All posts by Allyson Freeland

Final Farewell!

The student research conference was a blast and I really thank everyone for listening and engaging with my project! It was very interesting to see what our fellow students have been working on and it makes me even more excited to hear the final presentations! It’s really quite sad to think the semester is coming to a close so soon, but it’s amazing to think about how much we have changed over the semester in our engagement with, and understanding of, the Digital Humanities.

I’ve been struggling with my research. It is a really great visual tool but ultimately I’m consistently finding it difficult to articulate exactly how useful it can be to studying novels. I think at the conference I had a mini breakthrough thanks to Amy’s mirrors and some of the questions posed after my presentation. It seems the program made nominal sense to everyone, so I am glad I was able to somewhat explain the inner workings of Syuzhet. A presentation is very different from a paper though, and my presentation did not delve into the literary aspects I was using the program to bolster—namely, the story vs. plot argument using Russian formalist thought. I am still a bit torn as to how to structure my paper, because as an English scholar my wheelhouse is interpretation which is the bulk of my current draft. Right now it is structured as an:

  1. Introduction
  2. Literary Device Background
  3. Frankenstein Introductions
  4. Frankenstein Interpretation
  5. Program Introduction
  6. Program Results Interpretation
  7. So what?
  8. Conclusion

It still makes sense to me to be set up this way, but after the conference I can see how maybe weaving everything together may also be a good idea. As you all saw my presentation I was hoping for some feedback on ways to make the info more accessible, better organized, more homogenized, etc. I know comments are not due this week, but just a heads up—I’ll be asking for help in class! J

One thing I do like about my paper over my presentation is the way I weave Vonnegut throughout. In the presentation he was my ending, but in the paper I bookend and allude to him throughout. It is sentimental (ha ha) to me because if I hadn’t been googling “Kurt Vonnegut, Digital Humanities” I would not have found out about the Syuzhet program.

I have to say it has been a wonderful experience this semester exploring the digital humanities with you all. Together we have navigated uncharted waters, baptized Vincent as Victor, and become seemingly intimately aware of everything Frankenstein. I hope you all continue to explore this area and incorporate it into your future studies!

HAGS everyone! (445)

Original Post

Framing Sentiment

Kurt Vonnegut once said when explaining the structures of narratives, “And if I die — God forbid — I would like to go to heaven to ask somebody in charge up there, ‘Hey, what was the good news and what was the bad news?’” In his blend of witty cynicism and existential crisis, Vonnegut asked a question that is the crux of many literary arguments— does the plot revealed reflect the sentiment of the overall story? Vonnegut’s question and subsequent explanation of graphing narration influenced and inspired Matthew Jockers, a professor of literary studies at the University of Lincoln-Nebraska, who created the Syuzhet Program, an R based code that graphs the sentiment of a text, revealing the plot. He named his program based on the Russian Formalist’s understanding of syuzhet (story) and fabula (plot) and has improved its ability to discern sentiment throughout a text. However, novels are rarely explained in the chronological order of the story, and are often presented out of order or in frames. By visualizing the separate frames of the three implied narrators in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or; The Modern Prometheus (1818 edition) and comparing those frames to the overall sentiment based plot of the entire narrative, the implied author’s power to change the sentiment of the plot, regardless of the story, will be revealed.

Literary Background (Paragraphs 2+3)

  • Give background on Russian Formalists.
    • Propp
    • Genette

Enter Frankenstein (Paragraphs 4, 5, 6)

  • Discuss framework of Frankenstein in relation to overall story.
  • Analyze from Formalists interpretive tools.
    • Focusing on Genette’s Mood, Voice, and Order

Digital Humanities (Paragraphs 7, 8, 9) 

  • Section to be peer reviewed as I am worried I am either too technical or too general and need confirmation that this makes sense.
  • Explain Syuzhet.
  • General Frankenstein graphs.
  • Sneak peaks:

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 9.35.55 PM

FrnkRplot

Frames of Sentiment Analysis (assuming about 4-5 paragraphs)

  • Haven’t finished this section yet.
  • Includes all the framing graphs.
  • Compares graphs to each other and overall story.
  • Sneak peak: (Creature’s narrative in red/Victor Part 1 in blue)

Creature (red) vs. Victor (blue)

What went wrong/what could go wrong/what is wrong? (1 paragraph)

  • This will be a slight reiteration of an earlier paragraph where I describe the issues the program presents but I will further connect it to the text and to literary analysis as a whole.

