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Announcing New Publications to Women Writers Online and Women Writers in Context

Announcing New Publications to Women Writers Online and Women Writers in Context

The WWP is delighted to report that we have added six new texts to Women Writers Online. These are: Hester Chapone’s 1777 A Letter to a New-Married Lady, Emily Clark’s 1819 The Esquimaux (vol. 3), Anne Conway’s 1692 Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy, Caroline Cushing’s 1832 Letters, Descriptive of Public Monuments, Scenery, and Manners in France and Spain (vol. 2), Sarah Osborn and Susanna Anthony’s 1807 Familiar Letters, and Mary Pix’s 1699 The False Friend.

In addition to spanning three centuries, these texts highlight the diversity of genres in Women Writers Online, representing travel writing, drama, philosophy, epistolary writing, religious meditation, and the novel. For more information on these texts, and the WWP’s other recent publications, please see this list of new additions to WWO.

Accompanying the publication of these early texts by women, we have added nine new exhibits to Women Writers in Context, an experimental publication series designed to engage readers in exploration and discovery of topics related to early women’s writing.

Some highlights from the new texts in WWO include:

An advertisement for an elixer that the publisher of Conway’s Principles shares “for the good of the public”:

The Elixir Proprietatis (ſo highly commended by the Renowned Paracelſus and Helmont) it reſiſteth all Putrefaction of the Blood, ſtrengtheneth the Digeſtive Faculty. Its Excellent Virtues are prevalent in the Curing of continual FeversQuotidian and Tertian AguesSmall Pox, and Meaſles, or Swine Pox, with other Peſtilential Diſtempers; as alſo the Palſy, Apoplexy, Falling-Sickneſs, Aſthma’s, Tabes, or Conſumption of the Lungs. Its Doſe is from 10 to 20, 30, or 40 drops in a Glaſs of Sack. This Noble Elixir is Philoſophically prepared, by John Spire, Chymico Medicus, at four Shillings the Ounce. Who hath, by his Labour and Study in the Chymical Art, attained unto ſeveral ſecret Arcanums, (not vulgarly known) particularly a Soveraign Remedy for the Gout. If any one is deſirous therefore, or the aforeſaid Elixir Proprietatis, Let them apply themſelves to my Friend, Mr. Dorman Newman, at the King’s Arms in the Poultry, and the Author at his Houſe in Horſly-down-Fair- ſtreet, Southwark; or at his Country Houſe, at the upper end of Twitnam, near the Sign of the White-Hart, in Middleſex.

Some advice on handling a difficult mother-in-law in Chapone’s Letter:

I am told that he is an excellent ſon to a mother, who, with many good qualities, has defects of temper which determined him to decline her continuing to live with him after his marriage. In this he is equally kind and prudent; for though he could himſelf meritoriouſly bear with failings to which he had been accuſtomed from his infancy, in a parent who doats upon him, yet this would have been too hard a taſk upon you, who have not an equal affection to support your duty, and to whom her ways would have been new and unuſual. But though I thus far highly approve his conſideration for you, yet you muſt remember how great a part of her happineſs ſhe is thus deprived of on your account, and make her all the amends in your power by your own attentions, as well as by promoting opportunities of indulging her in the company of her ſon….Be armed againſt the ſallies of her temper, and predetermined never to quarrel with her, whatever ſhe may ſay or do. In ſuch a relationſhip, this conduct would not be meanneſs but merit; nor would it imply any unworthy compliance or falſe aſſent; ſince ſilence and good-humoured ſteadineſs may always preſerve ſincerity in your converſation, and proper freedom in your conduct. If ſhe ſhould deſire to controul your actions, or to intermeddle in the affairs of your family, more than you think is reaſonable, hear her advice with patience, and anſwer with reſpect, but in a manner that may let her ſee you mean to judge of your own duties for yourſelf.

And some very dramatic pauses, indicated by extra whitespace in both the original text and WWO, from dying characters in Pix’s False Friend:

We hope that these new publications will complement each other, inviting readers to explore works by women from multiple angles and perspectives—and we hope our readers have as much fun exploring the texts as we have had preparing them for publication!

The Queen’s Two Corpora: Finding Elizabeth and Creating Corpora using the WWO Database

The Queen’s Two Corpora: Finding Elizabeth and Creating Corpora using the WWO Database

This post is part of a series authored by our collaborators on the Intertextual Networks project. For more information, see here. 

By Kristen Abbott Bennett, Stonehill College

At Tilbury, Elizabeth I gave a rousing speech to motivate her subjects, exclaiming: “I know I have the bodie, but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and Stomach of a King, and of a King of England” (Cabala). Elizabeth’s recognition of her female princely bodies as simultaneously separate and the same reflects awareness of her politically constructed dual corpora. Historically, the “King’s two bodies” theory was adapted from ideas surrounding the divine right of kings. During Elizabeth’s reign, it was legislated to preserve her interests in lands acquired by Edward IV in his minority:

For the King has in him two Bodies, viz., a Body natural, and a Body politic…. [The latter] is a Body that cannot be seen or handled, consisting of Policy and Government, and constituted for the Direction of the people, and the Management of the public weal, and this Body is utterly void of Infancy, and old Age, and other natural Defects and Imbecilities, which the Body natural is subject to, and for this Cause, what the King does in his Body politic, cannot be invalidated or frustrated by any Disability in his natural Body. (Kantorowicz 7)

The “King’s Two Bodies” construction offers an apt metaphor for thinking about approaches to corpus-based linguistic analyses. These approaches allow one to consider a single body of work in and of itself, as well as realize its rhetorical relationship to a larger corpus.1 In the context of sub-corpora created from the Women Writers Online database, the “intertexts” corpus I discuss here analogizes Elizabeth’s “body politic” that both embodies, yet remains distinctive from “the body natural”–here another sub-corpus containing Elizabeth’s speeches.

What follows is a brief account of the methods I have used to create corpora from the WWO database, ranging from basic keyword searches to more complex computationally assisted searches, along with a short discussion about the choices I made along the way. With an eye toward next steps, I close with an overview of how one may convert XML documents into different kinds of file types that lend themselves well to computational and visual analysis.

