Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

MLA 2011 Sessions on Electronic Resources and Related Topics

January 2, 2011

Below are MLA sessions on electronic resources or digital humanities that may be of interest to readers.  Many include abstracts.  Sessions on the history of the book are included.  If there are omissions, please forward these to me.

It would be great to hear from those who attend the sessions or read the abstracts.

Thursday, 06 January

12. Labor in the Digital Humanities

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 407, LA Convention Center

Program arranged by the MLA Committee on Information Technology and the MLA Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities

Presiding: William Thompson, Western Illinois Univ.

Speakers: Mark Childs, Coventry Univ.; Tanya E. Clement, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Pomona Coll.; Amanda L. French, George Mason Univ.; Carl Stahmer, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara

Members of this roundtable will address the professional and ethical issues raised by labor in and of the digital humanities. Questions open for discussion: the problem of authorship; the levels and kinds of recognition for contributions made to a project; issues regarding rights holding; problems raised by the differing institutional status of persons working on the same project; potential problems raised around distance education; and the complex questions raised by compensation, in the form of pay and in the form of accumulated symbolic capital.

For abstracts, visit

19. Digging into Data: Computational Methods of Literary Research

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Platinum Salon F, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Division on Methods of Literary Research

Presiding: Maura Carey Ives, Texas A&M Univ., College Station

1. “The Dangers and Delights of Data Mining,” Glenn H. Roe, Univ. of Chicago

2. “The Meandering through Textuality Challenge: Perspectives on the Humane Archive,” Stephen J. Ramsay, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln

3. “Exploring the Underpinnings of the Social Edition,” Raymond G. Siemens, Univ. of Victoria

29. The Brave New World of Scholarly Books: Publishing in Tempestuous Times

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 410, LA Convention Center

A special session

Presiding: Alan Rauch, Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte

Speakers: James J. Bono, Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York; Gregory M. Britton, Getty Publications; Jennifer Crewe, Columbia Univ. Press; Leslie Mitchner, Rutgers Univ. Press; Eric Zinner, New York Univ. Press

The current status of scholarly book publishing is confusing, troubling, and yet, from some perspectives, about to embrace a new and potentially exciting digital future.  How can scholars who don’t have regular access to editors and publishers begin to sort this out? This roundtable opens up some of the questions inherent in the “crisis” in scholarly publishing and explores the very real changes, digital and fiscal, that are altering the world of scholarly books.

For online information and handouts, write to

52. E-Books as Bibliographical Objects

1:45–3:00 p.m., Platinum Salon C, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Bibliography and Textual Studies

Presiding: Matthew Gary Kirschenbaum, Univ. of Maryland, College Park

1. “The Enkindling Reciter: Performing Reading and Concealing Texts in the E-Book Demo,” Alan Galey, Univ. of Toronto

2. “Open Objects: From Book to Nook,” Andrew Piper, McGill Univ.

3. “The Kindle Advertiser: E-Books, Advertising, and the Evanescent Edition,” Zahr Said Stauffer, Univ. of Virginia

4. “Virtual Reading on,” Yung-Hsing Wu, Univ. of Louisiana, Lafayette

125. Literary Research in/and Digital Humanities

3:30–4:45 p.m., Diamond Salon 1, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Libraries and Research in Languages and Literatures

Presiding: James Raymond Kelly, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst

Speakers: Heather Bowlby, Univ. of Virginia; Marija Dalbello, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick; Amy Earhart, Texas A&M Univ., College Station; Manuel M. Martin-Rodriguez, Univ. of California, Merced; Susanne Woods, Wheaton Coll., MA; Abby Yochelson, Library of Congress

Respondent: Robert H. Kieft, Occidental Coll.

This session is the inaugural meeting of a new interdisciplinary MLA discussion group formed by librarians in the association for the discussion of matters of mutual interest with scholars. Panelists will present current work, and the group will discuss its future and how it can promote the creation and curation of scholarly collections and archives, publications, research data, and teaching and study tools through professional associations and on their own campuses.

For abstracts, visit

141. New Thresholds of Interpretation? Paratexts in the Digital Age

5:15–6:30 p.m., Platinum Salon F, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the International Society for the Study of Narrative

Presiding: Dorothee Birke, Freiburg Inst. for Advanced Studies

1. “Bootleg Paratextuality and Media Aesthetics: Decay and Distortion in the Borat DVD,” Paul Benzon, Temple Univ., Philadelphia

2. “The Amazon Phenomenon: New Contextual Paratexts of Historiographic Narratives,” Julia Lippert, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

3. “Peritexts and Epitexts in Transitional Electronic Literature: Readers and Paratextual Engagement on Kindles, iPods, and Netbooks,” Ellen M. McCracken, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara

150. New Tools, Hard Times: Social Networking and the Academic Crisis

5:15–6:30 p.m., 406A, LA Convention Center

A special session

Presiding: Meredith L. McGill, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick

Speakers: Rosemary G. Feal, MLA

Marc Bousquet, Santa Clara Univ.

Brian Croxall, Emory Univ.

Christopher John Newfield, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara

Marilee Lindemann, Univ. of Maryland, College Park

This roundtable will examine what role the tools of social networking (e.g., blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube) have played in organizing and communicating about the economic crisis in higher education. One of the goals of the panel will be practical: to share tips and strategies about what works and what doesn’t (and to think critically about how we judge the effectiveness of any particular tool or strategy). Another will be reflective: to provide an opportunity for weighing the benefits and the risks of scholars using these tools to perform work that is often more in the mode of public or professional advocacy than scholarship in the traditional sense.

