Category Archives: ASECS

CFP: Digital Humanities panels at ASECS 2016

Omni William Penn Hotel
Omni William Penn Hotel, Pittsburgh, PA.

The Digital Humanities Caucus invites paper proposals for two panels (see below) for ASECS 2016, Pittsburgh. Deadline for proposals to be sent to panel organisers: 15th September.

1. “Small-Scale Digital Humanities” (Roundtable) (Digital Humanities Caucus). Stephen H. Gregg, Department of English and Cultural Studies, Bath Spa University, Newton St. Loe, Bath. BA2 9BN, UK; Tel: (044) 7771702912; E-mail:

A large, but largely unreported, amount of digital humanities work occurs outside of big research centres or well-funded collaborative projects. Such work might be undertaken by a scholar who is the sole academic in their Faculty – or one of a small handful of academics in their University – engaged in the digital humanities. They might also be working on a highly focused or a relatively small-scale digital project. This is a roundtable panel that seeks share the experiences of small-scale digital humanities work and the lone digital humanist. It seeks to engage with the challenges facing such scholars, such as:
· building value and recognition at home
· creating networks and collegial support at home
· networking outside the home University (regional, national, international)
· finding funding
· issues of technical support and training

2. “Building an Eighteenth-Century Corpus” (Digital Humanities Caucus) Scott Enderle, Skidmore College AND Mark Vareschi, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 600 N. Park St. Madison, WI 53706; Tel: (908) 420-1396; E-mail: and

The Digital Humanities Caucus invites proposals on the politics, possibilities, and practicalities of building an Eighteenth-century corpus. While much focus in the digital humanities has been on the analyses of corpora, this panel considers the selection and construction of corpora necessary and prior to such analyses. How possible is it to create a “complete” or “representative” corpus? As we build corpora, how should we address the problem of archival silences? Further questions this panel may explore: What processes might we use to select works in a corpus? (Selection by “hand”? By some algorithm? Based on this or that metadata? What kinds of arguments are these different methods useful for?)
How should we think about the disjoint temporality of corpora? (An unplanned corpus — the books on a bookshelf — may include works from many different periods. A planned corpus built using temporal constraints may include just those texts from a given period, but only if they have been preserved by successive generations.) What could, for example, an eighteenth-century corpus tell us about the Victorian era or the seventeenth century? Might histories of reading help us build corpora? (How accessible were different kinds of documents? What reading habits did they invite?). This panel invites interdisciplinary perspectives and innovative presentation formats.

Libaries and digital humanities: CFPs for ASECS 2014

There are some exciting panels being proposed at the annual meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies 2014 (Williamsburg, VA).I’ve reproduced the CFPs here.

First, there a number of panels on libraries (including one by your own blogger):

“The Private Library” Stephen H. Gregg, Dept. of English and Cultural Studies, Bath Spa U., Bath, BA2 9BN. E-mail:
This session aims to examine the private library in the long eighteenth century. Possible topics of discussion might include: the reconstruction of reading experiences / study practices in the library; recording, annotating, and marking in the library; the cultural, political or ideological functions of collecting books or the display of learning; design, layout, order and space;; ‘lost’ libraries / collections and their reconstruction; the representation of the private library in literature or in letters of the period. Finally, the session would also be interested in questions of methodology, approach and disciplinarity.

“Print Culture and Dissent in the Long Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World” (The Bibliographical Society of America) Kyle B. Roberts, Loyola U., Chicago, History Dept., 1032 W Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL 60660. E-mail:
This panel explores the role print culture played in religious mid educational knowledge exchanges across the eighteenth century as a means of opening discussions about dissenting practice in the Atlantic World.  This panel will ask several key questions: how might these interactions and exchanges enrich our understanding of thedimensions of religious, educational, and cultural practice in the transatlantic dissenting community? What can be
learned from the successes or failures of the many efforts to propagate and disseminate forms of dissenting knowledge? How might exploring the reception or dismissal of particular books alter our understanding of dissent? Papers that examine these questions from the perspectives of the history of the book, the history of reading, and the history of libraries are especially welcome.

“Libraries and Booksellers” (The Bibliographical Society of America) Laura Miller, U. of West Georgia, Dept. of English, 1601 Maple Street, Carrollton, GA 30118. E-mail:
The study of libraries and booksellers is essential for understanding the circulation and management of information in the long eighteenth century. This panel seeks proposals for 15-20 minute presentations on booksellers and libraries. Topics might include—but are certainly not limited to—private collections, university libraries, subscription libraries, the book trade, “bestsellers,” or the connections between libraries, booksellers, and readership.