Finding Elizabeth

Initially, I used keyword searches to find the works that mention Elizabeth; works authored by her are listed, with WWO links, here. I quickly learned that my attempts to search “Elizabeth I” in a database featuring works produced between 1526–1850 was not the best move; Elizabeth II was yet to exist. This initial foray revealed 120 works of the 390 in the WWO corpus (as of spring 2017) that mention an Elizabeth, plus 276 discrete references to women named “Elizabeth.” I persevered, using Ctrl + F and skimming, ultimately locating suitable intertexts (that is, intertextual references to Elizabeth I) dating between the early seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries that discuss her in both historical and fictional contexts.

For example, both Esther Sowernam’s 1617 pamphlet, Esther Hang’d Haman and Bathusa Makin’s 1673 Essay to revive the ancient education of gentlewomen laud the historical Elizabeth’s virtues and learning. Yet in Mary Deverell’s 1792 play, Mary Queen of Scots, the fictionalized Scottish queen suggests that Elizabeth’s learnedness is undesirable and unfeminine: “my sister’s mind is masculine” (O2v).

Although Deverell’s work ultimately presents an even-handed assessment of two Queens surrounded by male advisors and doing the best they can, American writer Judith Sargent Murray’s 1798 fictional account of Elizabeth and Mary’s history portrays the English queen as manipulative, dissembling, and self-serving. I had high hopes for Margaret Cavendish saying something excessive, but she mentions Elizabeth’s reign only to mark time in Nature’s Pictures. This early research generated enough information and questions for me to propose, and commit to creating, a multimedia intertextual exhibit that networks transcontinental representations of Elizabeth by six other WWO authors in the context of common discourses associated with the queen: her dual-gender, her “cult of love,” renowned learning, relationship with Mary, Queen of Scots, and her refusal to marry.

At this point in the process, I was introduced to Ashley Clark’s (Northeastern) brilliant Counting Robot (an XQuery for performing basic counts on WWP files) and saw an opportunity to test human-brain approaches to “finding” related texts in a large database against basic computational methods.

Creating the Corpora

A  <persName> search for “Elizabeth” produced 103 files including Elizabeth’s speeches, but it still threw out false positives. Eventually, I adapted Ashley’s code to create multiple search strings using early modern spellings and alternate names (Eliz, Elizabeth, Princess, Bess, etc.) and then checked contexts manually—this method resulted in finding 33 files, including Elizabeth’s works.

The results were similar when my colleague Mary Erica Zimmer suggested the labor-saving method of searching for cases where @ref on <persName> pointed to the unique identifier established for Elizabeth in the WWP’s personography; this method helped us extract Elizabeth I from her many (likely) namesakes and locate 21 valid intertexts.

During the first pass, it made sense to create one corpus containing Elizabeth’s works, another of her intertexts, and a third including all the files. Although this seems relatively straightforward, the concept of “Elizabeth’s works” is problematic. The WWO database includes her speeches, one translation, and one “true copie of a letter.” Although Elizabeth’s speeches were transcribed and printed by men, they offer a record of the way she presented herself to her subjects. It made sense to limit the “Elizabeth” corpus to her speeches, and excise the “true copy of a letter” and the translation to focus on a single genre. Once “Elizabeth” was defined, the intertexts were easy to manage; the sole criterion for inclusion was at least one clear mention of Elizabeth I. In the context of the “two bodies” metaphor, these corpora situate Elizabeth’s “natural” body in the context of her “body politic.”

Now What?

The first corpora were encoded in XML and lent themselves well to computational inquiry using the Counting Robot, XPath searches in oXygen, and AntConc. For example, these initial forays revealed that elements with @rend (indicating typographic changes) often point to a given work’s proper nouns and linguistic shifts, in addition to elements such as <persName> and <emph> that mark such features more explicitly. For the purposes of this project, I put that query aside for the time being and thought about the possibilities for these specific corpora.

It quickly became apparent that any computational analysis of these works called for creating additional corpora. Any text mining, visualization, or mapping approaches required removing the tags from the texts. Following Sarah Connell’s suggestion of a quick, if relatively low-tech, method for transforming the XML files, we opened the texts in oXygen, switched to “Author” mode, and then copied and pasted each text into a Word document. The last step was to make a plain text corpus.2

Why so many corpora? The first set, in XML, lend themselves well to computational queries about tagged elements. Reformatting the corpora into Word docs made the works more easily searchable, plus these documents lend themselves well to visualization using tools like Voyant. Similarly, conversion into text files permits users to work with visualization and analytical tools such as AntConc and Recogito. Although clearly exceeding the “two corpora” promised by this title, I hope to have offered people who may be new to working with literary databases helpful approaches toward getting up and running.

Sources

Anon. Cabala: sive Scrinia Sacra. London, Printed for G. Bedel, and T. Collins, and are to be ſold at their Shop at the Middle-Temple-gate in Fleetſtreet, 1654. Women Writers Online, Accessed 5 May 2017. http://www.wwp.northeastern.edu/texts/elizabeth.tilburycabala.html

Cavendish, Margaret (Lucas), Duchess of Newcastle. Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Live, J. Martin and J. Allstrye, 1656. Women Writers Online, Accessed 5 May 2017.  http://www.wwp.northeastern.edu/texts/cavendish.natpix.html

Deverell, Mary. Mary Queen of Scots; an Historical Tragedy, or, Dramatic Poem. Deverell, 1792. Women Writers Online, Accessed 5 May 2017. http://www.wwp.northeastern.edu/texts/deverell.maryqueen.html

Kantorowicz, Ernst A. The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology. Princeton UP, 1957.

Makin, Bathusa. An Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen. J.D., 1673. Women Writers Online, Accessed 5 May 2017. http://www.wwp.northeastern.edu/texts/makin.essays.html

Murray, Judith (Sargent). The Gleaner, I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews, 1798. Women Writers Online, Accessed 5 May 2017. http://www.wwp.northeastern.edu/texts/murray.gleaner.html

Sowernam, Esther. Esther Hath Hanged Haman. Nicholas Bourne, 1617. Women Writers Online, Accessed 5 May 2017. http://www.wwp.northeastern.edu/texts/sowernam.haman.html

Notes. 

 

Teaching with Women Writers in Review

Teaching with Women Writers in Review

By Jason M. Payton, Sam Houston State University

Note: Jason M. Payton is a pedagogical development consultant for the WWP.

