Teaching Transcribathons and Experiential Learning

By Liza Blake

This post is one of seven scheduled to appear in The Recipes Project’s upcoming September Teaching Series, which focuses on new ideas and strategies for teaching with recipes.

As we all prepare for the next EMROC Transcribathon on Sept. 18, I look back at the role Transcribathons might play in literature classrooms—specifically, in this case, a class on early modern women’s writing (compare techniques here and here).

Interested in bringing transcription into the classroom? It’s easier than you might think, and just as exciting for your students as you might expect! This post describes a locally hosted, teaching-oriented EMROC Transcribathon, and provides some resources for those wishing to host local Transcribathons of their own.

Scene from Toronto Campus

This winter the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) hosted Professor Rebecca Laroche to lead a local EMROC Transcribathon. The Transcribathon was made possible by funding from the UTM Graduate Expansion Fund, the UTM Department of English and Drama, and the University of Toronto Scarborough Department of English. Two University of Toronto graduate RAs put time and energy into the event: Melanie Simoes Santos (English Dept.), and Cai Henderson (Centre for Medieval Studies).

The UTM Transcribathon was hosted for the 47 UTM undergraduates in Professor Liza Blake’s early modern women writers course, 307 Women Writers syllabus W18 (abbreviated for sharing).

The course was designed around experiential learning: in addition to the Transcribathon, students also received training in textual bibliography and editorial theory; critically analyzed editorial choices in two women writer anthologies; and each produced an edition of a text of their choosing for a class-wide anthology (conducting bibliographical research, undertaking textual collation, and producing textual and bibliographical introductions for their texts). Students left aware of the work that went into producing their textbooks, and empowered to not just consume but produce those texts themselves.

At the heart of the course’s emphasis on experiential learning, then, was the EMROC Transcribathon, where students gathered together to transcribe, and reflect on the place of transcription in a women’s writing course. For attending and participating in the Transcribathon for at least an hour, and submitting their reflections, students received a grade worth 5% of their final mark.

What does it take to run a local Transcribathon? Not much! The funding sources mentioned above allowed us to fly in and host an EMROC representative (Prof. Rebecca Laroche); reserve a room and provide refreshments; and hire graduate RAs to serve as (paid) organizers and facilitators. But at a minimum, one needs only a designated space and a committed group of transcribers!

Leading up to the event, we talked in class about EMROC, and why so many scholars are invested in transcribing these recipe books. I went over standard transcription conventions, describing the differences between transcribing and modernizing with a handout (Transcription Conventions) and I went over how to mark up with this handout: Dromio guidelines.

I also gave them a manuscript “alphabet”—a cheat sheet (TurnerMS alphabet) showing the manuscript’s particular graphs. These handouts were prepared by Melanie Simoes Santos and myself. Jennifer Munroe has also written on helpful tips for easing students into transcription, here.

On the day itself, the instructions were simple: show up for an hour and transcribe! One student wrote about the experience, “It gave me a surreal sense of intimacy with a woman who lived in a completely different time,” and another was surprised that “the personal grammatical and expressive preferences of the author became familiar to me; … I didn’t expect something like an old cookbook to possess such a distinct voice.” One student said, “It never occurred to me how much work actually goes into uncovering a work, transcribing it, and publishing it in an anthology,” and this insight prompted larger reflections for another student: “Getting the chance to transcribe something makes me think about the relationship that exists between the original work versus the modernized or edited work we see in our anthologies.” The event allowed one student “to reflect … on why certain texts are privileged and transcribed over others.” Another concluded, “I felt like I was contributing to something bigger than just our course.” There were also extremely practical outcomes: “I learned how to make orange pudding and dry figs!”

Anyone interested in hosting a local Transcribathon of their own is welcome to get in touch with me; I’m happy to share funding materials or answer questions about hosting. In the meantime, I leave you with some parting thoughts and tips.

1) Flexibility. Though many students cherished the collaboration of the group Transcribathon, some students had irreconcilable work obligations, so I allowed a few to “check in” and “check out” via email, and send copies of their transcriptions, if they couldn’t come in person.

2) Food. Funding made it possible to have ample refreshments set out for the duration of the event, and many students mentioned how much they appreciated draw of the free lunch.

3) Prizes. A trip to the Canadian store Dollarama the night before yielded us some cheap prizes: e.g., if someone found the word “spoon” in a recipe, they could win a wooden spoon to add to their own kitchen.

These prizes were surprisingly effective motivators for our transcribers, and we’d recommend this practice to others!

4) Beyond? It might have been exciting to try the recipes themselves out, as other Transcribathons have done, or to link the Transcribathon more specifically with a same-day research event. Transcribathons that include linked research talks remind participants of what is at stake in their transcribing labor.

Transcribathon Banquet

 

Please join us virtually for our 3rd annual online Transcribathon on Tuesday, November 7, where we will have a number of texts available for transcription.