Friday, 07 January

193. New (and Renewed) Work in Digital Literary Studies: An Electronic Roundtable

8:30–9:45 a.m., Plaza I, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Association for Computers and the Humanities

Presiding: Bethany Nowviskie, Univ. of Virginia

Speakers: Ernest Cole, Hope Coll.; Randall Cream, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Pomona Coll.; Joseph Gilbert, Univ. of Virginia; Laura C. Mandell, Miami Univ., Oxford; William Albert Pannapacker, Hope Coll.; Douglas Reside, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Andrew M. Stauffer, Univ. of Virginia; John A. Walsh, Indiana Univ., Bloomington; Matthew Wilkens, Rice Univ.

Projects, groups, and initiatives highlighted in this session build on the editorial and archival roots of humanities scholarship to offer new, explicitly methodological and interpretive contributions to the digital literary scene or to intervene in established patterns of scholarly communication and pedagogical practice. Brief introductions will be followed by simultaneous demonstrations of the presenters’ work at eight computer stations.

For project links and abstracts, visit

218. Analog and Digital: Texts, Contexts, and Networks

10:15–11:30 a.m., Atrium I, J. W. Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Victoria E. Szabo, Duke Univ.

1. “Digital Networks and Horizontal Textuality,” David S. Roh, Old Dominion Univ.

2. “The Work of the Text in Haggard’s She: Full-Text Searching and Networks of Association,” Robert Steele, George Washington Univ.

3. “Taken Possession Of: What Digital Archives Can Teach Us about Nathaniel Hawthorne, Religious Readers, and Antebellum Reprinting Culture,” Ryan C. Cordell, Univ. of Virginia

For abstracts, visit

222. The Death of the Reader

10:15–11:30 a.m., 409A, LA Convention Center

A special session

Presiding: Travis M. Foster, Coll. of Wooster

1. “The Reader Brand: Fictions of the Reader in the Market and the Academy,” Gwen Blume, Mansfield Univ.

2. “Reader versus Reader: Generic Differentiation and the History of Reading,” Travis M. Foster

3. “The Myth of the ‘Real Reader’: Issues in the Historicity of Reading,” Jon P. Klancher, Carnegie Mellon Univ.

Respondent: Thomas Augst, New York Univ.

For abstracts, write to

248. The Dictionary in Print and in the Cloud

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Olympic I, J. W. Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Michael Hancher, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Speakers: Tim Cassedy, New York Univ.; David L. Porter, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Glenn H. Roe, Univ. of Chicago; Robert Steele, George Washington Univ.

For abstracts, visit

253. The English Bible

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Diamond Salon 2, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Conference on Christianity and Literature and the Division on Literature and Religion

Presiding: Hannibal Hamlin, Ohio State Univ., Columbus

Speakers: Austin Mathew Busch, State Univ. of New York, Brockport; Elizabeth Bell Canon, Univ. of Wisconsin, La Crosse; Andrew J. Fleck, San José State Univ.; Paul Neel, Kent State Univ., Kent; Adam S. Potkay, Coll. of William and Mary; Beth Quitslund, Ohio Univ., Athens

Respondent: Debora Shuger, Univ. of California, Los Angeles

Various 400th-anniverary commemorations of the King James Bible are planned for 2011, and this roundtable session seeks to take part in this occasion for celebration and reflection by being one of the year’s first such events. The King James, or Authorized, Version (1611) is most frequently mentioned as the primary source of biblical influence on subsequent writers, their poetry or prose styles.

282. Paper as Platform or Interface

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Olympic III, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Media and Literature

Presiding: Lisa Gitelman, New York Univ.

1. “The Word Made Flax: Cheap Bibles, Textual Corruption, and the Poetics of Paper,” Joshua Calhoun, Univ. of Delaware, Newark

2. “The Theory of Paper: Hume, Beattie, Derrida,” Christina Lupton, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor

3. “The Wordsworths’ Daffodils: On the Page, upon the Inward Eye,” Richard Menke, Univ. of Georgia

309. The History and Future of the Digital Humanities

1:45–3:00 p.m., Plaza I, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the MLA Program Committee

Presiding: Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Pomona Coll.

Speakers: Brett Bobley, NEH; Katherine D. Harris, San José State Univ.; Alan Liu, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Tara McPherson, Univ. of Southern California; Bethany Nowviskie, Univ. of Virginia; Stephen J. Ramsay, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln; Susana Ruiz, Univ. of Southern California

This roundtable will bring together many different perspectives, from humanities computing to digital media studies, including senior and junior scholars, research and teaching institutions, and faculty and staff members, so that we might explore the overlap, diffusion, and multiplicity of views of the digital humanities that result.

331. The Open Professoriat: Public Intellectuals on the Social Web

3:30–4:45 p.m., Plaza I, J. W. Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Matthew K. Gold, New York City Coll. of Tech., City Univ. of New York

Speakers: Samuel Cohen, Univ. of Missouri, Columbia; Amanda L. French, George Mason Univ.; David Parry, Univ. of Texas, Dallas; Mark L. Sample, George Mason Univ.; Erin Templeton, Converse Coll.; Elizabeth Vincelette, Old Dominion Univ.