PROJECT OVERVIEW

My course is a junior-level survey of American literature to 1865, and my students are primarily English majors and minors (course syllabus here). Most of my students have never had a class in women’s and gender studies, so I wanted to use the survey course as an opportunity to engage students with some of the critical issues raised in these fields. In addition to wanting my survey classes to engage students on women’s and gender studies issues, I also wanted to shift my teaching toward project-based models that would introduce students to important developments in the field of early American studies. The chance to partner with the Women Writers in Review team provided an opportunity to pursue both of these pedagogical aims.

I framed the WWiR project as an exercise in discovery. During the first week of class, I introduced the critical issues that would be explored at length during the course. These included nationalism and imperialism, colonialism, religion, race, class, and gender. I explained that these were intersectional issues and that we would return to them persistently to learn how the material and discursive practices associated with these concepts took shape at specific moments, and how they changed over time. While I framed this course as one that would reflect on the issue of gender, I purposely did not bookend the WWiR project with any specific theoretical readings, nor did I attempt to fully articulate how the WWiR project would fit into the course as a whole. I wanted students to do that discovery work on their own.

My students were tasked with a multi-phase project constructed in collaboration with Sarah Connell (assignment sequence here). They were given an introduction to the archive by Sarah Connell in the second week of the course and were also given a scavenger hunt exercise designed to familiarize them with the site’s organization and content. On completion of this initial site overview, I broke students into small groups and asked each group to identify one or two thematic tags for review. They were to read all the reviews published in America under their tags and compile two documents in response to their research. The first document was a group report. This report distilled important research findings and offered a series of specific illustrations of general trends; it also made recommendations regarding WWiR metadata, user interface, and user experience. The second document was a personal report on the most significant reviews and insights for each individual group member. The group reports allowed students to begin identifying trends in the archive through a collation of their individual notes on particular reviews under their chosen thematic tags. The individual reports allowed students to engage in more extensive close reading of particular archival documents than the general report permitted, and it also allowed me the opportunity to assess individual students’ levels of engagement with the project.

This two-part assignment structure allowed me to teach students about the WWiR archive itself, while also allowing me to teach them about the research process in early American studies. I believe that students benefit immensely from immersing themselves in an archive, but access to physical archives and well-managed special collections in early American studies is limited for most students at most U.S. colleges and universities. The digital archive can give students this experience of immersion without requiring physical proximity to an archive. I also believe that students benefit immensely from learning to balance the desire to find meaning in individual texts (recorded in students’ personal reports) and to find patterns of meaning across the wider archive (recorded in the group reports). The WWiR archive allows students to perform both kinds of analytical work, and the assignment structure I used ensures that students articulate both types of findings and make conscious decisions about how to weigh individual textual utterances in their assessment of the tenor of the archive as a whole.

Each group chose its own tag(s) for review. The tags they chose included:

  • Class or socioeconomic status
  • Education
  • Gender identities
  • Moral impacts of literature
  • Nation or empire
  • Slavery and abolition
  • Racial identities
  • Religious identities
  • Women as writers and readers

While not exhaustive, my students’ reviews covered over two-thirds of the thematic tags in the archive and covered the full range of sources published in America under those tags.

PROJECT FINDINGS

The individual and group reports showed that students were indeed making synchronic and diachronic judgments about the discourses on women and women’s writing in early America that I hoped they would make. The individual reports also showed that students made important connections between this project and the work of the course.

Indya F. writes, “The WWiR project is a concentrated version of what I really believe this course is about. To give students the most unedited version of history that we can take. There is some sanitization that we can’t rid ourselves of. But the WWiR takes these ideas of what misogyny used to be, and without verbalizing it, compares to the misogyny of now and allows us to take a hard look at what prejudice looked like and how far we haven’t come. Students involved in this process really have to bare [sic] witness to it.” As Indya notes, the archive’s choice to present reviews to readers with a minimal interpretive apparatus allows students to encounter historical discourse about women and women’s writing directly. The force of this encounter registers for Indya, who recognizes the ethical dilemma the encounter poses to the reader: With the knowledge provided by WWiR about misogyny in early America, how shall contemporary students of this material respond to misogyny in the present?

Hannah T. writes, “Before this project, I never realized the weight of gender inequality among literature during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Through a careful analysis of 3 reviews, I noticed a running theme of discrimination against women writers…Two of my articles concerned moral impacts, and one concerned religious identities. However, although they were reviews of different authors, pieces, and themes, I still noticed the recurring bias against the literature simply because they [sic] were written by women.” Hannah’s observation focuses particularly on how WWiR helps students understand the nature and scope of the discrimination women writers experienced in our period of study.

These general reflections demonstrated that the inclusion of WWiR into a traditional early American survey course can do important critical work. Students are encouraged to think about specific historical moments and about change over time. They are also encouraged to let the encounter with the archive reshape their understanding of early American history and of their own cultural moment.

Such broad reflections were also accompanied by several specific insights about the reviewers and their subjects that are worth sharing for the way they illustrate the pedagogical potential of using WWiR in undergraduate courses.

Elizabeth C. recognizes “just how much context matters” when considering the reception of women’s writing. Having read reviews of Benger’s Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Elizabeth Hamilton and Hand’s The Death of Amnon, Elizabeth observes that in both cases, the authors’ personal lives are invoked as relevant interpretive contexts. For Benger’s reviewer, the choice of Elizabeth Hamilton is especially worthy because of Hamilton’s ability to “follow traditional domestic gender roles,” as Elizabeth surmises. If Benger’s review is relatively positive in its rhetoric, the review of Hand is less so—it labels her a “poetess” and reminds readers that she is “the wife of a blacksmith.” Elizabeth found in these reviews telling evidence that “When a man produces literature, no one mentions what his wife does for a living. When a woman produces literature, they can only be as successful as their husband.” Elizabeth’s observations highlight two running themes in my classes’ reports. The first relates to Benger specifically, and the second relates to the relation of women’s writing to men’s writing more broadly.

