We’re delighted to announce that the WWP will be offering a new practicum series during the 2017–2018 academic year. In this series, we’ll be holding two-hour workshops focused on particular skills and tools. Each session will be held from 10am to 12pm in the Digital Scholarship Commons in Snell Library. In the fall, we will be offering:
October 4: File Management For Digital Humanities Researchers. This session will cover essential strategies and design considerations for organizing files and research data for the long term, including basics of using the command line to see under the hood of your hard drive
November 8: Using Oxygen Like An Expert:projects, frameworks, and scenarios. This session will cover advanced topics in the use of the Oxygen XML editor, including setting up projects, frameworks, transformation and validation scenarios, and version control client plugins. Everything you’ve always wanted to know about Oxygen (but were afraid to ask…).
December 6: Efficient Code-Writing in RStudio. This session will share a “cheat sheet” developed to cover the most common usage scenarios for typical digital humanities data. We’ll also discuss how to write R code that can be efficiently embedded in workflows to handle repetitive tasks.
In the spring semester, we’ll look at further topics including basic and advanced XPath, regular expressions, Schematron, and XQuery.
These sessions are free and open to the public, but guests from outside the NU community should email Sarah Connell (sa.connell[at]northeastern[dot]edu) to arrange library access.
We hope to see you there!
Announcing New Publications to Women Writers Online and Women Writers in Context
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”:
TheElixir 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 Fevers, Quotidian and Tertian Agues, Small 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!
We are thrilled to announce that the Women Writers Project has begun work on a new project “Word Vector Analysis for TEI/XML: A user-Friendly Toolkit,” funded under a Tier 1 grant from Northeastern University, awarded to project co-PIs, professors Julia Flanders, Elizabeth Dillon, and Cody Dunne.
“Word Vector Analysis for TEI/XML” brings together two major digital humanities methodologies: text encoding and text analysis, as we aim to develop an exploratory web interface as part of the WWO Lab, which will allow users to visualize vector-space models with data from the Women Writers Online (WWO) TEI corpus and its sister corpus from the Victorian Women Writers Project (VWWP). For this collaborative project, a team of faculty, graduate students, and WWP staff will develop mechanisms to transform TEI documents for analysis with word embedding models, using the WWO/VWWP corpus as a test case. We will also publish a prototype web interface for exploring these models. The interface will enable users to input terms of interest and discover similar terms, locate analogies, and explore thematic clusters of terms. The WWP is especially suited to this type of text analysis because of our collection of TEI-encoded documents that are information-rich and relatively free from digitization errors. We will thus be able to create text-analysis-friendly data from TEI documents without losing the significant informational content of the markup.
Our prototype will integrate the word2vec text analysis tool using skip-gram negative sampling, as well as other experimental word vector model training methods, into an information pipeline that takes in TEI/XML data, performs a variety of preliminary processing steps taking advantage of information in the markup, passes the resulting text file on for analysis, and then sends the results to an appropriate visualization tool. The user interface will enable users to make selections based on information in the markup (e.g., to analyze texts within a certain time period or of a certain genre, or to focus on specific textual components such as background narration or direct speech), and to choose the visualization options for the output. The tool set will take advantage of TEI markup to improve tokenization in text analysis (for example, encoding with <orgName> removes any ambiguity about whether the string “Massachusetts Historical Society” refers to a single organization) and to enable comparison within corpora based on the semantic features represented by the markup. The prototype will initially focus on word vector analysis, but other text analysis routines such as topic modeling could be included as options in the pipeline as well.
As we move forward in our research, we will be publishing use cases and sample research projects using the word2vec text analysis tool. For example, a scholar of early American literature might be interested in the ways in which “America” as a concept is represented in early women’s writing. Using our tool on the WWO/VWWP corpus, she may start by finding words that are nearest to words like “America,” “England,” “country,” and “nation.” Or, she might test out the analogy function (such as in the often cited [king] – [man] + [woman] = [queen] word2vec example), experimenting with relationships between words like “England” and “New England” or “Virginia” and “Massachusetts”.
