The Digital Charlotte Smith

The Digital
Charlotte Smith
Allison Croley (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Dermot Ryan, Ph.D)
English major
Philosophy minor
Presentation Overview
• History/Background: Digital Humanities (DH)
• Promise/Concerns
• Charlotte Smith/Digital Tools
• Concluding Thoughts
What is DH?
“[The] Digital Humanities include, among other kinds of projects,
text encoding and analysis, digital editions of print works, historical
research that recreates historical architecture in virtual reality
formats … archival and geospatial sites, and … electronic literature
and digital art that draws on or remediates humanities traditions
(Hayles, 27)
• First wave: “quantitative, mobilizing the search a d retrieval powers of
the database, automating corpus linguistics, stacking hypercards into
critical arrays” (26)
• Second wave: “qualitative, interpretive, experimental, emotive,
generative in character” (26)
The Promise of DH
• Digital tools assist in research and teaching
• Project-based, collaborative, opportunities for scholars and
students in humanities
The concerns
about DH
• Are Digital Humanities the humanities at all?
• Are its methods the methods of the sciences?
• Where is DH going?
• Is DH merely a symptom of our obsession with technology?
Putting theory into practice:
Charlotte Smith’s Beachy Head
• Started as research paper for Romantic Genres
• Explored pastoral and counter pastoral elements in Smith’s
• Not much work done on pastoral, more work done on
topographical and political elements
• My question: Could digital tools enrich my research?
Tool #1: Voyant
• Online text analysis tool that organizes words statistically based
on frequency
• My first digital experiment
• Findings:
• Need “hypothesis”
• The more text, the better
• Word cloud can be deceiving
Test #1
Test #2
How is Voyant useful?
• Allows readers to test patterns they see in text
• Potentially allows readers to see new patterns in text
• Helps readers visualize the architecture of the text
Tool #2: Eighteenth Century
Collections Online (ECCO)
• Fully searchable online database of 18th Century texts
• Test #1: Searched “Beachy Head” between 1650 and 1800
• Most texts about war and storms at sea/shipwreck
• Solidifies argument that Smith was drawing on accurate history and
• Test #2: Searched (Beachy Head) AND (Charlotte Smith)
• The cave the Hermit in Beachy Head dwells in is factual
• The Hermit is a character from one of Smith’s prior novels
• After Beachy Head was published, the Hermit disappears from later
editions of the novel
How is ECCO Useful?
• Access for undergraduates
• Enriches context
• Expands research
• Information architecture
• Interpretive act
• Present to wider audience
Final reflections
• Gains:
• Scholarly – new patterns across large bodies of work
• Interpretive – databases, information architecture, design
• Pedagogical – word could, immediate understanding (pictures, virtual
simulations, etc.)
• Further recommendations:
• People are already doing it -- great if faculty who are doing it could
• Helping us to do what we already to better – great if better
integrated into curriculum
• Tools could be accepted as part of scholarship we do as
• How to incorporate into English department?
Thank you
• Dr. Dermot Ryan, Ph.D (Faculty Mentor)
• Melanie Hubbard, Archives and Special Collections Assistant
• Undergraduate Research Symposium
Works Cited
Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary
Technogenesis. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012.

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