Why? (1 paragraph)

  • This could get lumped into the above paragraph or the conclusion.
  • Why is using this program helpful or important to the study of Frankenstein.

Conclusion (1 paragraph)

a1yq8detmqxei
Where I’ll be by the time we reach my conclusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My draft is currently at 10 pages, so I am not worried about length at this point, more clarity and purpose. I’m sorry if my outline is less formal than most– unfortunately this is how I outline. Excited to read everyone’s posts!

Original Post

Story Sentiment?

Story and plot are seemingly synonymous ideas often used interchangeably in discussions of literature, however, the two are very different aspects of a narrative. Highly debated since Aristotle first coined plot in his dramatic theory work, Poetics, many authors have since begun identifying differences between story and plot. Within Russian formalism syuzhet (story) and fabula (plot) are used to denote narrative construction. The fabula is the raw material and the story is the order of that material. To expand, a narrative must have a beginning, middle, and end— and the plot encompasses these necessities. However, the order of those parts is what makes up the story. For example, authors may choose to withhold certain information until the end of a story, such as Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Her twist ending never changes the plot, but affects the story, reception, understanding, and emotion within the novel itself.

I plan on using the framework structure of Frankenstein and the Syuzhet Program by Matthew Jockers to work on a further understanding of story/syuzhet through sentiment values. To do this I have reached out to Professor Jockers and I am working on creating a new coding string to analyze Frankenstein’s different frames within the narrative. As we have discussed many times in class the story is made up of Walton’s storyline, Frankenstein’s storyline, and the Creature’s storyline. I plan on juxtaposing the three storylines to the overall novel’s and comparing the emotional valences found in each. This comes with its own set of difficulties as I need to decide where one framework ends and another begins, and while these divisions are mostly accepted still give me more power of interpretation on the frames themselves. Within the Syuzhet program I must also ensure each section is measured on a similar scale of length, which will mean I will run multiple graph comparisons, first of the sections themselves and then those comparisons to the overall novel. This is proving difficult as Walton’s frame is comprised of 30 pages total— around 7 letters worth, while Frankenstein’s is most of the novel itself. In order to streamline the findings I need to stretch certain narratives across similar page lengths, which will make the peaks and valleys of the graph less austere. So many comparisons and graphs will need to be made.

Other pitfalls I am grappling with is the fact that while the story is made up of frames, it is also Walton’s rendition of Frankenstein’s story and Frankenstein’s rendition of the Creature’s story. Each frame is not necessarily objective as we are to understand it is Walton’s record of the oral tradition from Frankenstein himself. I enjoy thinking of this point as it makes the project almost unethical, do these characters have agency or a voice? Are the sentiments expressed legitimate?

This project will open up my eyes to the current discourse on plot and story, and I will be able to use many examples within one text to create more evidence and more data to interpret. I am excited to see how the coding will turn out, but Professor Jockers and I are still working on creating the code. If that falls through I can manually create text files for each section, but at this point I have not created any new graphs or I would have shared them today to visualize this exposition. I look forward to furthering my understanding of sentiment analysis in regards to story and plot and potentially better understanding the main characters in Frankenstein. (584)

Original Post

Does Sentiment Drive Success?

Kurt Vonnegut once gave a lecture on storytelling, and explained that there were but six basic plots in literature. With this in mind, I found Matthew Jocker’s Sentiment Analysis R based program, Syuzhet. This program, using a clean, text only version of a work of literature, graphs sentiment values of a novel. The Syuzhet program uses its own lexicon of positive and negative words to create these graphs. Syuzhet has been around for quite a few years and has been updated many times to use context to ensure the most accurate graph is given for a novel. It is not infallible, but after running a few tests with the program I found it well suited for my needs, graphing a sarcastic novel correctly and highlighting the chapters with rising and falling action based only on sentiment.

