Jonathan Hope, Professor (Literature)
In the fall of 2018, Jonathan Hope traded in the most populous city in Scotland for the American Southwest. Leaving behind the city center of Glasgow, he embraced the desert. After 17 years at the University of Strathclyde, “it was time for a change,” he says.
His decision to forego opportunities at East Coast universities in favor of a faculty appointment at ASU was based on the appeal of the innovative, inclusive nature of ASU. “It’s really interesting and exciting,” he says, pointing to ASU’s affordable tuition as a means to make education available to everyone on an equal basis. He finds education that is priced out of reach to be “a sad thing for society.”
Hope continues his research on this side of the pond. He started his academic life as a “literary traditionalist” and developed a strong interest in language and the attribution of Shakespeare’s plays while working on his PhD at St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge, UK. His research includes historical linguistics “from a literary/linguistic point of view—always,” he emphasizes.
Over the last 10 years, he has pursued an interest in using computers to analyze language and delve into the digital humanities. He extensively uses the EEBO-TCP: Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership corpus, which makes available the searchable text of over 125,000 books that first saw print between 1475 and 1700.
Part of his research concerns Shakespeare’s works and the words that Bard did not actually invent. “In some cases, words attributed to Shakespeare were around for 100 years before Shakespeare used them,” Hope points out. He uses EEBO-TCP to find prior instances where the words appeared in written works before Shakespeare dropped them into his plays. His article “Who Invented ‘Gloomy’? Lies People Want to Believe About Shakespeare” appeared in the March 2016 issue of Memoria di Shakespeare: A Journal of Shakespearean Studies. In it, he dashes popular wisdom with his “[s]poiler alert: Shakespeare did not invent an unusual number of words.”
“There is a huge amount of work to be done tracking words through print, through time,” Hope says. His presentation for this past spring’s Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) conference was, “Vapour of a Dungeon: Uses and Abuses of EEBO-TCP.”
While the EEBO-TCP is impressive, Hope offers a caveat: “There are about 60,000 books, which is a representative sample, but it doesn’t include manuscript material, which often contains technical words from the sciences.” He gives the example of works on astronomy, which, he says, is very popular now—along with a popular interest in astrology.
Hope’s research partner is Michael Witmore, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. The two are collaborating on the categorization of early works. Hope is also the director of the Early Modern Digital Agendas summer institutes at the Folger Shakespeare Library, which aim to “foster the development of digital approaches to early modern texts.”
Hope brings his enthusiasm for the digital humanities into the ASU classroom, where he taught a fall graduate course on the topic. Next spring, he plans to teach a class in the digital humanities on text analysis of Shakespeare. In the meantime, he is enjoying teaching the undergraduate course in Shakespeare, as well as the Survey of English Literature.
Another thing he is enjoying is Arizona. “I love the desert and the landscape,” he says. He has hiked Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak. And while his stepson has become an American football and ice hockey devotee, Hope is a rugby fan. He has played rugby—lots and lots of rugby—and prefers it over American football, which, he says, is too “stop-start” for his taste.
A man of many talents, Hope is a veteran of a new wave band, in which he played bass. The group holds the distinction of having made a record that was played by the British cultural icon DJ John Peel on his BBC Radio 1 show.
But for Hope, soccer is the alpha and the omega. Originally from Newcastle, he remains connected to his roots as a fan of the Newcastle United Football Club (his hometown soccer team).
“It’s my love,” he says simply.
Image: ASU photo of Jonathan Hope.