In the past two Transcribathons, we have worked only on one text, Rebeckah Winche (Folger V.b.366) and then Lady Castleton (Folger V.a.600)—respectively—from start to finish. This year we are going to take a different approach: to complete several texts. Our goal is to have 10 completed texts this year, that is 10 triple-transcribed and vetted early modern recipe books that can be downloaded in a searchable pdf. We currently have a number of texts that are either partially transcribed or fully transcribed but not completely vetted.  So, in working to complete these texts we will be offering a banquet of possibilities for those interested in learning more about early modern recipes and paleography.

In terms of transcription, we will begin with the L. Cromwell recipe book (Folger V.a.8), which is one third done, and then when it is finished we will move onto Margaret Baker manuscript (Folger Va619), which is approximately two thirds transcribed.


To make an Apple pudding. Cromwell Manuscript, Folger V.a.8, F37.

For advanced paleographers interested in learning the art of vetting, we will also be offering a number of texts to be vetted, first then Mary Cruso (Folger X.d.24) then Lady Castleton, and finally the recipe manuscript written by Lettice Pudsey (Folger V.a. 450).  We are, in short, offering a kind of smorgasbord of transcribing—or a “choose your own adventure” in early modern paleography with a mix of 21st century coding.

Please save the date, November 7, and stayed tuned for more information soon.   We hope you will join us.

Amy L. Tigner, University of Texas, Arlington

The 1st Annual EMPS Transcribathon

 

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The officers of the Early Modern Paleography Society at UNC Charlotte have been (very) busily preparing for our first annual EMPS Transcribathon!

The Transcribathon will take place on Friday, April 8th, 2016 from 10 am – 3 pm EDT. Our main headquarters will be on the campus of UNC Charlotte, in the Student Union rooms 340C&F, but if you can’t make it to Charlotte, we’d love for you to participate remotely! As of right now, we have transcribers planning to participate both nationally and internationally – from Colorado Springs to Berlin!

Our main goal is to completely transcribe an anonymous 18th century manuscript recipe book that the Folger has set aside for us. We’ll need all the help we can get, so we welcome all participation, whether it’s for the entire day or just half an hour.

We also have various activities planned throughout the day to attract potential new transcribers: there will be games, transcription sprints, and prizes, as well as a panel discussion about the importance of transcription, early modern recipes, and what it’s like to grow ingredients and cook from the recipes we transcribe (among other topics) with panelists from UNC Charlotte, UC Colorado Springs, and UNC Chapel Hill. We’ll also have plenty of coffee and snacks throughout the day and will be meeting afterwards for a wine social at the Wine Vault across the street from campus.

In preparation for the event, our university greenhouse grew angelica, seen below in its abundance:

Angelica

And we got together to candy the angelica for the event, so if you come, you’ll be able to taste:

AngelicaCooking

Angelica2Cooking

If you have any questions or would like to circulate our flyer to your contacts who might like to participate, feel free to send me an email: bward30@uncc.edu.

You can also stay up-to-date on the happenings by “liking” our page on Facebook (facebook.com/empsociety) and following us on Twitter (@empsociety)! Or, for the event, you can use #empstranscribathon2016.

EMROC’s Coming Up Roses in 2016

By Rebecca Laroche

Roses

Once again, EMROC enters a new term filled with exciting discoveries and steady progress toward our collective goals. Through our teaching and research, we look to transcribe, vet, and tag as well as present our findings and our progress in various conferences in North America and Europe. This work reinforces EMROC’s aims in forging links between individual and collaborative research and connecting both with our energizing classrooms.

This semester, three EMROC members are linking the project with their classes. At North Carolina State University, Maggie Simon is integrating recipes from Constance Hall’s collection into a discussion on country house poems in her course “Delighting in Disorder: Seventeenth Century Poetry and Prose.” The unit abuts another on verse miscellanies, and she anticipates that the juxtaposition will fit nicely with considering other types of manuscript transmission, collaboration, and compilation. In a course entitled “The Global History of Food, 1450–1750,” Lisa Smith at the University of Essex considers with her students how recipes fit within global culture as commodities and as transmitted texts as they transcribe into DROMIO. Concurrently, Rebecca Laroche appropriately connects her online students with Digital Humanities questioning as they explore recipes from Margaret Baker’s and Elizabeth Bulkeley’s collections. Combined, these courses are engaging the minds of more than sixty students with EMROC’s purpose and goals.

Students previously energized by their classroom experience continue to “spread the love.” On April 8, members of the Early Modern Paleography Society (EMPS) at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte who participated in the fall International Transcribathon, will be hosting the first student-run transcribathon. They are looking at the recipe book of Lettice Pudsey (Folger v.a.45) as their possible focus. Continue to monitor this space for further details.

While graduate students at the University of California-Davis, University of Maryland, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and the University of Texas-Arlington chip away at the transcriptions of Catchmay, Hall, and Granville this spring, research assistants at the Max Planck Institute, the University of Essex, and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs will be vetting and tagging the Winche manuscript completed during fall’s transcribathon. The goal is to get the transcription fully database ready as a model for other texts that are reaching triple-keyed closure.