Cc
Plot of Cat’s Cradle (red) and Slaughterhouse Five (blue)

This idea of the project has gone through a few evolutions as there have been quite a few set backs. Ultimately, my ideas on what literature to graph has changeg, and is still changing, based on availability of legal, public-use e-text. Originally, I wanted to graph the entire corpus of Kurt Vonnegut to prove his six plot theory within his own work. However finding any free text other than Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five is impossible. I looked into scanning and OCR programs, but the too much time would be used to create my own e-text, edit the documents to ensure OCR recognized every character, and then format the text for analysis. After many variations, I decided to look into popular novels to compare their plot lines and success. I am still compiling this corpus as the e-text issue is impeding my progress, but once finalized my project will proceed quickly.

Ultimately, I want to utilize sentiment value technology to show trends in best selling or popular novels. Doing this would allow me to visualize and extrapolate a correlation between the two, which would open up an entirely new avenue of interpretation and understanding literature. However, this program and my project is one I plan to use for the foreseeable future as it has many outlets for research. One could look at the success of a certain sentiment plot type when examples of it were published and then map the success of the examples throughout major world events to see how history affects the success of that plot type. This type of sentiment analysis could also disprove theories that certain types of literature, romance for example, follow the same plot type every time.

FrnkRplot
Frankenstein Plotted

Taken out of context a rose by any other name is a novel. If there are only 6 formulas for the novel it would open up entire new ways of comparison across genre and historical categories. It could also help deepen our understanding of the history of novels and their success through the ages. By graphing my corpus and comparing the graphs I will not only begin to bolster the six plot argument but also compare the most successful plot types for public consumption. (511)

Bibliography

Booker, Christopher. The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. Bloomsbury, 2016.

Jockers, Matthew. “Jocker’s Blog.” Matthew L. Jockers, 16 Dec. 2017, http://www.matthewjockers.net/.

Moretti, Franco. “Patterns and Interpretation.” Literary Lab Pamphlet, Sept. 2015, doi:ISSN 2164-1757.

Shultes, Allison. “How One Digital Humanist Visualized the Shapes of 50,000 Novels.” Storybench, Northeastern University School of Journalism, 27 Apr. 2017, http://www.storybench.org/how-one-digital-humanist-visualized-the-shapes-of-50000-novels/.

Vonnegut, Kurt, and Daniel Simon. A Man Without a Country. Seven Stories Press, 2005.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons (Opinions). The Dial Press, a Division of Random House, 2006.

Original Post

Canon you not?

For my informal discussion, I chose to read Pamphlet 8 of the Literary Lab, “Between Canon and Corpus: Six Perspectives on 20th Century Novels.” I chose this because I am doing my final project on Kurt Vonnegut’s corpus, and from the title of the pamphlet I thought I would be able to use it to my advantage within my research. It won’t help my research but it does validate my decision to stay within one author’s entire corpus in lieu of creating a corpus to work with, which is what the pamphlet is about.

Mark Algee-Hewitt and Mark McGurl set out to create a canon of 20th century literature. A literary canon is a body of works that constitute the most influential and important works within a time period, genre, style, etc. However, canon is never truly objective, which is the problem the authors teased out throughout the pamphlet. For instance, the original 10 person panel put together to create a top 100 list were made up entirely of caucasian scholars, with only 3 women on the panel. The authors pointed out that the list they generated was severely lacking in diversity. What the authors attempted to do was take multiple lists by multiple people and groups and put those together to create the canon. They had a list of best selling books throughout the 20th century, a group of postcolonial, feminist, and minority scholars, a popular public opinion list, and a list from one publishing company of every 20th century novel they had published.

The authors mapped out the texts that were given and showed the overlap, as there were quite a few novels that manifested on most lists, but only one book that was present on all of the lists: The Grapes of Wrath. However, even with the multitude of lists, there was still an issue of diversity. It had increased as the list makers became more diverse but still, the caucasian male author reigned supreme in representation.

