Tricks of the Trade

Having taken the graduate seminar in “Digital Materialities” that began this blog last spring, in the fall I was invited to present on my project to the members of a graduate seminar entitled “Introduction to Digital Humanities”. As I revised the presentation I had originally developed on “Designing Poetic Palimpsests: A New Digital Approach to Multiple Instantiations of Texts”, I found myself wondering how best to advise other graduate students on developing their own projects. How could my experience function as a set of guidelines for others?

By reflecting on how I came to designing my project, which—luckily for me!—was documented on this blog, I realized that I had begun with a similar impetus to many academics working in analogue as well as digital forms. I was troubled, even frustrated, and I hit upon a problem to solve, or, at the very least, some necessary questions to ask. I then looked to the work of others to see how far the problem had already been addressed and considered how I could build upon previous conclusions or solutions in order to take us a step further. In a rather Ivory Tower-esque way, I ended up by wondering what might be possible rather than what was possible, designing a tool I knew I could never build without far more funding and support. This process, particularly the first three stages, is familiar to many scholars but I thought it was important to articulate this to others and, as a literary minded individual, to name it in a memorable fashion. Please click on the image below to see what I came up with!4I for Developing a ProjectWhen presenting on this process and how I had undertaken it, I concluded with a slide on “What Happens Next?” that detailed my continuing work with the Dodd Center and the Scholars’ Collaborative. At that point, I was beginning to move toward my initial goal of a live online exhibition that would showcase the content and theoretical approach of my project. (A longer term goal remains collaboration with developers of similar tools.) This summer, I’ve had the time and energy to make significant strides with the exhibition, which is hosted on the Omeka platform.

Having already populated the website with documents and transcriptions, I have been focusing on the other form of content: namely, the verbal apparatus to guide users through the website and to accompany the exhibits that explore John Temple’s revisions of individual poems. What has been most pleasurable is that this has given me a surprisingly free rein in offering (albeit tentative) close readings of small details. It is a real joy to be able to pay attention to line breaks, capitalizations, punctuation, and so on. It appears that an unexpected benefit of the John Temple Papers might be to showcase a critical approach that I hold very close to my heart. Producing this element of the online exhibition’s content has also suggested to me the need to source peer review from not only those familiar with the criteria for effective digital projects but from literary scholars who can provide quality assurance for what will be a very public forum in which display my critical skills. I am excited to begin sharing my work with colleagues and look forward to a public launch during the next academic year.

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