This panel will explore the range of possibilities surrounding the use of social media in many aspects of academic life, with particular attention to the ways in which they can help broaden the audience for academic work at a time of economic and institutional crisis in the academy.

397. The Lives That Digital Archives Write

5:15–6:30 p.m., Plaza I, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Division on Comparative Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature

Presiding: Ruth E. Mack, Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York

1. “Social Networking in the Enlightenment,” Dan M. Edelstein, Stanford Univ.

2. “Working Lives from Digital Sources: London 1690–1800,” Tim Hitchcock, Univ. of Hertfordshire; Robert Shoemaker, Univ. of Sheffield

3. “Mapping the Social Text: Topography, Letters, and Alexander Pope,” Allison Muri, Univ. of Saskatchewan

Saturday, 08 January

431. Textual Scholarship and New Media

8:30–9:45 a.m., Diamond Salon 8, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the MLA Committee on Scholarly Editions

Presiding: Michael Eberle-Sinatra, Université de Montréal

1. “Comic Book Markup Language: An Introduction and Rationale,” John A. Walsh, Indiana Univ., Bloomington

2. “Crowdspeak: Mobile Telephony and TXTual Practice,” Rita Raley, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara

3. “Alternate Reality Games and Transmedia Textuality: Interpretive Play and the Immaterial Archive,” Zach Whalen, Univ. of Mary Washington

436. The Institution(alization) of Digital Humanities

8:30–9:45 a.m., Atrium III, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Computer Studies in Language and Literature

Presiding: David Lee Gants, Florida State Univ.

1. “A Media Ecological Approach to Digital Humanities; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love This Dynamic Field,” Kimberly Knight, Univ. of Texas, Dallas

2. “Power, Prestige, and Profession: Digital Humanities in the Age of Academic Anxiety,” Amy Earhart, Texas A&M Univ., College Station

3. “Emerging Dialogue: Librarians and Digital Humanists,” Johanna Drucker, Univ. of California, Los Angeles

474. Social Networking: Web 2.0 Applications for the Teaching of Languages and Literatures

10:15–11:30 a.m., Diamond Salon 2, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the MLA Committee on Information Technology

Presiding: Barbara Lafford, Arizona State Univ. West

1. “Writing for Nonprofits in Social-Media Environments,” Sean McCarthy, Univ. of Texas, Austin

2. “The Macaulay Eportfolio Collection: A Case Study in the Uses of Social Networking for Learning,” Lauren Klein, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

3. “Social Media, Digital Vernaculars, and Language Education,” Steven Thorne, Portland State Univ.

For abstracts, write to

521. Close Reading the Digital

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Atrium I, J. W. Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Jeremy Douglass, Univ. of California, San Diego

1. “The Code of Hacktavism: A Critical Code Study Case Study,” Mark Marino, Univ. of Southern California

2. “Close Reading Campaign Rhetorics: Procedurality and,” James J. Brown, Wayne State Univ.

3. “Criminal Code: The Procedural Logic of Crime in Video Games,” Mark L. Sample, George Mason Univ.

Respondent: Matthew Gary Kirschenbaum, Univ. of Maryland, College Park

For abstracts, visit after 1 Dec.

541. Electronic Literature: Off the Screen

1:45–3:00 p.m., Plaza II, J. W. Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Jessica Pressman, Yale Univ.

1. “A Pixel or a Grain of Sand: Jenny Holzer’s Projections,” Leisha J. Jones, Penn State Univ., University Park

2. “Locative Narrative: Reorganizing Space in Mobile E-Literature,” Mark Marino, Univ. of Southern California

3. “E-Literature as Event: Seeing Space and Time in Kinetic Typography,” Jeremy Douglass, Univ. of California, San Diego

For abstracts, write to

577. Print Culture and Undergraduate Literary Study

1:45–3:00 p.m., Platinum Salon A, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing

Presiding: Lisa Gitelman, New York Univ.

1. “Using Early English Books Online in the Undergraduate Classroom,” Joanne Diaz, Illinois Wesleyan Univ.

2. “Benjamin Franklin’s Compositions,” Jonathan Senchyne, Cornell Univ.

3. “Not Necessarily Natives: Teaching Digital Media with Book Technology (and Vice Versa),” Lisa Marie Maruca, Wayne State Univ.

Respondent: David Lee Gants, Florida State Univ.

For abstracts, visit after 15 Dec.

596. Will Publications Perish? The Paradigm Shift in Scholarly Communication

3:30–4:45 p.m., Plaza I, J. W. Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Alan Rauch, Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte

Speakers: Cheryl E. Ball, Illinois State Univ.; Leslie Kreiner Wilson, Pepperdine Univ.; Laurence D. Roth, Susquehanna Univ.; Andrew M. Stauffer, Univ. of Virginia

The scholarly essay, once the coin of the realm in academia, is being transformed by digital technologies. Questions about the future viability of learned journals, to say nothing of practices such as peer review, confront us all. This session is an effort to deal with those questions directly and initiate a dialogue about how various branches of the scholarly community can respond to ongoing and inevitable challenges.

