my first confession

I’m a Romanticist by calling—-an active teaching and researching academic moved to study literary Romanticism and its precursors and ripple effects and aftershocks. I’m working on projects that are exciting, new and strange to me, all launched within the past year. Hence this new blog, documenting my adventures as a Digital Romanticist. Here I’ll meditate aloud to anyone who cares, and I’ll also work with those involved in projects with me to post materials and discuss issues immediately important to us.

I’m caught up in an Adventure that began when I wanted to find a good way to edit the collected works of Mary Russell Mitford a few years ago. In May 2012 I participated in a wonderful manuscript-encoding workshop hosted by the Brown Women Writers Project, and thanks to the efficient tutelage of Julia Flanders and Syd Bauman, I began learning TEI XML, the markup language of the Text Encoding Initiative. Along the way, together with my colleague Sayre Greenfield, I helped to launch a Digital Humanities course at my campus, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, and I began teaching TEI to my patient and persevering college students. Teaching accelerated my learning, because I confess(!) all along in the Fall of 2012 I was only days or even hours ahead of my students in learning before teaching, and I keenly felt my lack of knowledge. I attended a second workshop at Brown University on transforming TEI with XSLT, where I met a most impressive computational linguist from Pitt’s Oakland campus who generously offered me and two dedicated companions a spot in his Spring 2013 course on Computational Methods in Humanities. In 15 weeks, we ran through a mill of daily rigorous homework exercises in coding: XML, XSLT, CSS, RelaxNG, Schematron, XQuery, SVG, Javascript. I worked together with a small project team of faculty and students from two campuses, to launch a serious, wonderful, and continuing project in textual analysis, mapping, and graphic visualization called Digital Archives and Pacific Cultures. This project site, its research questions, and its range of coding applications serve as the basis of our next iterations of the Digital Humanities course at Pitt-Greensburg.

As my learning accelerated, projects began to cohere, and I am now launching a collaborative digital archive project of the literary works and letters of Mary Russell Mitford–the very project pipe-dream that set me on my path to learning to code in the first place. Anyone reading this blog who doesn’t know who Mary Russell Mitford was might well begin by consulting David Nash Ford’s bio page. Mitford fans should follow a wonderful blog called “Unearthing Our Village”  by Alexandra Drayton, and watch my pages too as the Digital Mitford project unfolds.  I’m fortunate to have found a project team willing and ready to work with me, thanks to the formation of the Mary Russell Mitford Society (MRMS) at the 18th-and-19th-Century British Women Writers Conference in Albuquerque in April 2013. We’re gearing up to meet in early June and begin work on digitizing and coding texts and transcriptions of the prolific Mitford’s works and letters. This is a huge task, and a welcome new adventure.

Published by

Elisa Beshero-Bondar

(until June 30, 2020): Director of the Center for the Digital Text and Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. (starting July 1, 2020): Director of the DIGIT program and Professor of Digital Humanities at Penn State University, the Behrend campus in Erie, PA.

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