This is a collaborative project that grew from a Fall 2015 Marymount University offering of EN426: Studies in the Novel, which was exclusively focused on reading Samuel Richardson’s epic masterpiece, Clarissa; or, The History of a Young Lady, in its entirety. Because this is such a mammoth undertaking, we needed a way to get into–and out of–the novel with purpose. Ultimately, introducing digital humanities as a methodology proved both timely and useful.
The digital humanities–which asks us, in part, to engage traditional disciplinary work in the humanities from a perspective intimately invested in the methods and means of the digital turn–functions as a driving ethos for the class. As Matthew Kirschenbaum puts it, “the digital humanities today is about a scholarship (and a pedagogy) that is publicly visible in ways to which we are generally unaccustomed, a scholarship and pedagogy that’s bound up with infrastructure in ways that are deeper and more explicit than we are generally accustomed, a scholarship and pedagogy that is collaborative and depends on networks of people and that lives an active, 24/7 life online” (“What Is…”). How can we make our reading of this important but, because of its length, neglected novel, public, collaborative, and generative? How can we use digital approaches to help us understand the novel in/and/through its material contexts? What questions about authorship and interiority can reading-in-public begin to ask, or answer?
For this class, we transformed the letters from Clarissa into blog posts, created according to a colloboratively-designed schema guiding how we would categorize, tag, and link to and from other pages. Our goal throughout was the translation of a massive print source into a more browseable web source.