Several students found the reviews of Benger’s works curious. Josh A. was particularly drawn to the footnote at the end of The Christian Observer’s review of Poems on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, which lists “E. Benger” as an author. The note at the end of this review explains the reviewer’s choice to refer to the author as “Mr. Benger” as an act of benevolence: “[I]n such a case of doubt, the ambiguous person out to be supposed of the nobler sex.” Rebecca R. focused on The Christian Disciple’s review of Benger’s Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Elizabeth Hamilton, which, Rebecca notes, mentions Benger only once in the review, while mentioning Hamilton fifteen times. Donald M. further observed that reviews of Benger’s work are ambivalent in their assessment of the author. The Christian Disciple’s review praises Benger’s choice of Elizabeth Hamilton as a subject but states that it “cannot bestow a similar commendation upon what she has written on the Revelation of St. John.” In that work, Benger “seems to have taken up an hypothesis with relation to this very obscure and difficult book, without sufficient consideration, and apparently without a proper acquaintance with the labors of others upon it.” Whereas The Christian Disciple calls Benger’s fitness for exegetical work into question, The Literary Gazette, or, Journal of Criticism, Science, and the Arts says in its review of her Memoirs of the Life of Anne Boleyn, Queen of Henry VIII, that “The works of Miss Benger have so fully established her in the literary world, among the female ornaments of the times, that the praise which these interesting volumes would otherwise extort, may well be spared.” Donald’s analysis of reviews of Benger led him to conclude that the assessment of a writer’s worth could have much more to do with the reviewer’s sense of what women should or should not be writing about as with the writer’s actual merit.

The repeated return in both group and individual reports to reviews of Benger’s works highlights several critical issues that can be discussed as a whole class and related to broad course themes. First, the purportedly benevolent assumption of “E. Benger’s” masculinity raises questions about historical assumptions about the construction of gender and gender difference that can be pursued in my course from Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Anne Bradstreet in the seventeenth century to Judith Sargent Murray and Hannah Webster Foster in the eighteenth century. Second, the elision of Benger’s name in the review of her memoir of Elizabeth Hamilton raises questions about recognition and attribution that can be pursued along similar lines. Third, the ambivalence of reviewers toward Benger depending on the subject matter of a given work raises questions about the notion of separate spheres. These questions intersect with gender and race, and as such, can be pursued in the context of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century epistolary and sentimental novel, but also in the context of Jefferson’s “reviews” of Phillis Wheatley and Ignatius Sancho in Notes on the State of Virginia. In this way, the WWiR archive can be placed in conversation with more easily recognized and more frequently anthologized texts in the survey course. Such an approach can help students see how archival research can enhance and challenge dominant field narratives, such as those about gender in early America, about public and private spheres, and about print culture.

In addition to helping students see the more canonical texts in early American literature differently, working with the WWiR archive also stimulated students’ curiosity to read across wider swaths of the archive than their original group assignments demanded. Bailey A. reviewed texts under the “education” and “racial identities” tags. In order to have a confident sense of how reviews under these tags were representing women and women’s writing, Bailey read across other tag collections to get a sense of general rhetorical trends, and she observes “women [being] ridiculed for being smart” at various points in the archive. Marlisa E. reviewed texts under the “slavery and abolition” tag. Her work on reviews of Poems on the Abolition of the Slave Trade (Benger, et al. This review, as noted above, presumes “E. Benger” to be a man) led her to read extra reviews, including reviews of Hannah Adams’s The Truth and Excellence of the Christian Religion Exhibited and Maria Edgeworth’s Works of Maria Edgeworth. This analysis highlights the difference in length of reviews presumed to be written by men. The review of Poems is fifteen pages in its original format, while the other two ran just nine pages in total in their original format. It also highlights key differences in the language used to talk about women’s writing. The review of Poems speaks with praise about the presumptively male “Christian poet,” while the reviews of women’s writing struck Marlisa as “extremely misogynistic.”

Bailey’s and Marlisa’s reports show that the structure of the archive can encourage students to explore more of the collection than they had originally planned to do. They also suggest some ways that the curiosity sparked by the archival encounter can be used to drive important thematic conversations in the broad survey course. Marlisa, for example, wanted to know after reading all of the American reviews under the “slavery and abolition” tag what the role of women’s writing in the abolitionist cause was. Because I introduced this project very early in the course, Marlisa’s question came up before we had begun our unit on the Atlantic slave trade and American slavery. I answered this query via a whole-class discussion about the poems of Phillis Wheatley and Sarah Wentworth Morton, as well as the novels of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Jacobs. Similarly, Briana P. raised questions about what it means for a reviewer to describe Maria Edgeworth as the “Franklin of novelists.” These questions can be answered in part by a reading of anthologized selections from Poor Richard’s Almanac and The Autobiography, as well as by reading texts such as Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple and Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette.

FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR PEDAGOGY AND RESEARCH

Using the WWiR archive in my survey course has inspired several ideas about undergraduate pedagogy and research that I wish to share with those who are considering using the archive in their classes.

My survey courses have traditionally been anthology-based, largely out of consideration for the financial constraints faced by many of my students. While a single course text that can be used in multiple sections has the benefit of being more affordable than a litany of individual texts, the drawbacks of the anthology-based course are many. One set of problems involves questions about selection and representation in the production of the anthology. Another set of problems involves questions about breadth of coverage and depth of understanding in anthology-based survey courses. These problems are particularly vexing for early Americanists, given the capaciousness of the field. My undergraduate pedagogy is moving away from the anthology-based course and away from breadth-of-coverage models in an effort to include voices normally excluded from popular anthologies and to privilege a depth of understanding of a few key issues in early American studies over a comprehensive coverage of major authors and movements. I am also moving toward project-based courses that engage students with cutting-edge developments in literary studies and related fields. The WWiR archive is an ideal teaching tool for teachers who are similarly inclined. The project I devised gets students out of the anthology and into the archive, it helps students rethink the narrative of literary history implicit in major anthologies, and it engages students with critical issues in the digital humanities.

Ideally, undergraduate survey courses that use the WWiR archive will leave space in the course to explore critical issues raised during the research process. Students in my course raised a host of excellent questions on the basis of their work with WWiR that we simply did not have time to answer. A period of one to two weeks at the end of the term would have allowed my class the opportunity to do additional research on the question about women and abolitionism raised by Marlisa E., for example. My class would have benefitted from additional research on the writings and speeches of Maria Stewart, Sojourner Truth, Angelina and Sarah Grimke, and Lydia Maria Child. Reserving time for additional research allows students to shape the direction of the course. It also allows instructors to teach the research process by showing how research questions often develop in ways that demand that we consult new archives and develop new competencies. Additional research on women and abolitionism would lead to students from the anthology to the WWiR archive to other print and digital archives; it would also encourage students to practice intersectional thinking as they untangle imbricated historical discourses about gender and race.

