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Panel Summary: Digital Oral History Collections and Community – Engaged Undergraduate Education

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The first panel I attended was called “Digital Oral History Collections and Community – Engaged Undergraduate Education.” It was about how undergraduates can learn by transcribing and cataloguing oral histories. There exist huge archives of unbrowsable oral recordings. Most recordings don’t have any searchable information attached to them. Sample archives: the Prison Writing Archive and Genocide Archive Rwanda. When undergraduates transcribe and catalogue these recordings, they learn about the issues at hand and the current archival situation, as well as vital research skills. They program they use is Glyphos. Panelist: Charlotte Nunes

The second panel, “Towards a taxonomy of digital humanities projects genres, applied in particular to early modern studies,” was really hard to understand. It’s essentially a metastudy of the “digital” in “digital humanities” – what component of any given project is digital, and how does this result in a number of project “types?” Many digital humanists just use digital technologies for research that will just end up in digital print. Some go for a hybrid approach (example: a book with a supplementary website). Full digital would just be online – say, an animation or digital collection. There was a lot more that I’m sure would’ve made sense if I were deeper in digital humanist discourse. Panelist: John Theibault

The third, “Collecting and Analyzing Visual Data,” was about Cheryl Klimaszewski’s experience cataloguing “house museums” via photography and online exhibits. House museums are small museums dedicated to local culture. They’re usually set up in private residences and get little to no institutional support. She also touches on the difficulty of cataloguing objects in writing. There are so many dimensions to an object’s existence (say, all the measurements, colors, materials, age, shape, etc. etc.) that it’s difficult to represent except via the object itself. Klimaszewski explores photographic documentation as an archival tool.

Recommended VN

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If you wanna check out a visual novel, I recommend this one: // It's really good and can be completed in about an hour or two.

Current goals

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-at least two more VN posts done by the end of the job

-i’m done with visualizations (for now) and just need professor buurma’s help to web publish them somewhere

-help out mollie with the citation project

I'm also doing some blog posts.

Quotes from research

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Nicholas Dames’ chapter research

“Thus the novelistic chapter: that modest, provisional kind of closure, a pause that promises more of the same later, like the fall of night. As the modern novel developed, explanations like those of the Fieldings became less necessary.”

“Already in the eighteen-forties, the metaphor was a common one. To “close that chapter of my life” with regret, to excitedly “start a new chapter”: these are at once experiences of reading and experiences of living. They are ways in which our lives, in fact, take on the shape of a novel.”

No time to be idle: the serial novel and popular imagination

“The serial began as a loophole in English tax law. Newspapers had to pay a higher tax on the paper they used in publication; however, by using a bigger sheet they could call their newspapers "pamphlets" and avoid the extra tax. The bigger sheets required more text, and serialization provided an easy and stable way to fill up the space. The first serial, The London Spy, appeared in 1698. By the time the paper tax was repealed, readers had grown so accustomed to serial novels, that they expected their continuation. Newspapers, and then magazines, delivered serials to boost circulation; a popular serial could double readership. This process continued until serialization exploded in the Victorian era with the appearance of Dickens' Pickwick Papers in 1836.” Once again economics drove the continuing popularity of serialization. Much of this success derived from the enormous length of Victorian novels, published as books in three volumes and known as triple-deckers. The average family could not afford a three-volume book, but they could spare a shilling a month for installments. The triple-decker remained in place because of another Victorian oddity, the subscription library. Patrons of the library paid one guinea (a pound and a shilling) for one subscription. That subscription entitled the member to two works. To finish a triple-decker, the patron had to buy at least one more subscription. The system worked brilliantly. Publishers made money from the serialization, from triple-deckers sold to libraries, and from cheaper reprints published at a later date. The serial primed the engine of a publishing machine that operated smoothly throughout the Victorian era.”

“The communal element in serials also held a great attraction for Victorians. Very often families read new magazines aloud and discussed the latest events in their favorite serial. The monthly intervals between most installments allowed friends to speculate, critique, and worry over what would occur next in the issue. Many readers even wrote the authors with suggestions for the plot and pleas for the lives of their favorite characters. Dickens received hundreds of letters asking for the life of Little Nell. He told his friend William Charles Macready, "I am slowly murdering that poor child, and grow wretched over it. It wrings my heart." But he turned a deaf ear to the entreaties: "Yet it must be." Victorians felt a powerful connection to serials as though they participated in the formation and eventual triumph of the story. Installments allowed those feelings to grow and strengthen as readers committed themselves to literally years of waiting for the novel to play out. Serials became the literary expression of Victorian ideas about progress and personal achievement.”

Serialization of Wilkie Collins

“The technical, economic and legal aspects of syndication were not unduly complex but the process depended on efficient communications systems and required vigilant attention to detail if varied agreements were to be kept and constant deadlines met. From the mid 1870s Tillotson worked to create a relatively stable 'coterie' of around a dozen British provincial weeklies with complementary circulations, which would pay substantial sums (over ?100 for the biggest names in the largest journals by the mid 1880s) to serialize new novels simultaneously, or virtually so, in advance of volume publication, which normally occurred close to the appearance of the final serial installment. In addition, backlists of fiction already published in volume, but for which Tillotson retained newspaper publication rights, were maintained, and these novels and short stories were sold to lesser journals, for as little as a shilling per column in the case of unknown writers.”

“But, important as this simple financial motivation is, there are also more complex socio-economic issues underlying the unstable, uncomfortable relationship which Collins and his agent enjoyed with the proprietors of the popular newspapers. The two sides are frequently at cross purposes over the status of both the author and the literary work. For many of the newspapermen the writer's name and output were simply marketable commodities. They often wanted to receive the precise number and length of the episodes, the title, a description of the principal characters, a summary of the plot, or even the completed manuscript before they would put their money down; they sometimes openly requested a livelier title, a more striking opening, and more melodramatic incidents.”

