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The Rose O'Neill

Literary House

“Building a Digital Gazetteer for Shakespeare’s London” with Janelle Jenstad

Date: 4:30pm EDT September 10, 2014

Janelle Jenstad is Associate Professor of English at the University of Victoria.

What is a gazetteer and why do we need one for Shakespeare’s London? A gazetteer lists placenames alphabetically along with their authority names, place categories, and geospatial locations. Placenames are the first geographical information system, recording the transformation of spaces into places meaningful to humans. When placenames, also known as toponyms, appear in literary and dramatic texts, they map out an imaginative landscape that calls upon history, culture practices, local knowledge, and prior invocations. Given the many variants for early modern placenames, a gazetteer is an essential tool for reconstructing the geography of a text via its toponyms. The Map of Early Modern London (MoEML), a digital geohumanities project,generates its gazetteer dynamically from its encyclopedia and library, both tagged using Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) standards. Following an overview of the MoEML project, with particular focus on the Agas map and on our versioned edition of John Stow’s Survey of London,I will explain how we have adapted TEI and GIS technologies to generate our evolving digital gazetteer and authority list of placenames in Shakespeare’s London.

Jenstad directs The Map of Early Modern London (MoEML), a SSHRC-funded project that maps the streets, sites, and significant boundaries of late sixteenth-century and early seventeenth-century London (1560-1640). MoEML is producing a georeferenced critical edition of the Agas map, an encyclopedia of early modern London, a XML library of literary texts, and a versioned edition of Stow’s 1598, 1603, 1618, and 1633 Survey of London.


In December 2011, she was appointed Assistant Coordinating Editor of the Internet Shakespeare Editions, for which she is editing The Merchant of Venice. Her publications include essays and chapters in Elizabethan Theatre, The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Early Modern Literary Studies, Shakespeare Bulletin, The Silver Society Journal, Institutional Culture in Early Modern Society(Brill), Shakespeare, Language and the Stage (Arden Shakespeare), Approaches to Teaching Othello (MLA), Performing Maternity in Early Modern England (Ashgate), New Directions in the Geohumanities: Art, Text, and History at the Edge of Place (Routledge), and Teaching Early Modern English Literature from the Archives (MLA, forthcoming). With Jennifer Roberts-Smith, she is co-editing a volume entitled Shakespeare’s Language in Digital Media (Ashgate).

This event is sponsored by the Sophie Kerr Committee, the Center for Environment & Society, and the Geographic Information Systems Program.