For talking points, visit

606. Methods of Research in New Media

3:30–4:45 p.m., Platinum Salon J, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Division on Methods of Literary Research

Presiding: Maura Carey Ives, Texas A&M Univ., College Station

1. “Be Online or Be Irrelevant,” David Parry, Univ. of Texas, Dallas

2. “Applied Media Theory: Where Digital Art Meets Humanities Research,” Marcel O’Gorman, Univ. of Waterloo

3. “Augmenting Fiction: Storytelling, Locative Media, and the New Media Lab,” Carolyn Guertin, Univ. of Texas, Arlington

617. Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) and the Scholarly Edition

5:15–6:30 p.m., Diamond Salon 8, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the MLA Committee on the New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare

Presiding: Paul Werstine, Univ. of Western Ontario

Speakers: Michael Choi, Univ. of Western Ontario; Stan Ruecker, Univ. of Alberta; Raymond G. Siemens, Univ. of Victoria

Raymond G. Siemens’s Annotation:

Paper 1: “Bringing Architectures of the Book into the Digital Age.” Michael Choi and the INKE Textual Studies Research Group

Paper 2: “Introducing the Dynamic Table of Contexts for the Online

Topics for discussion will include bringing architectures of the book into the digital age, introducing the dynamic table of contexts for the online scholarly edition, and supporting the scholarly edition in electronic form.

639. Where’s the Pedagogy in Digital Pedagogy?

5:15–6:30 p.m., Platinum Salon F, J. W. Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Nirmal H. Trivedi, Georgia Inst. of Tech.

Speakers: Danielle Barrios, Univ. of Ulster; Kristine Blair, Bowling Green State Univ.; Joy Bracewell, Univ. of Georgia; Andrew Famiglietti, Georgia Inst. of Tech.; Antero Garcia, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Jill Marie Parrott, Univ. of Georgia; Christine Tulley, Univ. of Findlay

This session will share the great number of practical and philosophical questions surrounding what it means to “teach digitally” today. We want to focus attention away from “toolism”—a preoccupation with new technologies for the sake of newness and technical power—and direct attention toward the pedagogy that technology and collaboration can unveil.

For abstracts, write to

Sunday, 09 January

743. What the Digital Does to Reading

10:15–11:30 a.m., Diamond Salon 8, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the MLA Committee on Information Technology

Presiding: Laura C. Mandell, Miami Univ., Oxford

1. “What Would Jesus Google? Plural Reading in the Digital Archive,” Daniel Allen Shore, Grinnell Coll.

2. “Social Book Catalogs and Reading: Shifting Paradigms, Humanizing Databases,” Renee Hudson, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Kimberly Knight, Univ. of Texas, Dallas

3. “Illuminating Hidden Paths: Reading and Annotating Texts in Many Dimensions,” Julie Meloni, Washington State Univ., Pullman

For abstracts, visit after 15 Nov.

751. Writing and Curatorship: The History of the Book

10:15–11:30 a.m., 309, LA Convention Center

A special session

Presiding: Jeffrey Knight, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor

1. “On the Margins of History: Drama and Reauthorship in the Interregnum Pamphlets,” Shannon Miller, Temple Univ., Philadelphia

2. “The Polite History of Our Time: Modernist Reclamation of Nineteenth-Century Trash,” Katherine D. Harris, San José State Univ.

3. “Scrapping the Self: The Dictates and Freedoms of the Arranged Page,” Elline Lipkin, Univ. of California, Los Angeles

792. Sound Reproduction and the Literary

1:45–3:00 p.m., Diamond Salon 6, J. W. Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Jentery Sayers, Univ. of Washington, Seattle

1. “Sound as Sensory Modality in Electronic Literature,” Dene M. Grigar, Washington State Univ., Vancouver

2. “‘Cause That’s the Way the World Turns’: John Edgar Wideman’s Sent for You Yesterday and the Mnemonic Jukebox,” Jürgen E. Grandt, Gainesville State Coll., GA

3. “Analog History: Kevin Young’s To Repel Ghosts and the Textuality of the Turntable,” Paul Benzon, Temple Univ., Philadelphia

Respondent: Jentery Sayers

For abstracts, examples, and biographies, visit after 1 Dec.


My special collections assignment for Swift and Literary Studies

June 13, 2010

Hi everyone,

Since Anna and Eleanor asked about this, I thought it would be easiest just to give you a bit of a background to the special collections work that I do with my students, then show you the assignment, and see what comments or suggestions you all might have.

The background here is that, while I am not really a bibliographer or researcher in the History of the Book, I think these issues are interesting and pertinent for students in literary studies, especially in regards to undergraduate research.  Frankly, though, the focus is really on the research dimension, and getting in the habit of extracting, and building upon, the information they can glean from these items.

I’ve always had a special collections “day” since I started teaching this course, but after a decade or so, I’ve learned how to get more from special collections visits by focusing on the Swift-oriented rare book materials as the basis for small, discrete, group research projects that are explicitly aligned with their course readings in Swift and Swift literary criticism.  I do rely heavily on group work in this course, which I’ve never regretted, but which does demand some special pedagogical attention for it to work.  This is their first group assignment, and it comes just after I’ve formed my five “research teams,” which consist of 3-4 people, and are organized around certain recurring themes of Swift criticism (Swift and Empire, Swift and Femininity, etc.) which vary slightly from term to term.