An additional research period at the end of the course can also include a specific focus on critical issues in the digital humanities raised by students’ work in WWiR. Sarah Connell’s introductory presentation to my class included a demonstration of the XML markup behind the front-end WWiR display. This demonstration raised students’ awareness of the many interpretive decisions that have to be made to render a document digitally in WWiR. It sparked a course-long conversation about information architecture that could have been explored more fully through additional research on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century print culture or on the relationship between book history and the digital humanities.

Queries such as these provide excellent material for undergraduate research. The incorporation of WWiR into the undergraduate curriculum is thus an excellent way to foster students’ professional development via presentations at undergraduate research conferences. It is also an excellent tool for generating undergraduate thesis and capstone projects.

Making (and using!) WWO:SDI

Making (and using!) WWO:SDI

Recently, we published an announcement about the release of the Women Writers Online: Scrabble Discovery Interface (WWO:SDI), which was (we hope) fairly obviously an April Fools’ Day joke. For all its silliness, however, WWO:SDI demonstrates some of the much more practical tools we have for interacting with WWO. More than that, the WWO:SDI interface itself has proved to be a remarkably effective proofing tool.

This second point may be less surprising when you note that WWO:SDI is similar to some of our existing proofing routines, which use XSLT to create HTML documents that enable us to review our data. For example, we have a proofing routine that creates a chart displaying encoded data on the page numbers and signature marks that appear in our texts, along with our idealizations of page numbers and milestones. This chart makes it much easier to see where there are mismatches between our idealized numbering and the actual contents of each page and to catch errors such as when pages might be numbered: 1, 2, 5.

Creating WWO:SDI was an interesting thought experiment for us, particularly as we considered how our markup could be used to extract words that would not be allowed in a standard Scrabble® game (we thought of the various namelike elements right away, but hadn’t considered <speaker> until we remembered that most of the contents of <speaker> labels are proper nouns—we did have to reconcile ourselves to falsely excluding some words, such as “servant,” “duke,” or “attendants”). We also had to figure out a mechanism for excluding roman numerals, which proved tricker than we first expected, precisely because they aren’t always set aside in the encoding as names and such are. And we were able to draw on some of our existing routines for regularizing original orthographies, dealing with end-of-line (“soft”) hyphens, and preferring corrections over errors.

Because WWO:SDI makes it easy to sort by word length, it also has helped us to catch some encoding errors in the texts we are preparing for publication. For example, the interface will join up the halves of words that are split by end-of-line hyphens, which we encode with a “soft hyphen” character that appears identical in most programs to the standard keyboard hyphen character we use for compound words (“hard hyphens,” as we often call them). Thus, WWO:SDI makes it very easy to spot incorrectly-encoded soft hyphens because these typically appear as extremely long words at the top of the lists when sorted by length.

Soft and hard hyphens: spot the difference

Similarly, WWO:SDI is good at uncovering the kinds of missing spaces that are much less visible in the XML files themselves, usually where words are marked with phrase-level elements, such as in:


There’s a missing space between “best” and “History” but the (in this case, artificially constructed) layers of markup make that hard to see. On the other hand, “besthistory” is much easier to spot in WWO:SDI and we may just end up developing a version that we could use in our actual proofing processes.

So, hopefully you enjoyed playing with WWO:SDI—and perhaps it even sparked your interest in using tools like XSLT to work with XML-encoded documents (possibly by joining the XSLT workshop at DHSI). We certainly have a lot of fun using XSLT to explore and proof our documents, even when it isn’t April 1st!

Announcing the Women Writers Online: Scrabble Discovery Tool!

Announcing the Women Writers Online: Scrabble Discovery Tool!

The WWP is delighted to report that we have developed a new interface that will enhance the texts in Women Writers Online by allowing users to discover the Scrabble® scores for the words in each text. The Women Writers Online: Scrabble Discovery Interface (WWO:SDI) provides sortable lists for all WWO texts, making it possible for users to determine the highest- and lowest-scoring words in the collection. The chart also denotes words that cannot be played in a single turn because they are longer than seven letters and words that could not be played using the letters provided by a standard Scrabble® set.

For example, the highest-scoring words in Harriet Cheney’s 1824 novel, A Peep at the Pilgrims, are “characterized” and “philosophically,” both with 30 points—although neither could be played on a single turn. The highest-scoring word in Ann Yearsley’s 1787 Poems on Various Subjects is “whizzing” at 33 points, but this word would only be possible if a player smuggled in an extra “z” tile from another set. The highest scoring word in the entire collection is “quizzically” at 43 points from Sarah Green’s 1810 Romance Readers and Romance Writers. The text with the highest average Scrabble® score is The Latter Examination of Anne Askew, 1547, which has words like “quyckeneth” and “excommunycate” at 31 points and “pertycypacyon” at 30 points. Archaic spelling seems to bring an advantage in this case! For sheer number of words that could be used in a Scrabble® game, the winner is Judith Murray’s 1798 The Gleaner, with 15,490 total playable words.

This interface uses cutting-edge technology to exclude words that are not allowed in standard Scrabble® games, drawing on the detailed encoding in the Women Writers Online collection. For example, excluding the contents of <name>, <persName>, <orgName>, <placeName>, and <speaker> removes many proper nouns from the results. Similarly, the interface excludes dialect and non-English words. We have also regularized some archaic letterforms, such as the long s (ſ), and regularized some spelling, such as i/j and u/v substitutions. The interface displays expanded versions of abbreviations and corrections of errors, wherever these are available.

We are confident that our readers will find WWO:SDI a valuable research tool, as well as a useful pedagogical resource. At long last, it is possible to compare texts by the important metric of their maximum and average scores in a Scrabble® game. We hope that this tool will revolutionize the study of early women writers and perhaps lead to new fields of word-game based literary scholarship.

We hope to add additional functionality to this useful resource very soon–including the option to have two authors or texts play off against each other in a simulated game. We expect to add scoring information on WWO texts’ performance in other word games, including Boggle®, Upwords®, and Bananagrams®. Finally, we are investigating the possibility of developing a WWO Edition Scrabble set, which would include extra “u” and “i” tiles (to be scored at 2 or 8 points when used in substitution for “v” and “j”). The set would also contain tiles for: ſ, æ, œ, ☉, and ☾ (these last two are essential in any serious gameplay for scholars of the seventeenth-century prophet Eleanor Davies).

We expect to have these new materials ready for release no later than one year from today, April 1, 2017.

