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Straws in the Wind: Ballads and Broadsides, 1500-1800 Conference

February 24-25, 2006
Annual Early Modern Center Conference
University of California, Santa Barbara

The Early Modern Center of the University of California, Santa Barbara and the EBBA team hosted a two-day interdisciplinary conference, “Straws in the Wind: Ballads and Broadsides, 1500-1800.” The conference derived its title from a comment made by John Selden (whose collection of ballads Samuel Pepys built upon) in touting the importance of ballads, or what he called “libels” of his time. “Though some make slight of libels,” Selden protests, “yet you may see by them how the wind sits. As take a straw, and throw it up into the air; you shall see by that which way the wind is, which you shall not do by casting up a stone.” This conference provided a space to interrogate these “scattered straws” from a range of perspectives. How do they function as cultural artifacts or as indicators of their historical moments? What are the lasting impacts and legacies of ballad culture? If ballads and broadsides have the capacity to show trends of popular culture, do they also have the potential to change them?

The two-day program offered seven exciting panels representing a variety of disciplines, on topics including ballad collection, aesthetics, monsters, gender and transgression, class, the political and the transatlantic. It was generously sponsored by the University of California Humanities Research Initiative (UCHRI) (see our grant application here); UC Santa Barbara's Early Modern Center, College of Arts and Sciences, Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, and the Departments of English, Art History, Comparative Literature, Dramatic Arts, French and Italian, History, Spanish and Portuguese, and Women’s Studies.

Conference Schedule
Friday, February 24, 2006
8:30 Registration and Coffee
9:00 Introduction: Patricia Fumerton (English, Director EMC, UCSB), “The Spacious Voices of Broadsides and Ballads: Pepys’s Blackamoor, Black and More”
9:30 Session 1: Re-Collecting Ballads
Moderator: Joseph Nagy (English, UCLA)
Alan H. Nelson (English, UC Berkeley), “Humphrey Dyson: Unheralded Collector of Early English Ballads”
Giles Bergel (English, University of London), “‘An Acquaintance of a Much Lower Stamp’: Thomas Percy and the Dicey Press”
Mary Ellen Brown (Folklore/Ethnomusicology, Indiana University), “Child’s Ballads and the Broadside Conundrum”
Gerald Egan (English, UCSB), “Encoding an Electronic Archive of English Broadside Ballads”
11:00 Session 2. Street Aesthetics: Woodcuts and Black Letter
Moderator: Mark Meadow (Art History, UCSB)
Elizabeth Mitchell (Art History, UCSB), “William Hogarth’s Pregnant Ballad Sellers and the Printer’s Matrix”
Sean Shesgreen (English, Northern Illinois University), “Crude Woodcuts from a Hawker’s Basket: Images for ‘The Bottom Levels of the Social Scale’”
Angela McShane-Jones (History, Oxford Brookes University), “The Singing Shoemaker, Richard Rigby: Cobbling Together Popular Political Ballads in Early Modern England”
12:15 Lunch
1:30 Session 3: Monsters and Wonders
Moderator: Robert Erickson (English, UCSB)
Tassie Gniady (English, UCSB), “Do You Take This Hog-Faced Woman As Your Lawful, Wedded Wife?”
Julie Crawford (English & Comparative Literature, Columbia University), “Monsters in the Margins”
Joel Slotkin (Introduction to the Humanities Program, Stanford University), “Chimerical Allegories in Early Modern Broadside Ballads”
Anita Guerrini (History, UCSB), “Advertising Monstrosity: Broadsides and Human Exhibition in the Early 18th Century”
"Night of Songs" Evening Event at the Chase Palm Park Center
Saturday, February 25, 2006
9:00 Registration and Coffee
9:00 Session 4: Gender and Transgression I: Hearing Voices
Moderator: E. Heckendorn Cook (English, UCSB)
Niamh J. O’Leary (English, Pennsylvania State University), “Singing Community: Listening to Women’s Voices in Early Modern Street Ballads”
Simone Chess (English, UCSB), “‘And I my vowe did keepe’: Oath Making, Subjectivity and Husband Murder in ‘Murderous-Wife’ Ballads”
Thomas Pettitt (Literature, University of Southern Denmark),“Folk Song and Femicide: Journalism vs. Tradition in the Early English Ballads of the Murdered Sweetheart”
10:30 Coffee Break
10:45 Session 5: Gender and Transgression II: Crime
Moderator: Liberty Stanavage (English, UCSB)
Frances E. Dolan (English & Women’s Studies, UC Davis), “Tracking the Petty Traitor across Genres”
Joy Wiltenburg (History, Rowan University), “Ballads and the Emotional Life of Crime”
Ruth Perry (Literature, MIT), “Brother Trouble: Incest and Murder in English Ballads”
12:15 Lunch
1:30 Session 6: Class and the Collective
Moderator: Patrick Ludolph (History, UCSB)
Steve Newman (English, Temple University), “‘The Maiden’s Bloody Garland’: Thomas Warton and the Elite Appropriation of Popular Song”
Melissa M. Mowry (English, St. John’s University), “‘Poor-whores,’ ‘Apprentices’ and ‘Citizens’: The 1668 Bawdy House Riots and the Imperative of Collectivity”
Christa Lynn Pehl (Music, Princeton University), “The Representation of Lower-Class Diet in Seventeenth-Century English Broadside Balladry”
3:00 Session 7: Political Broadsides: From England to the Americas
Moderator: Elisa Tamarkin (English, UC Irvine)
Corrinne Harol (English, University of Alberta), “Relics in a Whiggish Age: Jacobites, Ballads, and Pretentious Bastards”
Scarlet Bowen (English, University of Colorado, Boulder), “‘Sold to Virginny’: Kidnapping Tales, Indentured Servitude, and the Anti-Emigration Movement, ca. 1680-1720”
Noelle Chao (English, UCLA), “Polly, Musical Crossing, and the In-Betweens of Circum-Atlantic Performance”
William B. Warner (English, UCSB), “Yankee Doodle, Masculine Anxiety, and the American Way of War”
4:45 Reception and Open Discussion
8:00 Dinner at Opal