The point of the assignment is for them to handle some Swift or Swift-oriented books, and then make some connections in a brief course blog post between what they have examined, what they have researched, and their overarching Swift topic.   This group project demands that they describe and compare the physical attributes of some items examined, speculate a little about the sources behind the item, then do a little research off-site (using our library digital resources like the ODNB, MUSE/JSTOR, etc.) to generate about a paragraph’s worth of information about either a) the Swift work examined, b) the editor or bookseller named, and any connections to Swift, or c) any historical person named in the work, and his or her connections to Swift.

This is posted on the course blog the same week as the visit, and students are able to view and compare each others’ findings.

The other important aspect to this exercise is my “sourcing heuristic,” which I developed from Samuel Wineburg and his followers for teaching historical thinking, and which I now try to incorporate into all my classes as a way to explain the uses of historical materials.  I think I’ve discussed this before, in my description of my Burney assignment, but I really do think this is an important aspect of our research.  I am simply asking them to ask a simple series of questions about whatever text or item they handle, and try to answer them as they learn more: Who wrote it?  When (and where) was it published? What type of document is it?  What type of audience was it written for? And finally, Why was it written? If the majority of students are able to ask and answer these questions about whatever they read in a literature class by the time the semester ends, I’m doing a pretty good job.

I should add that in my own thinking about literary studies (as a discipline? as a set of professional practices?), I’m much more inclined to think that the core of our disciplinary practices reside in organizing principles like sourcing and organizing concepts like “author,” “work,” “genre,” “period,” rather than in a list of canonical writings or writers as such  In other words, I’m interested in teaching students how these lists, or canons, are generated, and how disagreements are argued, rather than trying to get them to memorize and recall a particular version of the list.  To enter into that scholarly discussion, however, they have to understand how that information is collected and those valuations are asserted and argued and finally collected in particular bodies of critical traditions.  That, after all, is what the course is about.

So here’s the worksheet.


[ I’d be thrilled if others took this assignment and adapted it for their own classes, but please leave a note here to let me know your name, institution, and the class for which you adapted it.  Thanks.]


Bibliography: An Endangered Skill?

June 10, 2010

Recently Jennifer Howard, a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, posted a request on SHARP-L about whether bibliography was an endangered skill or art in the academy. She sought thoughts from teachers and students about this question an as well as “where the field bibliography might be headed.”

Her query generated a number of responses ranging from ones that indicated bibliographic training was alive and well in the responder’s particular program to ones that indicated students’ exposure to the topic was highly dependent upon the faculty member they had for a given course or the climate within the department. That Howard added a note later that afternoon in which she clarifies what she meant by bibliography–“I’m interested in the book-history side of bibliography, not in how to prepare correct bibliographic citations”–is telling in my mind. While responses posted to the list before Howard’s clarification primarily addressed the “book-history side,” I do wonder if off-list comments suggested possible confusion about what Howard meant by “bibliography.” Bibliographic citations, annotated bibliographies, and the like are still the standard staples of what is taught in first-year writing courses and even more advanced topics. So it would seem odd, to me at least, if someone had misinterpreted her query, especially one posted on a listserv devoted to the history of the book.

Many of our discussions on emob have noted the important relationship between traditional bibliographic knowledge and electronic resources such as EEBO, ECCO, and Burney. (See for instance the discussion that emerged in the collaborative reading of Ian’s Gadd’s “The Use and Misuse of Early English Books Online.”) But we have not had an extended discussion about the state of bibliographic training. Rather some comments have considered it to be a given that descriptive and analytical bibliographic skills are not regularly or as vigorously taught in graduate programs (with admitted exceptions), while others have stressed the need for such knowledge. Thus, I would like to hear more about if and how we teach these skills in our undergraduate and graduate classrooms as well as whether students respond well to such lessons. How do colleagues respond? (One SHARP commentator made mention of “sneaking” this material into courses). What tools and materials do people use? And what is the context or type of course(s) in which such skills are taught? Some SHARP-L responses to Howard’s query favored teaching bibliographical skills within a textual studies context, while others preferred a “book-history” context.

I have tended to use both approaches, but it depends upon the course. In methods/skills courses, I have used Oxford University’s manuscript exercise, Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est.” While some students found the process of editing tedious, almost all appreciate being exposed in a hands-on way to issues they had never considered. I also use videos and the workshop materials for the hand-press book from University of VA’s Rare Book School to teach bibliography from a book-history standpoint.

Collaborative Reading: Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton’s “Encoding form: A proposed database of poetic form”

March 8, 2010

Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton’s recent paper,“Encoding form: A proposed database of poetic form”, for APPOSITIONS:
Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature and Culture
‘s recent E-Conference: February-March, 2010, is suggestive of how new digital resources can be developed to augment the capabilities of existing tools such as EEBO and EECO. Responding many years later to Heather Dubrow’s 1979 call for “new methodology in early modern studies,” Scott-Baumann and Burton are constructing a database devoted to poetic form. Their project will afford a means of studying, historically and formally, poetic form by enabling queries about poetic form and generic transformations that resemble those we can now pose about words, thanks to electronic databases such as EEBO and EECO:

  • What is the origin (or origins) of a given form?
  • How does its structure, use, and meaning change over time?
  • Are there variations in use and meaning in different regions, or among different groups?
  • How does a given form relate to others, and how does this relationship change over time?
  • Concentrating on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetry, Scott-Baumann and Burton will use existing EEBO-TCP texts and enhance them with additional mark-up that builds upon Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) tags. As those familiar with TEI documentation will recall, its tags include ones designed for encoding verse: “stanza divisions, caesurae, enjambment, rhyme scheme, and metrical information, as well as a special purpose rhyme element to support the simple analysis of rhyming words.” Because encoding capabilities extend beyond merely marking general formal conventions and can also entail encoding that represent interpretive judgments, Scott-Baumann and Burton will experiment with both possibilities. The inevitably time-consuming nature of their task will probably result in building the databases in stages.

