Home » A Letter Regarding Pedagogical Use of EEBO Materials

A Letter Regarding Pedagogical Use of EEBO Materials

Mr John Tuck

Deputy the Director of University

Library Services and to Bodley’s Librarian

Broad Street

Dear John,

I enclose some copies of material from EEBO that we use in undergraduate classes for English Schools papers 2 (Shakespeare), 3 (1100-1509), and 4 (1509-1642). We also use EEBO for Paper 5 (1642-1740), but I haven’t included anything from that since the enclosed examples should be sufficient to illustrate how invaluable the facility is. Basically, it has two great virtues It allows the students access to primary materials that they would not otherwise come across; this makes them relate literary texts to each other and to historical contexts in insightful ways and through their own thinking processes, rather than recycling existing scholarship. Secondly, the materials on EEBO allow students to consider how the visual appearance of early printed books often contains features that are important for Interpretation. The mise- of the original printed book communicates vital information concerning a work’s perceived structure and, often, the generic or other traditional frameworks to which the work relates.

The enclosure with ‘Stephen Hawes’ at the top of the first page illustrates the second point. The first two pages are a photocopy of a modem edition of his poem (the editor has entitled it ‘Against Swearing’), and the last page is the poem as it was printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1509. From this and other texts we know that Hawes and de Worde were unusually careful to present word and image in meaningful relationship on the printed page. Obviously the main point — the image of Christ at the start of Hawes’ poem ‘in the de Worde print – is lost in -the modem edition. The poem begins ‘See / Me’, and with de Worde’s print that injunction makes much more sense. Swearing here means referring to Christ’s bodily parts (God’s wounds’. for example), and the notion that our use of such words physically wounds Christ -‘thy swearing aslake I – I Tear we now no more’ – implies a connection between words and bodies that de Worde’s print, with both its word and image, admirably fulfills- Resonating through It all is the notion of the Word made Flesh. We used this example, very successfully, in a class on late medieval religion and affective piety, contextual for tutorials on Middle English mystics.

I will deal with the other examples more briefly, though they are no less interesting as illustrations of the value of EEBO in teaching. Take the copy of A Discovery of the Barmudas … (161 0). We used this text in conjunction with Shakespeare’s The Tempest. There has been a great deal of work in recent years on tile theme of colonialism in The Tempest. instead of repeating what Orgel or Greenblatt say about this, student,-, were able to encounter for themselves an unus[u]al text that offers many interesting points of with Shakespeare’s play. As a more general point- the discussion raised the students’ consciousness about the complex relationships between what we consider literary and historical materials, and the difficulty of asserting boundaries.

You’ll also find a package of materials on the English Reformation and Protestantism, (As in the following package on Elizabeth 1, not everything, in here is from EEBO.) Again we were exploring here relationships between texts and images, particularly in the material from John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments. It was interesting for the students to consider how the title page of that work, on p 9 of the handout, follows the structure of paintings of the Last Judgement; the picture of Henry VIII on p I I of the handout also embodies that structure, the ‘sheep’ being raised up Oil one side, and the ‘goats’ sent down on the other. We were able to put together some cogent ideas concerning authority and the ways that texts try to persuade readers, visually as well as logically.

The last package, with a picture of Elizabeth I on the front, is a handout I used in a recent lecture, The genealogy on pp. 4-5, from Arthur Kelton, is a particularly rare and interesting text that worked nicely into the lecture’s concern with the problematic nature of Arthur as a dynastic hero. Most of the other material here was from EEBO, and The lecture would have been much less effective without it. In fact, a number of students kindly commented on how useful they found this material.

Overall, the value of EEBO is that it allows students to deal with materials at first hand and gain a nuanced and scholarly feel for earlier periods of literature. They will thereby hone their critical skills to a far greater degree than they could if reading solely from modern editions, which both exclude vital information and ‘close down’ features that in the original are open-ended, I very much hope that the Bodleian will continue to sponser This very enriching and exciting service.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Andrew King
Term Fellow in English