The Blasphemy of Jan of Leiden is the oldest text by Menno Simons, and it indicates that he was an early opponent of the Anabaptists of Münster. This, at least, has long been the consensus view about early Mennonite history. A challenge for researchers, however, is that the oldest copy of The Blasphemy is from 1627. This post introduces a project to find out more about this 1627 text.
Henri Krop’s paper at the Faultline 1700 conference discussed shifting conceptions of religion in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. His paper’s short title was “From Singular to Plural.” Inspired in part by his paper, I have tried out a new digital humanities tool from the DBNL, the online database for Dutch literature. The graph above shows the frequency across time of the keywords godsdienst (religion) in green and godsdiensten (religions) in blue. For more on the DBNL ngram viewer, see this video. I haven’t been able to figure out how to embed an active version of the tool in this blog. The data points on the graph are clickable, if you use it as intended at dbnl.org.
Betje (Elizabeth) Wolff and Aagje (Agatha) Deken, who collaborated as life partners and co-authors over many years, are giants in the Dutch literary canon. They were also integrated into the same religious, cultural and political networks that included many Mennonites. Can the tools of digital scholarship (Voyant Tools, in particular) provide any special insights into their loooooong epistolary novels? This post provides readers and me the opportunity to try out answers to the question using two novels: Historie van mejuffrouw Sara Burgerhart (1782), and Historie van den heer Willem Leevend (1784-85).
NB: Any italicization is from the original. I have highlighted some significant phrases and passages with bold text. The original is from earlydutchbooksonline.nl. If you find passages that need correcting, please let me know. My intention is to make all 11 of van der Kemp’s 1782 sermons available in digital format. –MD
PS: This web format allows you, the reader, to put the URL for this post into Voyant Tools. If you wish to do online analysis, this step is easier than copying and pasting the text into the Voyant window. I will eventually remove this English text from the sermon.
REDEVOERING, OP DEN BIDDAG, 27. Febr. 1782.
Jer. XXII, 29.
O Land, land, land! Hoort des HEEREN voort:
Het dient niet weinig ter opheldering der geschiedenissen, zo des Bibels als des Joodschen Volks, dat de Almachtige deszelvs bizondere Beschermgod en Regeerer waere; door het welk veele, anderzints onoplosselyke, zwarigheden, worden weggenomen. In dezen zin, te weten, met betrekking tot het Staetsbestuur, was het ook, by uitstekenheid, dat God aen Israël zyne rechten en instellingen bekend gemaekt had, het geen hy niet deed aen andere volken.
From 21-23 January I will be participating in a conference on the theme of “Enlightened Religion — From Confessional Churches to Polite Piety”. It will take place in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and it is part of the Faultline 1700 research project. Together with Jonathan Israel I will provide some closing thoughts at the end of the conference. In preparation for this privilege, I will provide a few ways of summarizing the conference proceedings — even before it begins. Read more
For today I have a short observation that I might develop in the future. The post is about how digital tools for text analysis fit into the practice of historical research (the doing of history). Advanced students of history will be familiar with the “linguistic turn” of the late 20th century. This is the scholarly practice of analyzing how language shapes (our knowledge of) reality. Postmodern skepticism about objective historical knowledge is the best-known variant of this trend. However, it is not the only one. In recent decades many historians — not all (perhaps even few) of whom would accept the label of post-modernists — have paid increasing attention to literature and popular media as sources. One example is the British cultural analyst Raymond Williams, who, starting in the 1970s, outlined a program for the study of “keywords.” Voyant is a fabulous digital tool for the study of keywords.
- Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, and Reinhart Koselleck (eds.), Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1972-1997).
- “Keywords Project: Raymond Williams and Keywords,” online.
- Stéfan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell, “Voyant Tools Documentation: Examples of Voyant in Research,” online.
- Keith Tribe, “The Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe Project: From History of Ideas to Conceptual History,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 31, no. 1 (1989): 180-84.
- Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, rev. ed (New York; London: Oxford University Press; Fontana Paperbacks, 1985; first published in 1976).
Under the “About” and “Themes” links for this Blog I outline a new research project that I am working on with Gary Waite and a team of other scholars to examine the nonconforming religious roots of early Enlightenment thought and social organization in London and Amsterdam from about 1580 until 1700. An aspect of this project is that we will examine the opponents of religious nonconformity and intellectual innovation. The short title for the project “Amsterdamnified!” This post is about the oldest source of this quirky term. I will use the source to highlight a promising digital tool.