WWO free for the month of March!

WWO free for the month of March!

We are delighted to announce that Women Writers Online will once again be free during the month of March, in celebration of Women’s History Month. This collection includes almost 400 texts written and translated by women, first published between 1526 and 1850.

We also invite you to explore our other publications, which are always open access. These include Women Writers in Review (WWiR), a collection of close to 700 reviews of and responses to works by the works in WWO, and Women Writers in Context (WWiC), a collection of essays exploring topics related to early women’s writing.

Portrait of Maria Edgeworth, 1808. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

If you haven’t visited Women Writers Online before, there are many different ways to find new texts. For instance, you can try filtering by genre or by publication year. The keyword search box is another good way to begin exploring. Or, you might want to go to WWiR or WWiC and browse the themes and topics there for subjects you’re interested in, since both collections link back to the texts in WWO. If you have worked with WWO in the past, you might want to see our recently published texts here.

As another way to help people get started with WWO, we’ve included some of our favorite texts below.

A Little Romance

There are many romances in WWO, including Mary Wroth’s Urania, which has adventure, betrayal, a lost princess, and pirates. If you enjoy reading about reformed rakes, moonlight seductions, and mistaken identities, we have the first two volumes of Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess. Or, for a bit of satire on romance, check out Sarah Green’s Romance Readers and Romance Writers, whose author exclaims:

Would that, like the monster Briareus, I could strike a hundred blows in the same instant, and that all the vampers of romance, who merit annihilation, were in my presence!—they are the vermin of literature— their spawn creep to our fire-sides, and cover our tables, our chairs, our sofas and our mantle-pieces; we find them in the bed-chambers of our daughters; nay, not unfrequently are they placed beneath their pillows, to occupy their minds at day-break, or to beguile a sleepless night.

Talking Birds and Cherry Orchards

We have several works of children’s fiction, including Sarah Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories, which has a family of talking robins, and Maria Edgeworth’s The Little Dog Trusty; the Orange Man; and the Cherry Orchard, which teaches, among other lessons, that “Cunning people, though they think themselves very wise, are almost always very silly.”

A Cook’s Guide

Maybe you’d like to try a new recipe—if so, you should check out Hannah Woolley’s Cook’s Guide. Here’s just one example of its delicious contents:

To make little Apple paſties to fry.Take pared Apples and cut them into ſmall pieces to ſtew, ſtew them to papp with claret wine and ſpice, then put in a good piece of ſweet butter, cinnamon, ginger, roſe-water, ſugar and plumped currans; then put them into the puff-paſte and fry them, ſo ſerve them in with ſugar.

A Fall River Murder

Looking for a bit of true crime? We have two texts on a local murder case: Mary Carr Clarke’s play, Sarah Maria Cornell, or the Fall River Murder and Catherine Read Arnold’s history Fall River: An Authentic Narrative.

Solving Relationship Problems with Cross-dressing

Playwright Hannah Cowley answers the relationship questions you never knew you had—how to use cross-dressing to add a little spice to your life, how to manipulate your father into ordering you to marry the man of your dreams, how to get that man to want to marry you in the first place, and much more. Husband have a wandering eye? Victoria demonstrates how to dress like a man and seduce hubby’s mistress in A Bold Stroke for a Husband. If he won’t disguise himself as your dressmaker, it’s not true love. Just ask Elizabeth from Who’s the Dupe?

Science Fiction

Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World is sometimes called the first science fiction novel; it describes a woman’s journey, by way of the north pole, to a world with Fish-men, Bear-men, and Worm-men—among quite a few others. We also have many other works by Cavendish—including her plays, historical and scientific writings, and letters.

Elizabeth I

If you’re looking for something inspirational, we have several of Elizabeth I’s speeches, including two versions of the Tilbury Speech, which was featured in one of our favorite Kate Beaton comics.

Portrait of Jarena Lee, 1849. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

Memoirs

If you’d like to read a memoir, there are quite a few in WWO, including several by and about women of color. We have: A Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince, The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee, and the Memoir of Mrs. Chloe Spear.

Please feel free to suggest your own favorite texts in the comments—and we hope you enjoy the collection!

New Publications to WWO and Women Writers in Context!

New Publications to WWO and Women Writers in Context!

We are so delighted to report that we’ve added four new texts to Women Writers Online. These are: Aphra Behn’s 1689 The History of the Nun, Emily Clark’s 1819 The Esquimaux (vol. 2), Frances Sheridan’s 1791 Eugenia and Adelaide (vol. 2), and Lydia Howard Sigourney’s 1824 Sketch of Connecticut, Forty Years Since. These texts span three centuries in the WWO collection—and their geographic scope is equally wide, representing settings in Spain, Belgium, Scotland, and New England, among many others. For more information on these texts, and the WWP’s other recent publications, please see this list of new additions to WWO.

We have also published a new folder from the Almanacks of Mary Moody Emerson, created in partnership with the editors of The Almanacks of Mary Moody Emerson: A Scholarly Digital Edition. Dated c. 23 July 1812–November 1813, this long folder reflects Emerson’s reading of John Foxe’s Lives of the Martyrs and Edward Taylor’s Rule and Exercises of Holy Living; the folder also includes Emerson’s discussions of the writings of moral philosopher Joseph Butler and a new biography of Martin Luther, whom Emerson reveres for his courage and faith. As the editors’ introduction to this folder explains, “Emerson’s attention at this turbulent political time is drawn to multiple scenes—from the local, where she notes the public execution of two criminals in Boston; to the national, as the continued war of 1812 raises fears for a potential military invasion of the city and many residents prepare to flee; to the global, as she laments Napoleon’s recent invasion of Russia.”

Accompanying the publication of these early texts by women, we have added three new exhibits to Women Writers in Context, an experimental publication series designed to engage readers in exploration and discovery of topics related to early women’s writing. The first of these, “Mary Moody Emerson as Reader and Reviewer,” discusses Emerson’s “extensive, experimental, and eclectic” reading and writing practices, showing that the “wealth of her literary and philosophical milieu, her engagement with the public intellectual marketplace, and her generic experiments represent a significant example of textual reception and circulation in antebellum America.” The second, “Maria Edgeworth in Review,” introduces several key topics from early transatlantic literary culture—textual constructions of national identities, gender and authorship, publication and review practices, and the development of the novel—as they are evident in periodical responses to Edgeworth’s works in the recently-published collection, Women Writers in Review. The third, “Women, Mathematics, and the Periodical Tradition in Britain: or a History of Women Rocking Math from the Beginning,” is the first in a new series of exhibits considering early women writers and mathematics, edited by Jacqueline Wernimont. These exhibits were created as part of the NEH-funded Cultures of Reception research initiative, which studied the reception and readership of early women’s writing.