0b92166de3c18f851e405d4bf1452972-classic-literature-classic-books

Ultimately, it is impossible to objectively make a literary canon. There are too many questions of representation, and ultimately personal feelings will always be involved. The entire time I was reading the pamphlet I was thinking about taking every fiction novel published in the 20th century, putting it into a random generator and asking it to spit out 350 names and that would become the canon. But, the names spat out could potentially be unknown works that had little to no effect on the genre as a whole and would defeat the purpose of creating a literary canon.

This article made me think of the Goodreads, Top 101 Novels of All Time, a list I check frequently. I like Goodreads because it is a site that encompasses a greater variety of readers, and at the time of this canon creation, may have helped the authors with their endeavor. Goodreads has reviews from scholars, students, lay people, people of color, LGTBIQIA+, etc. It is a true crowd sourcing site. (Granted, the demographics are probably skewed more towards affluent or middle class patrons as posting reviews on books is not everyone’s idea of a valuable use of time. Baffling, I know!) However, it is a good source of the “best” novels to read in one’s lifetime, according to the majority which could help create a more universal canon to study.

Honestly, I never put much thought into the creation of a canon but after reading this pamphlet I realize that to create a list like this is very difficult. (588)

Advertisements

__ATA.cmd.push(function() {
__ATA.initSlot(‘atatags-26942-5a8e47a70a318’, {
collapseEmpty: ‘before’,
sectionId: ‘26942’,
width: 300,
height: 250
});
});

__ATA.cmd.push(function() {
__ATA.initSlot(‘atatags-114160-5a8e47a70a350’, {
collapseEmpty: ‘before’,
sectionId: ‘114160’,
width: 300,
height: 250
});
});

(function(){var c=function(){var a=document.getElementById(“crt-54607274”);window.Criteo?(a.parentNode.style.setProperty(“display”,”inline-block”,”important”),a.style.setProperty(“display”,”block”,”important”),window.Criteo.DisplayAcceptableAdIfAdblocked({zoneid:388248,containerid:”crt-54607274″,collapseContainerIfNotAdblocked:!0,callifnotadblocked:function(){a.style.setProperty(“display”,”none”,”important”);a.style.setProperty(“visbility”,”hidden”,”important”)}})):(a.style.setProperty(“display”,”none”,”important”),a.style.setProperty(“visibility”,”hidden”,”important”))};if(window.Criteo)c();else{if(!__ATA.criteo.script){var b=document.createElement(“script”);b.src=”//static.criteo.net/js/ld/publishertag.js”;b.onload=function(){for(var a=0;a<__ATA.criteo.cmd.length;a++){var b=__ATA.criteo.cmd[a];"function"===typeof b&&b()}};(document.head||document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0]).appendChild(b);__ATA.criteo.script=b}__ATA.criteo.cmd.push(c)}})();

(function(){var c=function(){var a=document.getElementById(“crt-1811886734”);window.Criteo?(a.parentNode.style.setProperty(“display”,”inline-block”,”important”),a.style.setProperty(“display”,”block”,”important”),window.Criteo.DisplayAcceptableAdIfAdblocked({zoneid:837497,containerid:”crt-1811886734″,collapseContainerIfNotAdblocked:!0,callifnotadblocked:function(){a.style.setProperty(“display”,”none”,”important”);a.style.setProperty(“visbility”,”hidden”,”important”)}})):(a.style.setProperty(“display”,”none”,”important”),a.style.setProperty(“visibility”,”hidden”,”important”))};if(window.Criteo)c();else{if(!__ATA.criteo.script){var b=document.createElement(“script”);b.src=”//static.criteo.net/js/ld/publishertag.js”;b.onload=function(){for(var a=0;a<__ATA.criteo.cmd.length;a++){var b=__ATA.criteo.cmd[a];"function"===typeof b&&b()}};(document.head||document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0]).appendChild(b);__ATA.criteo.script=b}__ATA.criteo.cmd.push(c)}})();

Original Post

“I am in negotiations to buy Stephen King’s Wang”

I swear I am an adult, but I couldn’t pass up that title. The readings this week have quite possibly become my favorite this semester as writing is an amazingly personal experience, and I truly connected with a lot of what these authors had to say about the writing process. I also think my generation is one of the bridge generations between hand writing and computer writing, and for that I count myself lucky. I remember taking typing classes in elementary and middle school, but ultimately all of my assignments were turned in handwritten and in cursive no less. It wasn’t until high school where computer papers were expected and common, but only as final drafts. In learning to write a research paper I was asked to turn in handwritten proposal drafts, then turn in a second draft either handwritten or typed with peer edits that were handwritten. Thinking back on it makes me chuckle, because now I rely so thoroughly on computer generated track changes in academic writing, but even just last year when I was editing law firm communications I would print them to ensure I didn’t miss anything.

