley-Brown concluded her paper by highlighting the frequency with which the Elizabethan soldier\poet employed the phrase ‘privy hate’. All in all, this was a stimulating day, and all of the speakers are to be commended for their hard work in putting together their papers, and their enthusiasm in sharing their work with their audience.


James Mawdesley

The University of Sheffield

26th February 2014


List of participants:

Dr. Andrew Hardie – Deputy Director of the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science, Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Prof. Jonathan Culpeper – Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Prof. Alison Findlay – Department of English and Creative Writing, Lancaster University

Helen Davies – Department of English and Creative Writing, Lancaster University

Amanda Pullan – Department of History, Lancaster University

Jake Halford – Department of History, University of Warwick

Rachel White – Department of English and Creative Writing, Lancaster University

Dr. Liz Oakley-Brown – Department of English and Creative Writing, Lancaster University