In these first months of 2016, it is clear that EMROC has fully entered the scholarly conversation. Early in January, Rebecca Laroche participated in a roundtable at the Modern Language Association about the “Myth of Post-Canonicity,” highlighting EMROC’s potentials within the larger Digital Humanities arena, while Elaine Leong presented research on paper as an ingredient for “Working with Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge” project, research that she was able to complete because of the St. John and Winche transcriptions. Hillary Nunn has organized a recipes team for the “Networking Early Modern Women” day for the revisions of the Six Degree of Francis Bacon DH venture and has attained a place at the Folger’s “Digital Agendas” roundtable on Scholarly Conversations & Collaborations as part of the Renaissance Society of America’s April meeting in Boston. She and Jennifer Munroe have been invited to represent EMROC at the Shakespeare Association’s Digital Showcase in New Orleans at the end of March and have also committed to sharing EMROC’s work at a conference on cookbooks in New York City in May.  Speaking to the German Shakespeare Association in April in Bochum, Amy Tigner will discuss EMROC’s work and its connection to early modern culinary gardens.

As CFPs and course schedules circulate for the 2016-17 academic year, the collective can only anticipate that its efforts will grow and its presence will intensify. The logic of the task is so clear, the feedback from classes and presentations so positive. With many thanks to all who participated in the collective in 2015, all look to continuing this work with enthusiasm and dedication. If you would like to be a part of the conversation, EMROC now has a listserv; just send an email to contactemroc@gmail.com with the expressed desire to join.

 

 

 

The Very Fine Great Receipt Book of Anne Carr: The Dialogism of a Community

By Breanne Weber
MA Student, UNC Charlotte

The day after the Transcribathon, my fellow graduate students from UNC Charlotte and I spent all day in the Folger’s reading room. Surrounded by hundreds reference books, situated above the decks where rare and fragile manuscripts are preserved, and inspired by the beautiful architecture and scholarly atmosphere, we together pored over each manuscript we requested for our own projects, sharing exciting and strange finds. We spent hours in the Folger reading room that day, breaking only for a very late lunch so that we could return until closing.

AnneCarr'sBook

I spent nearly all of my hours in the reading room with the 1673 Choyce receits collected out of the book of receits, of the Lady Vere Wilkinson, begun to be written by the Right Honble the Lady Anne Carr. The names listed on the title page of this receipt book – Lady Vere Wilkinson, Lady Anne Carr, and Susana Hixon – illustrate from its beginning the collaboration that took place in the creation of this particular recipe book. I was thus unsurprised to find that the pages of this particular book were filled with different hands.

DifferentHandwritings

Such collaboration permeates the text, as each page details various recipes, from medicines to cakes to drinks. Many pages list several different versions of the same recipe, such as how to make “sugar cakes” (the second recipe labeled “another sort of sugar cakes”). The recipes are often labeled according to contributor, in a similar fashion to those spiral-bound church cookbooks filled with recipes for Jell-O Salad and mushroom soup-based casseroles: Anne Carr’s receipt book contains “The Lady Trevors way of preserving grapes green in jelly” and a recipe “To dry plumms naturally – Mrs Harringtons way.” Labeling the recipes with the names of their creators or contributors not only serves to distinguish between similar foods or medicines, but it also illustrates the collaboration and community that surrounded the creation of such recipe books. For Anne Carr, or any reader of this book, to distinguish between the nearly identical recipes for making grape preserves, she needs to know those women who contributed the recipes.

In Anne Carr’s book, there are sometimes annotations – inserted either by the writer herself or by another reader – which also help guide readers to choose specific recipes over others. For instance, “The Countesse of Lincolns way of makeing pancakes” is qualified with the phrase “which she used to make for the King & Duchesse of York.” Clearly, if the Countess of Lincoln made them for the King, her pancakes must be worth making! In a similar fashion, other contributors qualify their recipes in their titles: page 43 features a recipe for “a very fine great cake” while another, earlier page describes how “to make Apricock Cakes the best way.” Not all of these qualifications are necessarily good, however; one recipe, for “damson wine,” contains an added annotation in a different hand: “the worst in the world.”

WorstintheWorld

Through their titles and annotations, these contributors to Anne Carr’s recipe book provide their authority on these subjects – gained through the experience of trying these recipes and sharing their thoughts with others. They participate in a continued dialogue, encouraging future readers to either try a particular recipe or stay clear from it. They assume others will use these recipes to make their own version of the Countess of Lincoln’s pancakes or to modify the worst damson wine in the world. Their words are a continuous call-and-response, hearkening back to their own personal experiences of developing these recipes while simultaneously anticipating the needs and desires of future readers. These women have built, across cultures, continents, and time, a community that still thrives today.

As for our postmodern transcription community, we have a wonderfully glorious responsibility: to further the legacy that these early moderns have left behind. To keep this community alive, we need only open, read, and share the magic found within the fragile pages of these manuscripts.