For further reading on word embedding models and word2vec, we’ve provided some suggested blog posts below:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 firsttwo 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.
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.
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 inA 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?
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.
If you’re looking for something inspirational, we have several of Elizabeth I’s speeches, including twoversions of the Tilbury Speech, which was featured in one of our favorite Kate Beaton comics.
The staff of the Women Writers Project was proud to add our support to the Colored Conventions Transcribe-A-Thon in honor of Frederick Douglass’ birthday and Black History Month, hosted by The Colored Conventions Project (CCP) at the University of Delaware. We joined universities across the country in transcribing the minutes of the colored conventions. The conventions were historic gatherings of African-American leaders; they began in 1830 and continued until well after the Civil War.
Although Douglass was born into bondage, and never knew his birthdate, he choose to celebrate it every year on February 14. We were proud to join the CCP in celebrating “radical love” this Valentine’s Day by commemorating the birthday of Fredrick Douglass with a transcribe-a-thon. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the term, a transcribe-a-thon is as straightforward as it sounds: a gathering of people participating in a “marathon” of transcription.
We’re happy to report that our local transcribe-a-thon at Northeastern University, jointly hosted by the Women Writes Project, the Digital Feminist Commons, and the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, was a resounding success. As a group, we transcribed the minutes of the 1859 “New England Colored Citizens’ Convention,” which was held in our hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. Staff and students alike had fun recognizing local places, names, and organizations in the minutes, as well as getting a hint of the basic sense of joy and accomplishment of adding to our national history.
For more information and to join the transcription efforts of The Colored Conventions Project, click here. You can also browse the event’s Twitter action on the event Storify page, here.
Humanities features an article on Mary Moody Emerson’s Almanacks
Emerson’s Almanacks span over 50 years and extend to more than 1,000 pages. We’re partnering with Baker and Petrulionis to encode these Almanacks in TEI and publish them in Women Writers Online as a pilot for future manuscript publication in WWO. In December, we added a new folder to the collection, dated c. 23 July 1812–November 1813 and discussed in more detail here.
If the Humanities article has sparked your interest in this fascinating early-American, proto-Transcendentalist woman, you might also want to read “Mary Moody Emerson as Reader and Reviewer,” recently added to our open-access Women Writers in Context series. The exhibit explores Emerson’s extensive, experimental, and eclectic reading and writing practices.
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!
Registration is open for two upcoming TEI seminars offered by the Women Writers Project and the Digital Scholarship Group at the Northeastern University Library. The first workshop, Introduction to TEI, will be held on February 17th–18th. The second workshop, TEI Customization, will be held on April 7th–8th. Northeastern University will host both of the seminars. The cost for each is $450 (students and TEI members, $300). Registration is free for members of the Northeastern University community. For more information and to register, please visit our workshops and seminars page.
Introduction to TEI offers an intensive exploration of scholarly text encoding, aimed at an audience of humanities scholars, archivists, and digital humanists. Through a combination of hands-on practice, presentation, and discussion, participants will work through the essentials of TEI markup and consider how markup languages make meaning and support scholarship in the digital age. No prior experience is necessary. Topics covered include:
Text markup languages as an instrument of humanities scholarship
Basics of TEI markup: essential text structures and genres
Advanced TEI markup: editorial markup and commentary, details of physical documents, complex structures
Contextual information and metadata
The schedule for this workshop is available here. Register here by February 10, 2017.
The TEI Customization seminar will introduce participants to the central concepts of TEI customization and to the language (a variant of the TEI itself) in which TEI customizations are written. When properly planned, the TEI customization process can make a huge difference to the efficiency of a TEI project and the quality and longevity of its data. Good customizations capture the project’s specific modeling decisions, and ensure consistency in the data, while retaining as much interoperability and mutual intelligibility with other TEI projects and tools as possible. Customization also contributes importantly to the process of data curation, both at the time of data creation and later in the project’s life cycle. Topics covered include:
Background on how the TEI schema is organized
Essentials of the TEI’s customization language
Using Roma to generate schemas and documentation
Designing a schema for your project: data constraint, work flow, and long-term maintenance