Some brainstorming for the spoiler project

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I’ve essentially got two parallel approaches brewing right now. The first is looking at a random sample title pages and table of contents to see what they reveal about the content of a fictional work. Did paratextual material become less likely to reveal plot information as time went on? The second is looking at the discussion that surrounds a work. What was review culture like, say, at Moll Flanders’ publication? Pamela? The Pickwick Papers? How did people discuss these works in print? Where did they? When did critical or literary magazines arise? “Spoilers” are more about the culture that surrounds a work rather than their materiality.

This question has led me to research the history of serialization. I hadn’t realized that it was such a recent (relatively speaking) innovation for the novel. Between 1830 and 1840, serialization rapidly altered the novel’s material presentation. I’m reading the work on chapters that Professor Buurma recommended ( as well as some sources on serialization.

I’m also going to read:

  • No time to be idle: The serial novel and popular imagination
  • On the serial publication of Oliver Twist
  • Wilkie in the Weeklies: The Serialization and Syndication of Collins's Late Novels

Gaby's Plan

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to do this week on spoilers project. obtain:

10 examples of title pages & table of contents from works under “novels” from 1720 1760 1800 1840 1880 1920 1960 2000

five samples of reviews/advertisements from those same years

Rise of the Novel Syllabus Project

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Right now, I’m working on a small project of cataloguing the novels and theorists taught in undergraduate novel courses. The aim of this project is to draw connections between the novels and theorists that are taught. To do this, I’m cataloguing a bunch of syllabi that Professor Buurma collected from other professors.This’ll be visualized as an association web. Eventually, I’d like to get more specific as to which theorists are associated with which novels. This’ll create a picture of how students are taught to interpret a novelistic canon.

At least there are orgies in it?

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So, uh, it turns out that CHRYSAL, OR THE ADVENTURES OF A GUINEA is a wildly anti-Semitic tract?

While leafing through it, I encountered a chapter described as:

“A comparison between two dealers in flesh. The celebration of Passover in the traditional way, and the method of procuring (human) lambs explained.”


I read the chapter, and it’s as bad as it seemed – the author, Charles Johnstone, via the perspective of the guinea, “reveals” that the Jewish holiday of Passover involves the ritual sacrifice of infant Christians.


Yeah... this is pretty sketch.

There isn’t a lot of scholarship surrounding CHRYSAL. I understand why. It seems pretty terrible – long and grueling and based on rumors about contemporary figures that by now we’ve mostly forgotten. At the same time, it’s a shame that there isn’t more. According to my research, it was widely popular (we have three different copies to catalogue here) and a response to other important novels. It was allegedly influenced by TRISTRAM SHANDY.

Even if the work itself sucks, its popularity marks it as a worthwhile historical document for trends in literature and popular discourse.

I found one essay on CHRYSAL’S anti-Semitism. This might only be the only academic work on CHRYSAL, which suggests that this may be the most notable thing about it. In THE SECRET LIFE OF THINGS: ANIMALS, OBJECTS, AND IT-NARRATIVES IN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY ENGLAND, Ann Louise Kibbell wrote about CHRYSAL in the context of the Jewish Naturalization Act of 1753. This act, which allowed Jewish people to become British citizens without publically renouncing their faith, was repealed within a year due to widespread public opposition. The vast majority of the British public continued to hold anti-Semitic beliefs, such as belief in blood libel (which is depicted in CHRYSAL). CHRYSAL also trades in the stereotype of Jewish people as greedy usurers who dilute England’s national identity.

This book is 800 pages long.

In which I outline my plan of study regarding the history of the Spoiler Warning. Using Reviews and Texts spanning the centuries 18th, 19th, and 20th. A history; A blog post; By Gabriella Ekens, &c.

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I have decided to explore the history of the spoiler warning. When did people get so uptight about knowing what’s going to happen in a book beforehand? Wasn’t ROBINSON CRUSOE, as advertised, STRANGE and SURPRIZING, even though everything that happens is listed on the title page? How did this develop into the “spoiler abhorrent” literary culture that we have now? Is this trend evident in the material reality of 18th and 19th century print culture? For example, do we see an increasing reticence to discuss a text’s content? When did they stop spoiling everything in the title, tale of context, preface, etc.?

In some ways, this’ll be a history of the literary review.

This concerns how people speak about literature in public spaces more than the texts themselves. I’ll eventually go back to examine the title pages and paratexts surrounding a number of works from 1700-1900, but that’ll be after I get a sense of the discussion from reviews.

I’ll be using ECCO for images of the books & check out reviews from Garside&Raven & HahtiTrust.

My Favorite 18th Century Novel Titles So Far

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Great news from hell, or the devil foil’d by Bess Weatherby. In a letter from the late celebrated Miss Betsy Wemyss, The little Squinting Venus, to the no less celebrated Miss Lucy C——r.

Coming next summer from Quentin Tarantino.

The deification of the fair-sex. Is this some sort of 18th century MRA tract? The husband forced to be jealous: or, the good fortune of those women that have jealous husbands.

Warning signs, ladies – when a guy owns this book.

Letters written by a Peruvian princess.

Somehow I doubt this.

The history and adventures of an atom.

I hoped that this would be a weird work of early science fiction about a talking atom, but apparently “atom” used to refer to microscopic fairies.

A TRIP to the MOON. Containing an Account of the ISLAND of NOIBLA. Its INHABITANTS, RELIGIOUS and POLITICAL CUSTOMS, &c.

THEY ACTUALLY GO TO THE MOON. Also the main character is named “Sir Humphrey Lunatic.”