I have various persnickety’s depending on what I am writing. When it comes to poetry, I prefer to hand write in my journal. I like the tactile feeling of crossing out words, rewriting them back in, drawing arrows to show where lines have changed positions, etc. In poetry, I think the written track changes help me connect to the emotion I am trying to portray and lets me see how the idea has changed real time. However, in all other writing, I prefer to use a computer or a word processor of some sort. I don’t know if this comes down to ease due to volume, poems usually are substantially shorter than anything else I write, so typing them up after is not as tedious as typing a handwritten paper would be.

mcwilliams-word-processor-768x1161
                                                      This made me laugh so much.                                                            “GAG PIECES ADVERTISING PENCILS OR FOUNTAIN PENS AS FEATURE-LADEN ‘WORD PROCESSORS’ BECAME A STAPLE OF THE 1980S COMPUTER PRESS.”

In the Kirschenbaum article he says, “The computer is humanized, brought into the space of jottings and mumblings or musings, mood swings and household accidents.” I love this comparison of the computer to the writer’s mind for it is true, computers/word processors allow us to give a visual of our thoughts and what goes through our heads. Computers/word processors make tangible the creative process, and if tracked, could open up whole new avenues of interpretation. It would be so interesting to have Jane Austen sit down and type out her first draft of Pride and Prejudice on Google docs, and be able to see the changes she makes as she types (as Google automatically archives all changes). It would be amazing to see how authors think as they create, how their stories change as they work through them. Often the process, the journey, is more telling than the product.

I know went off on a very theoretical/cerebral tangent, so let me bring this back to our examples. It will come as no surprise that I have used many of the example word processors we were to explore. Scrivener was a program I was introduced to in college. It is extremely helpful for portfolios and drafts, as well as walking users through the writing process. It is my favorite word processor of the bunch for its myriad of organizational aspects. However, when it comes to basic word processing, I have to stick to the OG— Microsoft Word. Perhaps because I’ve used it since I started typing, it will forever be home in my word processing heart. (600)

rip_clippy
RIP Clippy

Original Post

Timelines and Maps, Oh My!

I really enjoyed reading about maps in Moretti’s chapter this week, as maps often help visualize the setting in novels, as well as social relationships between characters. I’ve noticed in many modern texts maps are often included in the appendixes, an obvious example being A Song of Ice and Fire series, commonly known as Game of Thrones. In each one is a full map of the various territories, a genealogy for every house, and other helpful visuals to ensure the reader does not get confused between the thousands of characters and relationships.

Moretti makes an interesting argument concerning geometry and geography, and the discussion between relationships and force. I find that when I am reading about settings I don’t often consider the distances between areas, more I think in a cyclical manner, much like his circle map of the Black Forest Village Story. However, sometimes understanding the distance and difference between different places can affect the plot or meaning of the work, and in that case a map would truly help.

ijsm6qz

The classics do not always offer these helpful visuals and using these free mapping tools would allow students to better connect with and understand the material they’re reading. For instance, students could create timelines of important events in a character’s life and use that to explain the choices their character makes or the development of the character throughout the novel. Students could create maps on Google of the places mentioned in novels and compare climate and setting, and then compare the true descriptions of the places to what’s written in the novel. Tools like Coggle could be used in conjunction with tools like Voyant or TagCrowd, and students could create their own “TermBerries” or maps of specific themes with specific examples surrounding them.

These visual aids would help bring the text alive in front of students and connect the stories to the authors themselves. For example, I created a Google map of every place mentioned in Frankenstein as one layer and then added another layer of every place Mary Shelley had ever lived or visited. I borrowed from her story, History of a Six Week Tour, a book written about her affair with Percy Shelley abroad and found many places overlapped with Frankenstein. It was interesting to see how her life truly colored her work.

