Tag Archives: Nhu-Phuong Duong

The Aftermath of the Conference

I think that these past few weeks show how unanticipated circumstances can arise. I did not anticipate being sick and I realize that research is nearly impossible when you aren’t taking care of yourself.

When I was first putting together my PowerPoint for the Student Research Conference, I was conflicted with how much information my audience really needed (so that I am using an optimal amount of time). My style typically consists of the use of image more than the use of text. I find that the audience can easily get distracted if there are too many words on a screen. I decided that I would attempt to give some foundation to Frankenstein, being the first presenter on that panel so that it would give some leeway to others. Due to our Works in Progress submissions turning into platform presentations, some of the audience members believed that our research was complete. One takeaway is that while I may not be able to control my audience, this is simply something that I will have to get used to, even if members of the audience visibly show a disinterest. By allowing it to affect my presentation, I felt distracted and started to ramble even though I had notes on hand.

As an audience member, I also saw the importance of keeping the presenter on track. It is important to try to ask questions that are relevant to the presenter, and not meant to discourage or deter the student from academic research. I appreciated the guiding questions from my colleagues and professors because it helped me better understand the focus as well as the significance of my research. While I initially did not intend on submitting to the student research conference this semester, I am glad that we were encouraged to feel that our research, particularly in the humanities, is notable. In my past experience with the conference, I always felt as though the sciences were more celebrated by students and professors. However, I felt that the organizers or board members were more thoughtful in putting together a conference of mixed fields and areas of studies.

After presenting, I realized that I didn’t need to include Clerval in my analysis. In fact, it served me no purpose in the direction I am headed in my analysis of Victor Frankenstein and the creature. Discussion of the texts that both characters approach is necessary in my analysis and deserves more attention to fully grasp a post-colonial analysis. I feel more confident in my ability to expand on the development of the creature and how language and culture is tied to his power over Victor (445).

Frankenstein Outline

Topic: A postcolonial analysis of the 1818 edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I will be using Keywords in Context tools to identify authoritative approaches to language. The comparison will be Victor Frankenstein vs the creature and how language encourages Western power and authority.

Working Thesis: In the 1818 edition of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s western influences are prevalent through the acquisition of language; Victor Frankenstein’s interactions with sub-characters are much different than that of how the creature approaches … (PENDING–still honing down on the best way to word it)

I. Introduction of topic (1 Long Paragraph)

a. brief introduction of post colonialism

i. mention tool that is used??

b. application of post colonialism and how it is interpreted through language (refer to relevant research; define theory) (1-2 paragraph(s)

II. previous methodology in this analysis of Frankenstein by other scholarly work (4-7 paragraphs)

a. also why my analysis is relevant apart from what is currently out there (1 paragraph)

III. Detailed introduction of tool in application with text (Voyant)

a. which aspect to use? 1-2 aspects, probably

IV. Open Body — begin to introduce comparison

(Rest of body — Comparison using multiple scenes — where language acquisition is highlighted)

a. Use tool to supplement text

b. use sources to support conclusive evidence for patterns recognized by tools

c. use own analysis


V. Discussion (2-3 paragraphs)

My apologies for the strange format of my outline. I typically have a hard time trying to outline, especially when I am continually adding on to my analysis and research.

Frankenstein: What’s in a name?

This project would be developed for college students in an introductory literature course. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, there is the question of visibility in characters when they are not addressed by their name but rather an identifier. How are foreign languages treated in the text and how does this affect the way foreign characters are identified? This project will look specifically from the monster’s point of view in Chapters 13-14 in particular, and how the cottagers interact. An example of this is when Safie is referred to as “the Arabian” while her father is referred to as “the Turk” with subtle mentions of their names a few more times throughout the text. Quantitative analysis would work well in teaching students to find patterns in texts versus merely looking at authorship (“Quantitative”). This method is useful as we start to accumulate more electronic texts, and it helps build on increasing critical analysis apart from author’s intent.

Students will begin by pairing up in either groups of three or four and once assigned with a character, they are expected to go through and find places in the text where their character is not referred to by their name. They will discuss with one another why Shelley did that, and why the narrator would make these choices. By focusing on single variables (such as word length or sentence length), students can examine the interactions and tones that come out of how these unnamed characters are approached. In fact, in Frankenstein, as Safie starts to pick up the language of the cottagers, so does the monster, although it is not always explicitly shown.

