Cultivating the Victorian Women Writers Project While Developing Digital Humanities Expertise

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Main contributors
Dalmau, Michelle; Courtney, Angela
The Victorian Women Writers Project began in 1995 at Indiana University under the editorial leadership of Perry Willett and was celebrated early on for exposing lesser-known British women writers of the 19th century.  The VWWP's original focus on poetry was meant to complement The English Poetry Full-Text Database, but soon Willett acknowledged the variety of genres in which women of that period were writing novels, children's books, political pamphlets, religious tracts.  The collection expanded to include genres beyond poetry, and continued active development from 1995 until roughly 2000 at which point the corpus reached approximately two hundred texts.  These nearly two hundred texts comprise only a small fraction of Victorian women's writing. Encouraged by renewed interest among Indiana University's English faculty and graduate students, the Indiana University Libraries and the English Department are exploring ways to reinvigorate the project, and in turn, cultivate a sensibility in digital humanities methodologies and theories.  
Through our newly offered graduate English course (L501, Digital Humanities Practicum), an eager and curious group of students learned not only encoding skills but also began to develop the collaborative practices pervasive in the digital humanities.  As part of our talk, we plan to explore whether cultivating markup skills are sufficient enough in establishing a digital humanities curriculum (Rockwell) and whether majoring in English today means the curriculum should include awareness of the possibilities that arise for new scholarship when technology is applied to literary studies (Lanham).  Certainly Indiana University is not breaking new ground or alone in this endeavor, but the literature is scarce is terms of understanding successes of graduate level digital humanities curricula situated in an English or any other humanities department.  As Diane Zorich reports in her recent review of digital humanities centers, "A Survey of Digital Humanities Centers in the United States," archives such as the Willa Cather and Walt Whitman Archives are precisely leveraged for teaching and learning, and this reporting is promising for the Victorian Women Writers Project as a project reconceived to meet both teaching and research needs in a classroom setting (19).     
As a result of the Digital Humanities Practicum, VWWP has catalpulted from a standard, mid-level encoding to a scholarly encoding project. Our talk will briefly introduce the Victorian Women Writers Project, explore curriculum-building strategies; and propose ways in which faculty and students can reliably and perpetually contribute to the VWWP.
Indiana University Digital Library Program
Wednesday Noon Digital Scholarship Series
IUScholarWorks Repository
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IUScholarWorks Record 

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