There are also two panels sessions being proposed under the auspices of the Digital Humanities Caucus

“Practicing Digital Pedagogy.” Benjamin Pauley, Dept. of English, Eastern Connecticut State U., 83 Windham St., Willimantic, CT 06226. E-mail: AND Stephen H. Gregg, Dept. of English, Bath Spa U., Newton Park, Newton St Loe, Bath, BA2 9BN, UK. E-mail:
The ASECS Digital Humanities caucus invites proposals for a session on digital Humanities and pedagogy. Presentations might examine the opportunities (and challenges) that digital methods present for teaching the eighteenth century, or might address approaches to teaching digital methods in the eighteenth-century studies classroom. What kinds of insights are digital approaches especially well-positioned to yield for students? How might the kind of “making” that has often been a hallmark of digital humanities work complement or extend the kind of analytical work we still want students to do? How do we embed practical instruction in working with digital technologies alongside our teaching of our subjects? How do we help our students to develop a measure of methodological self-consciousness about digital approaches even as we introduce them to those methods? Presentations sharing insights drawn from practical classroom experience are highly encouraged, but more general reflections on the place of the digital in teaching eighteenth-century studies are welcome, as well.

“Digital Approaches to the Material.” Tonya Howe, Dept. of English, Marymount U., 2807 North Glebe Rd., Arlington, VA 22207. E-mail: AND Mark Vareschi, Dept. of English, U. of Wisconsin-Madison, 600 North Park St., Madison, WI 53706. E-mail:
This panel, sponsored by the ASECS DH caucus, solicits work addressing the role of the digital humanities in the study of eighteenth-century material culture. How can digital approaches help us theorize, imagine, or represent the objects and experiences of a lived world? What challenges does material culture pose for the digital humanities? What is the relationship between the study of material culture and the digital humanities, conceived as an ethos of practice? Topics might include theatrical performance, public and private space, print culture, the circulation of objects. We seek a variety of approaches- project overviews, theoretical work, individual critical examinations–and are open to non-traditional presentational formats. Please send brief proposals, including a statement of presentation format, to co-chairs Tonya Howe ( and Mark Vareschi (

See also

And a reminder that there will be a THATCamp ASECS2014

Digital Humanities and Archives @ ASECS 2012

I think it’s fair to say that this year’s annual meeting attracted more panels on digital humanities than ever before (and that doesn’t even include the pre-meeting THATCamp workshops: for a good review of that see Lisa Maruca’s post on Early Modern Online Bibliography). I’ve posted already on the use of digital technology in teaching 18thC culture, but there were still quite a large number of panels that included discussions of digital humanities – whether explicitly labelled ‘digital humanities’ or not. What interested me were the issues that kept cropping up about how digital archives design data to be searched and how they are actually searched.

I was especially intrigued, in the roundtable ‘Digital Humanities and the Archives’, by Randall Cream’s (West Chester) call for digital archives to try to mimic the joyful moment of “serendipitous discovery” in traditional archives: such “interpretive moments” produced through unexpected answers to “unthought” problems may be difficult to reproduce in digital archives which depend so much upon naming, cataloguing, and tagging. Michael Gavin addressed how one manages the digitization of plays, with the special nature of a play as text and as a theatrical performance. For Michael Gavin, this is not addressed in the current tagging models of TEI, and outlines how he modified the tagging to produce an archive whose searches can be sensitive to these two play-contexts. Clearly, all were agreed that the move towards semantic tagging would enable a more human and sustainable interaction with digital data (semantic tagging, using XML for example, has the ability to describe concepts and meanings; as opposed to HTML which describes the nature of the document and its relation to other documents. If anybody wants to, I’m perfectly willing to be corrected on this very rough definition). In the ‘Poetry and the Archive’ roundtable, questions of use and searchability were again implicit. Jennifer Batt’s (Oxford) description of how the Digital Miscellanies Index could be searched was a good example of a digital resource that, perhaps paradoxically, is a more open-ended research tool: since this is in index of first and last lines and not a digital archive of texts, researchers are perhaps left to their own intuition. It is, of course, arguable: both Andreas Mueller (Worcester, UK) and Kyle Roberts (Loyola, Chicago), in the panel ‘Digital Approaches to Library History’, outlined digital archives that were, in effect, archives with a thesis and so imagined ways of searching that would be directed towards research problems specific to their archives (in this case, library collections that are extant or are now dispersed). Roberts, on the Dissenting Academies Online project, aimed to create a “virtual library” system able to comprehend multiform library catalogues and records including author catalogues, short list catalogues, borrowing registers for 12,000 titles, 45,000 borrowings and over 600 borrowers. What was described was a process of tagging that enables the user to track borrowing by individual “borrower profiles” and the borrowing of individual books; profiling the development and use of a particular library collection over time; and to reveal shelving habits and systems. Mueller’s collaboration with the Hurd Library (the still-extant library of Bishop Richard Hurd (1720-1808)) also aimed at a “virtual” library, but by through digital visualization. Using shelving catalogues and the few surviving original shelf marks together with digital images of the shelves and a digital schematic loaded with data may enable users to research how this man of letters interacted, not only with the books in his collection, but also  with the space of his library. The data mapped into the visualization would be garnered from Hurd’s annotations, letters and entries in his commonplace books. While I have to declare an interest in the Hurd Library collaboration, it seems to me that these two projects have an important contribution to make in rethinking library history.