Assigned readings and articles are mandatory for students, some of which will begin with the origin of language and then leading to practicing with the primary tools/modules for the course. The first tool students will explore is Juxta, where they will learn to compare the 1818 and 1831 editions and the changes that Shelley took. Each group will look at places where their characters are addressed and how the changes/edits affect the reading of the text. They are expected to write a reflection (or blog!) on their experience and interesting shifts they noticed.

The primary tool students will use antConc to look at the variance of certain names preferred over others for their assigned character. antConc performs corpus analysis which will allow students to learn distant-reading. Often, freshmen come into these courses and struggle with developing their own analysis of the text versus simply writing down what the author’s intent was. Students, who are not English majors, will develop critical writing skills and attain diversity in how they approach 18th century texts (or any old text really!) .


Allen, Sidney. “Ancient Ideas on the Origin and Development of Language.” Transactions of the Philological Society, 47.1 (1948): 35-60. Web.

Choudhury, G. Sayeed and David Seaman. “The Virtual Library.” A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens, Oxford: Blackwell, 2008, http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/

David, Hoover. “Quantitative Analysis and Literary Studies.” A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens, Oxford: Blackwell, 2008, http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/

Rifkin, Benjamin. “Attending to Learner Diversity in the Lesson Plan: Planning for Intensity of Engagement.” NECTFL Review, vol. 61, 2007, pp. 99-108, ProQuest. 

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus. Ed. D.L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf, 3rd ed., Broadview Editions, 2012. Print.


A World of My Own

Growing up, MMORPG’s (also known as Massively multiplayer online role-playing games) were the epitome of my childhood. The way that fictional worlds are influenced by literature was not something I figured video game script writers took into account immediately. I think that what is particularly surprising about MMO’s is that they are able to weave together stories and imagine alternate endings in the worlds they create (and it doesn’t always matter if the gamer is familiar with the work or not; it is a foundation .

Reading “Fictional Worlds in the Digital Age” by Marie-Laure Ryan allowed me to see how my interests in literature and video games tied together. Ryan recalls this cerebral experience as immersive and fundamental for our “literary pleasures”. Additionally, we have to “suspend disbelief” and any expectation that the literature is exactly the same in computer games. There can’t be the expectation of a true representation of reality, or in this case, the literature. Ryan states that this ability to be a part of how the story unfolds through character interaction is a form of “imaginative recentering”. The earliest versions (MOOs and MUDs) consisted of the creation of a fictional character where the settings were static and permanent; gamers were able to move around and interact but they couldn’t change the settings. This is similar to how a reader can interpret a story differently from someone else, but they cannot change settings such as where the story takes place or how the room looks. What newer worlds such as World of Warcraft allow is real-time interaction with other characters, which can change how the narratives of the stories play out.

If that sounds confusing, an easier example is Runescape. I remember the first time I played it was in the 6th grade. In the game, you can create a character and open doors to move further out into the world; however, before you can do all that, it requires that you complete the tutorial and learn to navigate and survive.

Once you’ve handled that, the game takes you off of Tutorial Island and places you in the fictional world of Runescape, where quests await (a quality MMO’s adopt quite well). I remember one quest that looked familiar to me from the get-go was Romeo and Juliet (spoilers ahead).

I had to go all over the town of Varrock (which is not Verona, Italy) and find objects to create the fake poison to help the star-crossed lovers. The problem with the ending of Romeo and Juliet in this case is that Romeo believes Juliet is dead and ends up with her cousin.

What is fun about Runescape is that it has different versions available online now. If a gamer wants the classic version, they can play Old School Runescape and still get similar updates as Runescape 3. The expansions are easily integrated into the world via quests, more story lines! However, this form of digital media is perhaps what is enticing to young gamers who develop gaming addictions: it is hard to negotiate between what is real and what is fiction. They become more absorbed into the guise of trying to win in this fictional world, where all it takes is countless hours on hand (537).

Processing Words

I remember when I was younger I really wanted a typewriter. When I went to high school, I faced the challenge of having to actually use one for my college applications (my high school wanted to make sure students had the experience of using different tools for writing). But the problem with this word-processor is that you can’t go back on your words…well, you can, but not every typewriter has a white out option. Simply put, the function of being able to edit and correct ourselves as we write has transformed the way we process our words, leaving no trace of our errors behind.

…as a consequence we conceive of print and the digital as rival or successive forms rather than as elements of a process wherein relations between the two media (at the level of both individual and collective practice) are considerably more dynamic and contingent.

Dr. Kirschenbaum, at the University of Maryland, makes as strong argument for the transformation of word processors over time. Tracked changes are also a new element brought upon by word processors that text processors can’t quite conceive as a collaborative work. In fact, I find it incredibly useful when I am editing memorandums at work and need to provide the suggested changes for acceptance to someone who is at a higher level. The ability to mark and track changes as we go in a document changes our perception of authorship in writing.