We hope that these new publications will complement each other, inviting readers to explore works by women in various contexts and from multiple angles—and that our readers find these texts as interesting & enjoyable as we do!

A (semi-)Serious Proposal to the Linguists

A (semi-)Serious Proposal to the Linguists

God, Vertue, Ladies, and Souls

A few days ago, I came across this really interesting Language Log post, which talks about capitalization in one of our Women Writers Online texts—Mary Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1694). In the post, Mark Liberman asks the question: “Why did authors from Astell’s time distribute initial capital letters in the apparently erratic way that they did?” Liberman looks at sentences like this one, which describes the purpose of Astell’s proposal:

It’s aim is to fix that Beauty, to make it laſting and permanent, which Nature with all the helps of Art, cannot ſecure: And to place it out of the reach of Sickneſs and Old Age, by transferring it from a corruptible Body to an immortal Mind.

Since this is a WWO text, I decided to try a bit of experimentation and see what I might be able to uncover using not just the text itself, but also the markup. For just a bit of background, the texts in WWO are encoded according to the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative. You do need a subscription to access the collection, but we are always happy to offer free trials, so if you don’t have institutional access or an individual subscription and are interested in reading the texts in WWO, you can find instructions for how to set up a month-long trial here. If you’re curious about the details of our markup, those are covered in our internal documentation.

The first thing I did was enlist some help from Syd Bauman and Ashley Clark, our XML developers. Syd generated a list of all the capitalized words in Astell’s Proposal, along with their immediate ancestry (i.e., the local elements around each word). We found 2,491 capitalized words in total. Reviewing the elements in this list, I could see that it was likely many words were capitalized for reasons reflected in their markup. For example, there were proper nouns (tagged with <name>, <persName>, and <placeName>), titles of other texts (tagged with <title>), and the document’s own headings (tagged with <head>). There were also some words that were simply appearing at the starts of sentences.

So, I asked Ashley and Syd to help me come up with a new list of the capitalized words in Proposal, excluding those in proper nouns, titles, headings, and at the start of sentences. That list is here (original spellings preserved). The top results are: “God” with 31 instances; “Vertue” with 31; “Ladies” with 24; and “Souls” with 21 (in case you’re wondering, the WWP does not encode “God” with <persName>; see here for more details). The rest of the top fifteen—Women, World, Good, Nature, Piety, Religious, Religion, Soul, Beauty, Education, Glory—are all the sorts of word I’d expect to see capitalized in a seventeenth-century text. Reading through the whole list, I was also struck by how much it does feel like an inventory of the text’s core concerns.

Beauty and Death

Having looked at the capitalized words in an individual file, I thought it would be worth investigating all of the occurrences of those words across our corpus. So, since “Beauty” was a commonly capitalized word for Astell (in addition to being relatively short and without too many potential spelling variations), I started with that.

I first wanted to determine if I should be concerned with weeding out the capitalized cases of “Beauty” in sentence-initial positions. A bit of exploration showed me that there weren’t many such cases, and most of these came from texts that also had instances of “beauty” capitalized in the middle of sentences. I found only a handful of clear cases where “beauty” was being capitalized just because it was at the start of the sentence, so I decided not to worry about sentence position. I did find several texts that capitalized “beauty” only some of the time—in a few cases, this seemed to indicate a distinction between personified beauty and a more general usage (e.g., contrast “Soft Beauty’s timid smile serene” with “youth and the bloom of beauty,” both from the 1824 Poetical Works of the Late Mrs. Mary Robinson); in other cases the pattern was less clear. These instances, presumably would be one place I might start if I were investigating this phenomenon in earnest.

So, armed with the power of XPath, I set out to investigate the beauties of WWO. Here’s what I found. There are:
1577 total instances of Capital-B “Beauty” and
1863 cases of lowercase-b “beauty”
Looking across the whole corpus, that’s about 46% capitalized instances.

I repeated the search with “beautie” (to catch both “beauties” and the alternate spelling of “beautie”) and while there were fewer hits, the results were similar in terms of percent capitalized:
438 Beautie; 580 beautie (43% capitalized)

For “beautiful” I saw a different distribution:
71 Beautiful; 1619 beautiful (4% capitalized)

Since I suspected that this kind of capitalization would be more common in our earlier set of texts, I decided to narrow down the results. That just meant adding a bit of XPath before my search to look only in texts with publication dates before 1701 (198 out of 388 texts total).

Here’s what I found:
872 Beauty; 415 beauty (68% capitalized)
270 Beautie; 235 beautie (53% capitalized)
36 Beautiful; 212 beautiful (16% capitalized)

For this term at least (and with all appropriate acknowledgement of the highly rudimentary nature of this search), there does seem to be a bit more capitalization in the earlier half of the collection. Next, I wanted to see what else I could do with our markup. In my review of the tags we used for capitalized words in Astell’s Proposal, I had noticed that there were quite a few occurrences of <mcr>; this is a WWP-created element for a “meaningful change in rendition.” We use it where there are changes in rendition (such as between upright and italicized text) that are neither a printer’s error nor a merely decorative shift and that we can’t encode with more specific elements (such as <emph>, <name>, &c.). It’s essentially an element that says: “we think something semantically significant is happening with rendition here, but we’re not able to say exactly what.” Liberman alluded to this sort of thing when he wrote: “[And never mind, for now, Astell’s italicization choices…]”

Thinking that there might be interesting links between capitalization and these meaningful-but-unspecified changes in rendition, I tried my “beauty” search again, but restricted my results to text inside of <mcr>.