But design is only one half of the process, and while designing digital archives involves thinking carefully about the questions a user asks of the archive, two panellists on the ‘Digital Humanities and the Archives’ roundtable raised interesting questions about the ways and results of searching a digital archive for the user’s perspective (in both cases here, this was ECCO). Bill Blake (NYU) asked “what makes a good keyword search”, and produced a list of popular search terms (“slavery” coming top). He suggested that many users had an impulse to “retrieve” rather than “search” and that the poorest keyword search terms effectively reproduced what was in the archive (one of the most popular search terms “slavery” was a good example of this). He argued that the best searches operated on a conceptual level. Indeed, that is what I’ve been training my own students to do, many of whose first try at ECCO was using a broad topic-based search term: they discover that the results of such search terms are useless and relatively quickly begin to think about the processes involved in deciding on a better search term (a factor I thought Bill Blake’s paper rather underplayed). Sayre Greenfield (Pittsburgh) posed a rather different problem with search results: what about “interpreting lack of results”? He argued that one can only “confirm the validity of negative results” by comparison to positive results elsewhere. Using the example of a phrase search “Ay, there’s the rub” resulted in only two (!) hits in ECCO; searching the Burney Collection resulted in a much larger number of hits, evidence that in the eighteenth century this particular phrase of Shakespeare’s inhabited the “cultural micro-climate” of journalism and not literary discourse (ECCO doesn’t include journals and newspapers).

Managed serendipity anyone?

The present and future of digitisation projects: an interview with George Williams and Seth Denbo

I was very lucky to have the chance to talk to two of the leading voices on digital humanities when they very kindly agreed to take part in a filmed discussion at ASECS annual meeting, in San Antonio, March 2012. George Williams is an associate professor of English (specialising in the 18thC) at the University of South Carolina and will be familiar to many from the ProfHacker pieces in The Chronicle of Higher Education; Seth Denbo is a historian of eighteenth-century England and involved with MITH, Project Bamboo, the IHR Seminar in Digital History and is on the faculty of the Maryland Institue for Technology in the Humanities. (Using iMovie to film the discussion in my hotel room was a bit of an experiment – which is by way of an apology for any impairment in sound and /or visual quality. The interview is split into two parts).

Best Practices in Digital Pedagogy ASECS panel 2012

“This is the future. Oops – that’s now!” Lisa Maruca’s phrase that emphasised the immediacy – necessity, even – of our students’ engagement with digital technology made the point well. The panelists – Tonya-Marie Howe (Marymount), Kate Parker (Bucknell), David Slade (Berry) and Lisa Maruca (Wayne State) – presented their experiences of using digital technology in their teaching. Actually ‘teaching’ is perhaps the wrong word, since the key-note of the panel was ‘research’ – digital technology in the service of student-led research, either as individuals or collaboratively.

Tonya-Marie Howe, in ‘Student-created web archives and the practice of public scholarship’, detailed her experiences using Omeka. As an open-source software designed with archives in mind, Tonya argued that it was particularly useful to enable students to create collaborative (and, indeed, impressive-looking) digital archives, focused on the digitisation of around 200 pages of an eighteenth-century text. The course involved collaboration with other faculty members and support for digitisation and an essay (to be incorporated into the final archive) that reflected on the processes and creation of the archives. Kate Parker, in ‘Reconstructing literary ephemera in the classroom’, asked what it would be like to teach a course formed solely around digital texts and detailed her experiences of leading a module on eighteenth-century ephemera, what she termed the “literary dregs” of eighteenth-century literary history. Ephemera, Kate argued, posed especially productive challenges and questions regarding literary value. Getting students to engage with digital resources such as ECCO, EBBO and English Broadside Ballads was the first step in a collaborative production of an online anthology of ephemera. David Slade’s paper on ‘Teaching and building the digital archive in eighteenth-century Spanish-American studies’, examined his students’ engagement with the varied – and it seemed, neglected – digital archives of Spanish-American history including those from Columbia, Guatemala, Spain and Mexico. His aim as for students to create their own critical editions, thesis-driven archives, lists and compilations. Lisa Maruca, in ‘Re-thinking Web 1.0, or, low-skillz digital humanities for Newbies’, directly addressed the myth of the so-called ‘digital native’ by encouraging students to use easy to manipulate software such as Weebly to create their projects. Students were required to write a rationale for their resource and all projects were peer reviewed  – arguably very appropriate for the openess at the heart of online resources.

Significantly, all the papers underlined that the engagement with, and creation of, digital resources means that students are, as David Slade pointed out, “participants in the production of knowledge”. But all the panelists also agreed that one of the most important aspects of such courses was that they, as Tonya Howe said, make the processes of the production of knowledge visible. This, I think, was the most impressive potential in these courses. Even in the traditional written dissertation, for example, we hope that students are self-conscious about the decisions they make; yet the creation of original archives of various sorts involves a much more conscious set of decisions in which students become, in effect, curators, editors and scholars.