However, sadly the precepts within these word processors such as Google Docs and Word have built-in settings (such as formatted text). The benefit of text editors is that they make your words more transferrable with code. I can attest to this because several times in the past, I’ve tried to open an old word document (with no code) into a regular notepad or an updated Word, and it completely loses the text or is unable to open it (turning the characters into weird symbols). With a plain text editor, there isn’t as much of a web of problems.

Text editors allow for you to have flexibility and code as you please without limitations to make the words look the way you want. A lot of my friends use Sublime Text which I will admit is one of my favorites as well. I think that overall, its feature in allowing the variables to be changed if necessary is a huge plus. The split-editing is particularly useful when trying to be efficient with your code so that you can do it from multiple monitors and spot any errors immediately.

I love Wikipedia and the open forum it provides; however, it also means that anyone at anytime could incorrectly delete or add text.

Keep in mind: sources like Wikipedia are not perfect and do not advertise themselves as so.

Mapping out the FULL Story

Last semester, Moretti’s section on Maps would definitely have helped me visualize the town of Ruby in Toni Morrison’s Paradise. The town of Ruby was tied together by the literal symbol of the oven and each distinct place (such as the store or convent) was defined by how far they were from it. Moretti states that when a map is created, everything changes. His example of the solar system helps me understand how relationships could work within this system with a village at the center and the rings as representative of the circular narrative (36-7). Though, I think that this type of graph would only work in certain cases, especially ones that are tied together by their primary setting: in this case, the village.

On pg. 43, Moretti presents a scattered graph to depict the hierarchy in Central Places in Southern Germany. Even though it has a legend to separate the regions and the footnote on the isotropic model is there, Moretti doesn’t spend much time going in depth (but perhaps I would understand its relevancy better had I read Our Villages).

I do like the spatial division of labor chart and could see myself applying it to Paradise and the different female roles within the Convent. The one I liked the most is the objects of desire on pg. 55; however, it doesn’t make it clear which objects of desire belong to which of the protagonists. Overall, Moretti’s maps are meant to be starting points to draw readers into developing their own detailed maps to show patterns or trends within narratives.

To practice, I attempted to map out Frankenstein using the Google My Maps. It was a bit difficult at first because I was still figuring out how I wanted to divide up the layers. I ended up creating two layers: the first, pre-creature, and the second, after the creature is created. The locations overlapped a few times because Victor goes back and forth from Ingolstadt to Geneva multiple times upon receiving letters from Elizabeth.

While I didn’t include dates, the red markers are colored to represent the creature’s murders. I also included images to help the audience visually see what is going in in each location. I feel that my lack of detail however makes the map inaccurate since the markers are on cities, and not pinpointed to specific locations. I think Google My Maps is easy-to-use because you can click on a place in Victor’s travels, and include descriptions to help the reader gain insight on what triggers his movement. The timeline doesn’t help me as visually as a map does; however, since time is to some extent linear in Frankenstein, I could definitely see it work in application (448). 





Visualizing Words: Who said What?

The hardest part of using graphs is figuring out how the data correlates and whether it is effective in providing literary relief, especially when the text is too complex.

I would never have thought to look at the use of Frankenstein in works over time nor would I have thought to look at the use of voice; however, after doing the exercise in class of graphing the speakers, I find that it is much easier to understand the routes of communication in the novel and what limitations may prevent someone from writing a letter.

Laura Mandell references Robert Southey’s letters as the prime example in creating data sets for identifying the narrative and auditory voice(s). Relate seems effective especially because it projects letter writing onto a social media output. It appeals to the modern audience who may not be familiar or aware that how we communicate today is similar to writing letters, though it is more efficient and easier to get an immediate response. Mandell implies that Robert Southey writes 877 letters in the span of twelve years; trying to work through each letter to identify particular themes or styles may not be an easy task. However, graphing Southey’s letters as though it were a social network allows the reader to better mediate the connections between the people he writes on.

Information Visualization is prevalent for the Romantic era because of how it functions in discipline. Even just the ability to search key words and see the use of it over time provides a better understanding of how prevalent it is. I think that the reason people are hesitant to delve into Information Visualization is that they expect it to provide detailed information; however, as Mandell mentions in her article, it is meant to present “representations of abstract data.”

An exercise that can incorporate well into Frankenstein is a heat map of the different settings and how often they switch. Comparing it to Mary Shelley and her travels would be interesting, as she is interested and influenced by the environments around her. Although the reader may want more detailed information, the heat map would at least provide a foundation for readers to further research why Shelley focuses on a particular part of Europe more than others.

