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

Santa Barbara, CA, February 2006

The Early Modern Center at UCSB invites paper proposals for "Straws in
the Wind: Ballads and Broadsides, 1500-1800," an interdisciplinary
conference to be held at UC Santa Barbara on February 24 and 25, 2006.

"Straws in the Wind" derives 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 provides 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

Papers should address issues central to the study of ballads and
broadsides. Possible topics might include:

*	ballad collections as reliable sources of the past
*	formal features of ballads and broadsides (woodcuts and
	blackletter print)
*	ballad music and tunes
*	the "problem" of women on the streets
*	representations of transgressive genders and sexualities
*	the preoccupation with monsters and wonders
*	violent encounters
*	notions of nation and national identity
*	the rise of the political broadside in both England and

In addition to two days of formal panels and papers, the conference
will include an evening of song and ballad performance!

The Early Modern Center at UCSB is uniquely positioned to host "Straws
in the Wind: Ballads and Broadsides, 1500-1800," as we have recently
begun work on a one-of-a-kind online archive of English broadside
ballads, 1500-1800. This ballad archive will provide a fully
searchable database and catalogue of high-quality facsimile images
(digitized in three sizes) as well as modern transcriptions of the
broadside ballads provided in such a way that the viewer never loses
sight of the original ballad artifact. Sung versions of the ballads
will also be available. We have already mounted and fully catalogued
the 1,857 ballads in the Samuel Pepys collection, together with some
transcriptions and songs of the ballads: see We hope that this conference
will continue in the spirit of the archive project, fueling inquiries
and investigations of ballads and broadsides that consider the
artifact as well as its many implications.

Proposals for 20-minute papers are due by September 15th, and should
take the form of an abstract of 300 words or less. Submit your
abstract to the Straws in the Wind website, at
Please direct questions and concerns to

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Last updated Tue, 14-Jun-2005 11:12 / GAC