Here’s what I found, first looking across the corpus as a whole:
102 Beauty; 16 beauty (86% capitalized)

And then just the pre-1701 texts:
83 Beauty; 5 beauty (94% capitalized)

Admittedly, the corpus is small enough that narrowing down this far means you have fairly few results. (I also tried “beautie” and “beautiful,” but there really weren’t that many once I narrowed to the contents of <mcr>; for what it’s worth, 35 out of 37 instances of “beautie” in <mcr> are capitalized.) Still, there does seem to be something potentially interesting here. Most of the time, the rendition doesn’t change with capitalization (there are, after all, 1475 instances of “Beauty” in the collection that are not in <mcr>), but when the rendition does change, there is a higher percentage of capitalization. I decided to try another keyword and see what came up. I went with “death” this time, using the same criteria that it’s short, fairly common in the corpus, and without many spelling variations (there is “deathe,” which had 5 capitalized and 138 lowercase instances overall, none in <mcr>, all from texts published before 1701). Here’s what I found:

Corpus-wide
2578 Death; 4759 death (35% capitalized)
239 Dead; 2381 dead (9% capitalized)

Pre-1701
1226 Death; 2115 death (37% capitalized)
110 Dead; 1313 dead (8% capitalized)

Contents of <mcr>
Corpus-wide
251 Death; 54 death (82% capitalized)
Pre-1701
218 Death; 34 death (87% capitalized)

These are just two specific keywords, of course; if I were pursuing this seriously, I’d want to refine the search itself and try quite a few more terms as well as other XPath variations: looking at headings and titles, checking for items in lists, perhaps comparing verse and prose, and so on.

“Friendship Cheese”

Finally, I decided to take a look at the contents of <mcr> itself, using an XQuery that Ashley Clark wrote for the WWP (affectionately nicknamed “The Counting Robot” and available here). I normalized punctuation, long s (ſ) characters, and whitespace, but preserved capitalization. I got 21,741 different strings inside of <mcr>; of those, 16,832 were unique. Many of the unique cases are not single words or short phrases, but entire sentences or clauses where the renditional shifts cannot be attributed to emphasis or quotation. The top term on the list was “God,” with 1237 results; rounding out the top-five for the corpus are: Lord, I, Love, and Author.

Of the 127 cases with 30 or more hits, all but ten are capitalized—the exceptions are: “life,” “death,” “lying,” “they,” “she,” “love,” “one,” “her,” “he,” and “royal paper.” (This last item serves as a small caveat regarding the size of our corpus: all 204 instances of “royal paper” appear in a single text, Mary Jones’s 1750 Miscellanies in Prose and Verse.) Nevertheless, I do think that these exploratory results show that there is a great deal of potential for more serious research into these features using the WWO corpus—and if anyone is interested in a project along these lines, I’d be delighted to help set that up. In fact, this is my semi-serious proposal to anyone in the research community (linguists or otherwise) who might want to take this kind of work up.

One of my favorite things about this sort of exploration is that it brings me into contact with our texts in unpredictable ways, usually emphasizing how interesting and genuinely fun our corpus is. This was no exception and I’ll end here with my personal Top Ten results from the contents of <mcr>:

  • Wretched productions! inspired by hunger and dictated by stupidity and a disposition to lying! &c &c
  • As Irish ladies pass in jaunting cars
  • Confounded Harlot!
  • Effemenate Cat
  • For Gad Madam I don’t love being baulk’d thus
  • Friendship Cheese
  • Great Cuttle’s gland
  • Hedges of the Eyebrows
  • His lisping children hail their sire’s return!
  • Julius Cesar when he was beheaded by Oliver Cromwell

 

Announcing: Women Writers in Review

Announcing: Women Writers in Review

We are delighted to announce the publication of Women Writers in Review, a collection of more than 600 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century reviews, publication notices, literary histories, and other texts responding to works by early women writers, transcribed and encoded in the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) markup language. The Women Writers in Review interface offers sorting by the reviews’ sources, by the authors and works that they reference, by their genres and formats, and by tracked tags such as the topics they discuss and their evaluations of reviewed texts. We have also published an API, so that researchers can query and access the Women Writers in Review data and resources in JSON or HTML.

Women Writers in Review was created as part of the Cultures of Reception project, which was designed to investigate the discourse of reception in connection with the changing transatlantic literary landscape from 1770 to 1830. The Cultures of Reception project was generously funded by a Collaborative Research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

We hope that Women Writers in Review will enable researchers to address a wide range of questions, which might include: how do periodical reviews in this period imagine the relationship between the local and transnational writing spaces? How do reviews work to constitute for women authors a sense of a reading public? What are the differences that mark reading and reviewing practices across various regions and localities? To what extent does geography affect patterns of reference to women’s writing during this period? How do reviews, anthologies, and other similar sources gender particular spaces or locations of reading? And, we hope, many others!

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-8-13-19-pmOver the next few months, we’ll be posting on some of our favorite reviews, as well as some of the research we’ve been doing with the collection. For now, we can share a tip about the site: you’ll find some of the liveliest and most humorous reviews among those that have been marked as offering very negative evaluations of their subject matter.

We are also looking for faculty and graduate students who are interested in using Women Writers in Review in their classrooms to develop sample assignments using the collection. If you would like to learn more about becoming a pedagogical development consultant for the Women Writers Project, please contact us at wwp[at]neu[dot]edu.

To begin exploring the collection, please visit the main page or read this explanation of the site’s features.

The Women Writers Project staff at the official launch of the
The Women Writers Project staff at the official launch of Women Writers in Review. Photo Credit: Jennie Robbiano.
Nine new exhibits are now in Women Writers in Context

Nine new exhibits are now in Women Writers in Context

We’re happy to report that we just added nine new exhibits to Women Writers in Context, an experimental publication series designed to engage readers in exploration and discovery of topics related to early women’s writing. Exhibits are brief essays that combine critical arguments, images and media objects, visualizations, and links to the primary sources in Women Writers Online.

The newly released exhibits, written by scholars of literary and historical studies, offer introductions to works by Margaret Roper, Anne Bradstreet, Hannah Wolley, Eleanor Davies, Katharine Evans, Sarah Chevers, Rachel Speght, Elizabeth Melville, Eliza Haywood, and Elizabeth Clinton. May of these exhibits discuss women’s responses to questions of religion and education and thus provide context to the religious and instructional texts that we have recently published in Women Writers Online.

The Women Writers in Context platform is designed to serve as a point of entry for the materials in Women Writers Online, highlighting connections among the texts and their authors. Exhibits have several reading and display options, with contextual details for the persons and texts discussed, a timeline view showing significant events, and links to additional readings and information.

Here are the new exhibits:

 

Explore these exhibits and others here. See more on the content and goals of Women Writers in Context here. Interested in contributing an exhibit? A guide for authors is available here.