With the Ngram Viewer, I was able to broadly look at texts referenced in Frankenstein such as Paradise Lost. Having never read the text before, it helped set some ground in the use of Paradise Lost in other texts without the prerequisite of having to be an expert on it. For broad use, I believe that Information Visualization seems difficult, but only if the user is expecting more than abstraction.

Bringing Frankenstein to Life in the Classroom

Digital pedagogy : the use of technology in constructing a learning environment online through various forms of interaction, but not limited through online, hybrid, or face-to-face interfaces.

As readers, digital pedagogy is instrumental in our comprehension of literary texts. We use it everyday without quite realizing how essential or engaging it is in our understanding of literature. For educators, it creates an open forum and platform where a wide range of information and classroom activities is easily accessed and shared. Furthermore, it encourages readers to collaborate in finding the best resources for students in the humanities.

With the structure of Frankenstein, I would incorporate visual storytelling as an activity; digital pedagogy in this sense would act as a medium for students to compose a variety of projects, such as a documentary, or a silent film, or even a series of photos. While it seems difficult at first, there is no expectation to be an expert per se in filming or audio production. In fact, it encourages students to utilize the devices within their reach, such as their smart phones, which today have the capability of taking high quality footage, if used correctly. Through this exercise, students will learn to manipulate perspective through the focal points of an image.

When I took the video production class at Marymount as an undergrad, I was encouraged to use my smart phone if I needed to practice the basics of photography, and did not have a camera on hand. One of the most essential lessons in photography is the rule of thirds:

In this image, the body of the bicyclist meets the rule of third in that he is lined up at the 1/3rd marker. This image is also open which allows the viewer to feel less constricted to the space while retaining the feeling of ongoing motion. Learning to frame a shot is essential because it acts as a foundation while helping draw attention to each and every part of an image.

A student studying Frankenstein may want to recreate this image in the scene where the men see the sled from the boat for the first time in Letter IV. Perhaps the viewer sees the men taking up 2/3rds  of the image and the sled and creature as taking up 1/3rd. This would give power and focus to the men, while giving sufficient attention to the creature in the scene.

With a recreation of key scenes through photographs, visualizing Frankenstein can materialize through different perspectives. While a timeline may appear efficient, it may not be as effective for those who learn through visuals. By putting images to key scenes, students will learn to be detail-oriented as well as approach textual analysis more critically.

Ending this post with a follow-up question: What other video projects can students develop beyond documentaries? I am quite fond of perhaps developing a podcast series from Robert Walton’s perspective (480).

Digitization: A Loss or Gain in Literacy

As technology continues to progress in our society, so does our ability to process information. The texts that are available in print slowly make its way into e-books and/or other digital formats. Our sense of touch becomes a swipe on a screen. The difficulty I often have with digitization is that it may presumably deter the reader’s desire to traditionally pick up a book and physically feel the effects of flipping the pages.

In my undergraduate seminar course, our theme was books about books; essentially one of the primary foundations of a book is the format and layout. Page breaks may not always make it when transcribed, and the meaning of those page breaks are lost amongst other elements in say, the shift in scenes, etc. However, one could also argue that the content or writing style should be a preset or clue to the shift, if the reader was attentive.

Another aspect that may be lost depending on the age of the text is the design and history of the pages. This is essential when there are only few editions of the work in existence. For example, one of our assigned texts in the seminar course was People of the Book; in it, Geraldine Brooks introduces the Haggadah, a Jewish text, and its travels through different owners. Throughout the restoration process, Hanna finds different objects that make its way into the book, such as an a type of butterfly’s body that is unique to a certain place. By going through this process, she is able to understand the impact of the Haggadah to those who admire it as well as those who feel threaten by its existence. However, Hanna is just one person gaining a glimpse of the text, and if not for digitization, texts like the Haggadah would not be accessible to us online.

I suppose the benefit, then, of digitization is that it allows more people to have access to reading limited texts and gaining a grasp of the history behind the works. For modern works, I feel that readers, particularly college students, may feel dissuaded to purchase printed copies as they are more expensive than digital editions. In fact, the existence of Project Gutenberg makes it easier to avoid purchasing a text altogether, if it is available. However, it is important to keep in mind that these translated copies may not have page numbers so it is not as easy to remember where you are in the story.

The “reading brain” is questionable in its retention of information. Is our brain interacting with the text the way it did before? Are we remembering where we left off in the pages, or are we relying on the digital text to do the job? (456)