    As for publication plans for the database, its creators “aim to negotiate with EEBO and Chadwyck-Healey to find a form of publication which both respects intellectual property and commercial interests, while also making this rich new material accessible to the widest possible audience.” Scott-Baumann and Burton have clearly thought hard about issues of access and how to maximize this database’s availability for users. They present four different possible options, formulated with an eye to those lacking access to EEBO. As they note though, much will depend on what arrangements they are able to make with EEBO/Chadwyck-Healey.

    Noting that their database, once built, could be expanded beyond its present focus on the 1500s and 1600s to cover all periods of poetry, they then devote a section of their paper to its potential scholarly and pedagogical uses. Most obvious perhaps is the usefulness this planned tool could have on advancing work in historical formalism, an emerging approach that revisits “poetic form as historically specific, historically determined, and historically efficacious.” The ability to conduct specific searches across a significant number of poetic texts enables the quick capture of evidence to support or disprove what are currently only hypothetical propositions based on a small textual sample. Rightly claiming that this database “would change the way in which scholarship on poetic form is conducted, Scott-Baumann and Burton detail a wealth of possible questions and issues it could serve. This section also offers a range of pedagogical uses for this tool and addresses a range of audiences from the undergraduate to the secondary student.

    Before a brief conclusion, the paper then turns to discussing the two-stage pilot project for the database:

    1. A small database containing information on the metrical structures and rhyme schemes of all verse in the first edition of 10 texts published between 1590 and 1599. 2. A larger database containing information on the metrical structures and rhyme schemes of all verse in first editions of texts published during this period.

    Scott-Baumann and Burton’s database plans present another way of thinking about EEBO and how to augment its value. That they have proposed to build their database using EEBO-TCP seems essentially a wise plan, notwithstanding unsettled questions about access.* For one, linking one’s project to an already well-established resource should ensure its visibility. Too often very worthy projects are launched but remain unknown to many who would benefit from them. In addition, such a tie-in helps ensure continuity among resources. This augmentation of EEBO’s capabilities and the efforts to provide continuity are similar to what NINES and 18thConnect are offering later periods.

    *One of the access options does offer “[o]pen access to database and texts but not with mark up. …if we are not able to make the XML-encoded texts freely available, we would display the texts in their entirety [as users request them], but with the encoding invisible. … and display the verse with, for example, its stresses marked with accents, or its rhyme scheme colour-coded, rather than with visible tags.”

    Libraries through Students’ Eyes

    February 15, 2010

    One thing we have not discussed on this blog is the role of libraries, and particularly of reference rooms, in colleges.  Today’s  NY Times forum titled “libraries through students’ eyes” suggests some predictable student responses  to the question of whether libraries are needed:  students enjoy the tactile feel of books and the quiet of a space dedicated to reading.  Very few, if any, however, discussed the printed reference works to be found there. The value of the reference room was not mentioned.

    The NYTImes forum pointed to twin pedagogical and institutional problems faculty, librarians, and students now face.  Forced to hunt for more space to accommodate computers, librarians look for printed texts that can be deleted from the reference room.  Are there rigorous strategies in place for what to do when an electronic source replaces a printed reference work?  Do colleges that subscribe to the new online Oxford Dictionary of English Biography, for example, simply throw out the older printed multi-volume set?  Does the online Encylopedia Britannica adequately replace its printed forerunner?  How do we evaluate an online “updated” version of a printed reference work to decide whether it ought to replace or merely supplement the older printed version?

    Secondly, how can faculty best remain up-to-speed on the reference works students most use and, more importantly, be helpful in directing them to the sources, both printed and electronic, that are most appropriate for their work?  What strategies exist for encouraging greater and more transparent dialogue between instructors and librarians?  How do we help students make use of the two reference rooms–material and virtual–to which they have access?

    Lastly, will the promising platforms of the future like 18thConnect include first-phase research tools, like encyclopedias, dictionaries, or the ODNB?  Will these platforms acknowledge printed resources that are also essential to research?  To what extent will these platforms be designed as introductions to research?

    Great News! Temporary EEBO Access to Begin Feb. 22

    February 6, 2010

    Around February 22, and for 2-3 weeks following, readers of this blog will have temporary access to EEBO, thanks to the generosity of Proquest.  For those of us who do not normally have access to EEBO, this provides an excellent opportunity to explore EEBO, both in our research and in our classrooms.

    Last semester, when Gale/Cengage provided a free trial of ECCO, Dave Mazella graciously spearheaded our discussion of teaching with ECCO.  We can now add to that discussion by hearing from readers how EEBO functions in classes and in research.  Newly updated with a helpful “EEBO Introductions Series,”  EEBO is adapting  creatively to the scholarly and pedagogical possibilities offered by the web.  Work EEBO into your classes and report back about your experience.  Or use it in your research, and let us know of any bibliographical glitches or goldmines.  Details regarding access will be provided here soon.

    ADDED 2/24/10:  To access EEBO, click here.

