Visiting Speakers

Dr. Guyda Armstrong

Lecturer in Italian Department of Italian University of Manchester

Guyda Armstrong’s research is focused on Boccaccio, with three main areas of interest: the history of Boccaccio in English translation; the intertextual relationship between Boccaccio and Dante; and the production of Boccaccio editions from manuscript culture to the digital age. Wider research interests include the history and future of the book, word and image studies, humanities computing, translation studies, the plurilingual literary cultures of medieval and Renaissance Europe, and feminist critical approaches to literary and translation studies.


Dr. Stephen Clucas

Reader in Early Modern Intellectual History, Birkbeck, University of London
Dr Stephen Clucas has particular expertise in the history of natural philosophy and the occult sciences (especially early modern matter theory, alchemy, magic, and the art of memory). He is also interested in general questions such as the formation of early- modern disciplines, the nature of early modern ‘scientific’ discourses, the relationship between religious beliefs and early modern ‘science’ or magic. He is the general editor of the Journal of Intellectual History and has published a wide range of works on 16th and 17th-century intellectual history, from Ficino to John Dee and Margaret Canvendish.


Dr. Rhiannon Daniels

Department of Italian
University of Leeds/University of Bristol

Rhiannon Daniels works on the reception of Boccaccio, primarily across the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. She is particularly interested in finding ways of using the material form of manuscripts and printed books to (re)construct histories of reading and book production techniques. Her current project is concerned with studying the Decameron in sixteenth-century Italy as a ‘sociological text’; using the complex relationship and reciprocal influences that exist between the material form of the text, the printers and editors who produced it, and the readers who consumed it to investigate its cultural impact, including its significance for the development of a literary vernacular prose.

Dr. Caroline Duroselle-Melish

Assistant Curator
Department of Printing and Graphic Arts Houghton Library
Harvard University

Caroline Duroselle-Melish holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the Université de Paris X and a library degree from the Université de Lyon I. Most recently, she was employed as rare book librarian at the University of Rochester. Previously she worked as reference librarian in the historical collections of the New York Academy of Medicine and as library supervisor in the Special Collections Library of the University of Michigan.

Dr. Christy Henshaw

Dr Christy Henshaw has managed the Wellcome Library’s digitisation programme since 2007. She currently manages the Wellcome Digital Library pilot programme (2010-2012), the first stage of transforming the Wellcome Library’s website into an online resource for the history of medicine. This includes large scale digitisation of books and archives and the creation of a digital library infrastructure to support public access to the Wellcome Library’s digital content.

Dr. Chris Hilton

Dr Christopher Hilton is a Senior Archivist at the Wellcome Library, having worked there since 1993. He is responsible for the archives database and its development, with particular reference to how the system and its metadata will interact with the other elements of the Library’s information architecture: this includes both the large-scale digitisation project and, looking ahead, the arrival in the archives of large amounts of born-digital material.

Prof. John Monfasani

Distinguished Professor
History Department
The University at Albany, State University of New York

John Monfasani received his Bachelor’s degree from Fordham University in New York in 1965 and his doctorate in 1973 from Columbia University, working under Eugene F. Rice, Jr., and Paul Oskar Kristeller. He has taught in the history department of the University at Albany, State University of New York, since 1971, where he started as a lecturer and is now a Distinguished Professor. For fifteen years, 1995-2010, he was also the Executive Director of the Renaissance Society of America. His first work was on the Byzantine émigré to Renaissance Italy, George of Trebizond. He has published on Renaissance rhetoric, philosophy, and religion in addition to other major Quattrocento figures, such as Lorenzo Valla and Marsilio Ficino. He is presently preparing editions of works connected with the Plato-Aristotle controversy of the Renaissance.

Prof. Vivian Nutton

Vivian Nutton studied Classics in Cambridge before moving to the Wellcome Institute in 1977 to teach the history of medicine. He retired from his chair at UCL in 2009. He has published extensively, especially on Galen (e.g. On Problematical Movements, Cambridge 2010) and Greek and Roman medicine (Ancient medicine, London 2004; ed, 2, 2013). He has also edited medieval texts and published many articles on aspects of renaissance medicine in Italy, France and Germany. In the forthcoming October issue of Medical History he will present the first results of his investigation into the newly discovered annotations of Andreas Vesalius made in preparation for a never published third edition of the De Fabrica, the most famous of all renaissance medical books. Vivian Nutton is a Fellow of the British Academy as well as of the German Academy of Science.

Valery Rees

Valery Rees holds an MA in History from Cambridge University (Newnham College) and taught Latin at St James Independent School in London for 17 years before leaving to concentrate on research and writing. She has been engaged in the translation project of Ficino’s Letters at the School of Economic Science for the past thirty-five years. She is co-editor of Marsilio Ficino. His Philosophy, His Theology, His Legacy, (with Michael J.B. Allen and Martin Davies, Leiden: Brill, 2002) of Laus Platonici Philosophi: Marsilio Ficino and His Influence (with Stephen Clucas and Peter J. Forshaw, Leiden: Brill 2011) and of Acta Conventus Neo–Latini Upsaliensis 2009 (Brill, 2012), under the general editorship of Astrid Steiner-Weber. She has also published extensively on wider Renaissance issues, including the diffusion of Platonism in Hungary and England. Books due to appear within the coming year are From Gabriel to Lucifer. A Cultural History of Angels (I.B. Tauris) and volume 9 of the Ficino Letters.