However, in creating this map I had a lot of issues. For one, it’s still saving, and has been for 20 minutes. Every time I preview it, half of the Mary Shelley locations do not exist. Maybe this is a lesson in patience, but the research put into the locations versus the output you will see is not great. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 5.43.28 PM
Saving… Saving… Saving…

I really like the visual aids this week, and can see many uses for them. However, ultimately they may simply take the place of Powerpoint, albeit easier to use and with more bells and whistles, without the reliable saving abilities. (485)

Original Post

Lost in Visualization

“I know what to do when I see words on page; when I look at this graph, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to read it.” Andrew Stauffer, quoted by Laura Mandell, sums up how I’m feeling at this point in the class. The entire time I read Mandell’s essay, and the second time, I vaguely followed what she was explaining, but ultimately could not see a reason to mimic or pursue similar studies in visualization. It was interesting to see her map out Southey’s letter writing relationships, but funnily enough, the entire time I kept thinking that I would have rather worked with straight data and created a visual myself. (Through pad and paper no less.)

giphy
Pretty much how I view these visualizations.

I found it interesting that in both Moretti and Mandell the issue of interpreting data correctly was a common thread, and both made caveats that “errors” or “miscalculations” were common. Maybe I am a skeptic, but it seems that every assumption or “interpretation” that was made of the data, in Moretti especially, was unfounded. Mandell explains that “a major principle of Information Visualisation is that the first thing we will see when we look at a visualisation is “errors” in our data.” Moretti also states that “quantitive explanandum and a qualitative explanans leave you often with a perfectly clear problem— and no idea of a solution.” (26)

I think both of these authors were interesting in what they were pursuing or attempting to visualize, but their exercises seemed more effort than they were worth. Mandell’s graph could be used to graph character relationships, especially in novels such as War and Peace or anything Homer, to aid with following which character is related to whom and why, but many people create their own methods for figuring those relationships out. Moretti’s graphs could be used to visualize when an author published during their lifetime, which could help frame an understanding of the life events that influenced the novels- which would be very helpful, but could be visualized in a more coherent way.

These visualizations to me seem like a PC person created them, and my Mac brain cannot compute. Voyant’s tools seem more universal in comprehension, and could be used in the classroom setting with more ease. I especially like the “Termsberry” that connects the top words in the novel (based on volume) with other words that are used with it. That could be useful in comparing and contrasting the meanings of these words and how those meanings affect the characters, plot, etc.

ron-swanson-computer-throw-out-parks-and-rec
Have the digital humanities gone too far? (Kidding!)

 

My favorite tool thus far was “tagcrowd.” I think that could be useful in many assignments, such as handing creative writing students the most used words from their favorite book with the assignment of writing a poem using only those words or a poem encompassing every word. For example, you could limit Frankenstein to 6 of its most used words and ask students to write a sestina with them.

Personally, visualizing novels is a personal discovery, and to lose that process to collaboration or having to view the data through someone else’s visualization, makes the process more difficult and time consuming. Ultimately, I will need to play with these tools more as for now I’m baffled by what they are visualizing and how that helps to further our knowledge of novels. (554)

Original Post

The Modern Prometheus

I was very excited to receive this prompt as in undergrad and especially now, I oftentimes think of better ways to teach course material. As English and Humanities majors I find there’s this expectation that we are all amazing at reading, retaining, and interpreting texts, but that is not always the case. For example, I can’t stand Chaucer, Dickens, or Proust and in undergrad I struggled with them. I didn’t want to interact with the text, I couldn’t understand the language, I was unmotivated simply because these texts were difficult for me to comprehend through traditional means.