    Collaboration, Costs, and Digital Resources

    January 30, 2010

    On February 19 and 20 Yale will host a graduate student symposium, The Past’s Digital Presence Conference: Database, Archive and Knowledge Work in the Humanities. A quick survey of the conference program and available abstracts indicate several topics that dovetail with issues or subjects that have engaged emob. Jessica Weare’s paper, “The Dark Tide: Digital Preservation, Interpretive Loss, and the Google Books Project”, for instance, examines the discarding of material evidence in the process of digitizing, Vera Brittain’s The Dark Tide. Similarly, Scott Spillman and Julia Mansfield’s presentation, “Mapping Eighteenth-Century Intellectual Networks”, discusses their work on Benjamin Franklin’s letters and their relationship within the Republic of Letters. The conference’s purpose also addresses many of the questions we have been posing on this blog:

    ■ How is digital technology changing methods of scholarly research with pre-digital sources in the humanities?
    ■ If the “medium is the message,” then how does the message change when primary sources are translated into digital media?
    ■ What kinds of new research opportunities do databases unlock and what do they make obsolete?
    ■ What is the future of the rare book and manuscript library and its use?
    ■ What biases are inherent in the widespread use of digitized material? How can we correct for them?
    ■ Amidst numerous benefits in accessibility, cost, and convenience, what concerns have been overlooked?

    Peter Stallybrass is offering the keynote, and Jacqueline Goldsby will be the colloquium speaker, while Willard McCartney, Rolena Adorno, and others will appear on the closing roundtable. Such a lineup points to the range of perspectives represented. The conference is free to all affiliated with a university.

    Among the places this conference has been announced is the JISC Digitisation News section of the UK Digitisation Programme website, and its announcement emphasizes the participation of students “from around the globe.”

    Collaboration as it occurs across boundaries is the implicit topic of this posting, and I wish to use reports from the JISC website both as a springboard and as a contrast in the discussing the topic.

    A 2008-2009 JISC report, Enriching Digital Resources 2008-2009, Enriching Digital Content program—a strand of the JISC Online Content Program—features a podcast with Ben Showers. Because of the national nature of JISC, the program described offers a unified, coherent approach to advancing digital resources for its higher institutions of education; it represents a collaborative agenda. In this podcast Showers explains the purpose of the program: Rather than fund the creation of new resources, the program invested £1.8 million to enhance and enrich existing digital content while also developing a system for universities and colleges to vet and recognize this work. He then turns to explaining the following four key benefits of this program:
    • “unlocking the hidden—making things that are hard to access easy” to obtain and preserve. To illustrate, he uses CORRAL (UK Colonial Registers and Royal Navy Logbooks) project as an example of opening up primary data to make it not only much more available but also to preserve it.
    • enhancing experiences of students. Here Showers exemplifies the Enlightening Science project at Sussex that offers students opportunities to watch video re-enactments of Newton’s experiments and read original texts by Newton and others.
    • speeding up research—once a document has been digitized, there is no need to repeat the process. The document will now be available for all other researchers to use.
    • widening participation—engaging broader audiences including not only faculty and students within Britain’s educational community but also participants globally.

    Turning to the new goals for the 2009-2011 program cycle, Showers notes an emphasis on the “clustering” of content, that is bringing various projects together and establishing, when appropriate, links among them. Another focus is further building skills and strategies within institutions to deliver digital content effectively. Finally, he mentions the strengthening of transatlantic partnerships, and here the US National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is given as an example. Of course, there is a long history of scholarly collaboration between the NEH and British institutions—perhaps most notably the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC).

    Indeed, through collaborative digital grants offered by JISC and NEH several transatlantic projects are underway or near completion, including the Shakespeare Quartos Archive, a collaborative effort involving Oxford University and the Folger Library, and the St Kitts-Nevis Digital Archaeology Initiative, undertaken by Southampton University and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, VA, to advance scholarship on slavery. There are several others as well.

    Both the goals and benefits detailed by Showers are ones that would attract the support of diverse parties, and they do parallel many arguments being made on this side of the Atlantic for such work, including ones advanced by the NEH. Moreover, this and other JISC reports suggest that JISC has also helped broker mutually beneficial relationships between British universities and commercial vendors such as Cengage-Gale and ProQuest. Yet another JISC report, The Value of Money, offers arguments that we need to be making and also points the obstacles and divides affecting various types of collaboration in the United States.

    After offering the following figures on the return of money invested in the JISC,

    • For each £1 spent by JISC on the provision of e-resources, the return to the community in value of time saved in information gathering is at least £18.

    • For every £1 of the JISC services budget, the education and research community receives £9 of demonstrable value.

    • For every £1 JISC spent on securing national agreements for e-resources, the saving to the community was more than £26.

    the report summary offers the following remarks:

    These are the figures revealed by a recently-published Value for Money report on JISC services. Although many countries have centrally provided research and education networks, and some have provided supplementary services, no other country has a comparable single body providing an integrated range of network services, content services, advice, support and development programmes.

    The cost-effectiveness of JISC is again highlighted in two sidebars:

    These figures suggest that for every £1 JISC spent on securing national agreements for e-resources, the saving to the community was more than £26
    The added value, equivalent to more than £156m per year, suggests the community is gaining 1.4 million person/days, by using e-resources rather than paper-based information.