Julianne Simpson

Julianne Simpson is Rare Book and Map Collections Manager at the John Rylands Library, Manchester. She studied history at the University of Western Australia and previously worked in Oxford, Melbourne and the Wellcome Library in London. She completed an MA in the History of the Book at the University of London in 1997. Her research interests include the international book trade in the 16th century and the development of private and insitutional libraries in the early modern period.


Recent Posts

Digital Roots: Learning/Using/Making Technology

This is a slightly modified version of my talk at Network Detroit on September 27

You can find the prezi connected to this presentation here:

Today I want to share a little bit about my personal path to becoming involved with DH, and discuss some of the reasons why digital assignments are so vital to graduate and undergraduate work.

As I began to understand what it meant to be an academic, I admit I felt a little disconnected from the field. I cared most about the practical elements of scholarship, like editing, publishing, and finding cool pop-culture elements I could bring to my students in class. I didn’t really consider that to be part of academia until I started learning more about digital projects. When I took Lisa’s Rise of the Novel class, one of the options for the final project was a website. I was already teaching and using Wikis in the classroom, but wasn’t trained to see that as a key side of my work. Building a website to analyze the novel Tristram Shandy helped me start to realize that there was still innovative and exciting work that I, a PhD student and hopeful scholar, could be bringing to the table. For the first time it made me consider that there might be a way to marry my interests in publishing, editing, and popular culture with my passion for literary studies.

This brings me to my first point: digital projects are a fantastic way to encourage young scholars to see themselves as part of the field—a field that’s growing, that is alive, and whose purpose is not just to produce knowledge, but to share it. After that class, I learned that Digital Humanities was a thing: an actual academic concentration that had been around for much longer than I thought. And just yesterday I was reminded that it used to be called Humanities Computing, but that term scared some people who thought they didn’t know how to program or code. I have to say that scares me, too. But in an exciting way.

Once you start thinking about digital arguments, you want to start defining everything else that may fit into that umbrella. I thought: well, I use technology to teach…is that DH? But wait, I also use technology to research… is that DH? Oh, and I use technology to think about why we use technology! Is that, too, DH?

I realized that the people who encouraged me to ask them were university professors—people who had jobs in the university! I found that my investment in technology, culture, and publishing was not so different from my interests in literature, research, and scholarship. I found that I could write about websites and ideas in ways that are academically legitimate. I think it’s important to come out as a Digital Humanist, and to know that that label means something for my work.  So, for me, defining myself as a Digital Humanist means that I am part of something: part of a growing and exciting new field, part of making new critical objects, and mostly part of an effort to share and disperse knowledge. It also means something crucial for my dissertation: from merely using research websites like Early English Books Online, I began to think about ways those websites could be enriched be other kinds of research and ideas, and from my experience making a digital project for a graduate seminar I knew that I could be the done bringing those ideas into existence.

Part of my dissertation project involves building a database that catalogues paratextual materials like prefaces, indexes, dedications, and errata lists written by printers and publishers. Although I’m still learning about the technological side of how to do that, I find it to be an exciting aspect of my research, one that ensures my project is relevant and productive. Through the process of designing a digital project for my graduate seminar with Lisa, I felt encouraged to conceptualize what it meant to use digital tools in my work, to be more aware of what those tools mean, who makes them, and to what purposes—basic things I teach my comp students in class every semester, and yet questions I, myself sometimes forgot to ask about my own scholarship.

And from there, the next step was to say: well, it’s not enough that I’m thinking or writing about technology; I’m at best lazy and at worst irresponsible if I don’t bring that to my own classroom. And so this semester I decided to take it a step further, and much like Lisa encouraged me to produce something new, I am not pushing my students to do the same. My current syllabus doesn’t only use technology: it teaches students to think about it in serious, scholarly ways, and helps them see that they, too, could be making an exciting contribution to their majors.  

Cheesy though it may sound, digital scholarship really has changed my life. It’s changed my perception of what academia is, and how I fit in as a part of it. And so I’ll stop here, and leave you with a few questions that hopefully we can discuss during Q&A:  

1) The first question is connected to the title of our roundtable: Digital Humanities on a budget. One thing that’s been on my mind a lot this semester is the issue of access: many of my students are returning after many years away from school; others are first-generation students; many yet are only able to go to college because of government loans or scholarships. When we talk so excitedly about DH, do we sometimes forget that there are still many students who can’t afford computers, tablets, or even smartphones? How does that change our work? And how do we handle it?  

2) How do we make sure that more students, both graduate and undergraduate, are getting the proper training, or at least getting the information they may need about where to find it? What should the role of institutions in encouraging that? As far as dissertation-level students, what’s the role of faculty in encouraging DH work? My advisor recently told me DH was my dissertation mistress—that I shouldn’t feel like I was “cheating” on my more traditional research with DH, but that I should instead actively bring it as a chapter in my work. Is there a way to make this a more clear option to students? Is it possible to soon conceive of dissertations not just with digital components but as digital projects?

3) And what about the dreaded digital divide? Is that still a thing? How do we help students who are afraid of technology? How do we teach supposedly tech savvy students how to use their knowledge in a professional or academic way?


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