Even before reading the chapter on designing classroom activities, I knew that if I were teaching I would begin with a Buzzfeed quiz. Call me a millennial, but those quizzes are addicting and fun, and in the teaching sphere they would also help students collaborate with each other and connect to the text. The idea I had in mind was a simple “personality” quiz, “Which character from Shelley’s Frankenstein are you?” (If you go to the link it is a quiz I made very quickly as an example.) By beginning with something personal, I have ensured that the students who take the quiz connect to the text. This connection works both if the students have previously read the text or if the text is new to them. If they are reading for the first time and they received an answer of “The Creature” from the personality quiz, they will read the novel with more empathy towards the creature as they have “connected” with him through the quiz. Similar to if they have read the novel before, they may reread or think about the novel in a different way depending on the results of the personality quiz.

The great thing about this quiz is it can be a catalyst for later activities. Once the students have found their personality/character match, I could assign them a social media project where they cultivate a Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, blog, Vine (RIP), Instagram, or Snapchat for their character. With Shelley’s novel, this would be ironic and fun, as we could “modernize” the “modern Prometheus” with an active Twitter account.

In my head this project would span the entire semester (though it could also be done in a week or any period of time), ending with an analysis paper where the students would defend their understanding of the character by comparing and contrasting in-depth interpretation of text to their social media accounts.

An assignment like this is full of digital humanities tools: social media, online research, quizzes, etc., but it also allows for creativity and individual understanding of text. If someone is having trouble getting into or comprehending the text, giving them a singular focus and homework that seems more fun, will motivate them and help them with the text. Students can receive overarching understanding of a novel in class, but by allowing them this creativity to explore the text in their own individual ways and ensuring that the content they come up with makes sense through the use of the final (defense) paper, they will better retain the knowledge of this novel, than through traditional means.

Side note: It’s also a good idea to search a few key terms from your text on Buzzfeed, such as Frankenstein, as some funny posts come up that could spark classroom discussions. For example, this link could spark discussion on how the creature is described in the novel versus how he is portrayed in media. (585)

Original Post

A Book by Any Other Name is…

In my experience, digital editions of novels are often discouraged from use in the academic sphere. I believe this is due to the stigma of digital versions and the ability to trust their sourcing and completeness. Anything can be put online, and even the examples on the class blog show no digital edition is created equal.

Aesthetically and emotionally speaking, turning the pages in a print edition is my preferred method. I never feel the same excitement when the Kindle app displays “98% Read” in the right hand corner, than when I realize I have one chapter left in my physical book. But in college (to keep down costs) and in my professional life (carrying books on the metro was a hassle) I used digital editions of literature. When I switched I thought my engagement would change due to the lack of an emotional response, but instead I found my engagement increased.

Digital editions bring together the written and studied word, and instant gratification. If I don’t know the definition of a word, I can tap it and the Webster definition pops up. If a phrase or excerpt intrigues me, I can highlight and google that exact spot and find secondary sources with in-depth analyses. However, not all editions, print, digital, or otherwise are the same.

Take, for example, the Project Gutenberg (PG) edition of Frankenstein. It is one webpage with hyperlinks to various chapters, but is barebones. There are no annotations, footnotes, or any original publishing information. There is no preface or quote from Paradise Lost, and the book is not divided into three volumes. There are benefits to the simplicity as it is free, wifi is only needed once, and the document is searchable (which, when PG was created was the goal). Now compare this edition to the University of Pennsylvania’s (UPenn) edition. In UPenn’s edition there are biographies for notable allusions, annotations, maps, critical commentaries, and much more. It is a hub of information that has set up the novel exactly as it was in print, three volumes, correct chapter numbers, and the pages are set up to mimic the original text. It is amazing, but requires consistent wifi, is exasperating and time-consuming to read as each page has to load, and the annotations, while helpful, are not as intuitive as they could be, as they are on separate webpages that draw the reader from the content.

Digital editions are a necessity for the future of the study of humanities as they offer universal access, instant information, and searchable documents; but they need to be streamlined, de-stigmatized, and created from trusted sources with accurate annotations. Print copies, while tactile and emotionally connective, require the reader access to other facilities, whether that be other works, libraries, or the internet, all of which costs money and time. On the flip side, print copies ensure that readers learn how to research accurate and trustworthy sources, whereas digital editions may be too much information, too easily.

Personally, I hope print books never die out, but academically, I feel digital editions, if created well, are more inclusive and conducive for learning. (520)


Image grabbed from Scientific American and Getty Images.

 

Original Post