    The end of the summary further reinforces why investments in JISC benefit the UK as a whole:

    The value of JISC activities extends beyond the benefits identified here. Education and research are high-value commodities that play an important role in the UK economy and underpin the UK’s global economic position.

    The JISC’s “Value of Money” report contains the types of arguments and data that we in the US need to be making. While our system of higher education does not operate under the centralized system that characterizes that of the UK, the push for more transparent reporting on and assessment of what our various universities and colleges are delivering perhaps provides an opportunity for new forms of collaboration. Through national scholarly societies, the NEH, Mellon Foundation, ALA, and more, we need to supply some “noisy feedback” from a dollars-and-cents/sense perspective about what investing in digital resources means not just for our institutions of higher learning but also for our society.

    Digital Humanities at AHA

    January 12, 2010

    In an earlier post we covered MLA panels devoted to digital humanities, electronic archives, and electronic tools. Thus, although the American Historical Association annual meeting has already recently concluded, we still thought it would be useful to review the sessions held at this convention. When available, I have included links to papers or abstracts.

    Humanities in the Digital Age, Part 1: Humanities in the Digital Age, Part 1: Digital Poster Session
    This session will provide participants with an overview of different digital tools and services and how historians are using them for research, teaching, and collaboration. After brief introductions to the various posters, participants would walk around the room spending time at the various stations, talking with the presenters and other participants. This will be followed in the afternoon by a hands-on workshop (session 73) where participants can learn more about how to use these specific tools. Co-sponsored by the National History Education Clearinghouse (NHEC):

  • Blogging, Jeremy Boggs, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  • Text Mining, Daniel J. Cohen, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  • Student Projects/Websites and Omeka, Jeffrey McClurken, University of Mary Washington
  • Zotero, Trevor Owens, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  • Teaching Tools, Kelly Schrum, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  • Web 2.0 – Flickr, YouTube/Video, Google Maps, Wikis, Jim Groom, University of Mary Washington
  • (more…)

    Collaborative Readings #5: Lindquist and Wicht on Assessing EEBO in Teaching and Research

    January 5, 2010

    Thea Lindquist and Heather Wicht’s “Pleas’d By a Newe Inuention?: Assessing the Impact of Early English Books Online on Teaching and Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder” claims to be “the first [study] to evaluate systematically how undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty are using EEBO” (347).  They assessed students in 2005, and much of what they found then reinforces comments made here and on The Long Eighteenth on using online databases in eighteenth-century classes.  Some of the study’s findings can be summarized as follows:

    • Students learned about EEBO through class assignments.
    • Even though almost all students attended library sessions instructing them on the use of EEBO, just over half said they received assistance from a librarian, a clear signal to both librarians and classroom instructors that individual instruction is often essential.
    • Only half of the graduate students and faculty respondents claimed to use EEBO in tandem with ESTC or EEBO-TCP.
    • The downloading/e-mailing function was the preferred function.
    • The least preferred function was online help (now much improved).
    • Graduate students enthusiastically embraced EEBO, but most undergraduates felt challenged by orthographical and typographical differences from the modern printed page.  Advanced undergraduates, however, responded enthusiastically.

    Steve Karian’s excellent guide to EEBO, ECCO, and ESTC lucidly addresses the need to use digital databases in tandem with ESTC. EEBO now has very strong supporting materials on its site.  And by now, faculty will be even more familiar with EEBO’s web site and perhaps better skilled and more practiced at introducing students to it.

    Nevertheless, the look of the early modern page seems to remain a stumbling block for many undergraduates accustomed to modern typography and orthography.  Perhaps we need to concede that there are a variety of teaching uses of online databases. Though my lesson plans frequently use EEBO, I have not yet asked undergraduate students to use these databases, not least because they are still studiously and successfully working at learning how to read early modern English in modern standardized formats.  That does not in the least make EEBO less necessary to me or to my students. Showing students the digitized facsimiles enriches their historical imagination; it also reminds them that what we are reading is alien and requires a carefully recovered context for a proper understanding. I write this simply to complicate, but not to minimize common claims that digitized databases enrich the classroom.  They do, but they enrich them in different ways.

    CFP 2010: Digital Archives & the Field of Production

    December 22, 2009

    The following announcement appeared on the SHARP-L list and may interest readers of emob:

    APPOSITIONS: Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature and Culture

    Call for Papers: APPOSITIONS: Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature and Culture seeks new work addressing the theme of digital archives. How and why does electronic access to archival materials reconfigure the teaching and study of literary texts, related cultural documents, and methodologies for disciplinary or interdisciplinary research and interpretation? What are the benefits and/or limitations of such new media? What are the politics of the digital archive, or of electronic special collections? What is the significance of the original work—or of authorship, or scholarship—in the electronic age? How and why does the digitization of archival documents either celebrate or challenge the status of manuscripts, pamphlets, printed books, and the literary canon? Within that capacious scope, a variety of topics will be engaged.

    APPOSITIONS is an electronic, international, annual conference for studies in Renaissance & early modern literature and culture hosted by APPOSITIONS: Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature and Culture, ISSN: 1946-1992,

    Abstracts (500-words): December 31, 2009.
    E-Conference: February-March, 2010.

    Electronic Submissions: Send submissions to attached as a single .doc, .rtf, or .txt file. Visuals should be attached individually as .jpg, .gif, or .bmp files. Please include the words “Appositions Submission” in the subject line of your message.