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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.
The WWP Receives Funding for Intertextual Networks Project

The WWP Receives Funding for Intertextual Networks Project

The WWP is delighted to report that we have received funding for a three-year, $290,000, project from the National Endowment for the Humanities, focusing on intertextuality in early women’s writing. Starting in October 2016, the WWP will begin work on Intertextual Networks, a collaborative research initiative that will examine the citation and quotation practices of the authors represented in Women Writers Online (WWO) to explore and theorize the representation of intertextuality.

For this project, the WWP will assemble a collaborative research team that includes faculty, graduate students, and members of the WWP staff, representing a diverse set of perspectives and expertise. Each member of the collaborative group will pursue a research project engaging with materials from WWO, to be published in Women Writers in Context, the WWP’s open-access publication series. We will also be developing interface tools for exploring intertextual connections and patterns. As part of this work, we will be undertaking a broad encoding of quotations and citations across the entire WWO collection, linking textual references to a comprehensive bibliography of sources, which we will make openly available at the WWO Lab. We will also make a deeper exploration of subtler kinds of intertextual reference (such as allusion and parody) in a subset of the collection, to reveal the many ways in which the textual space reverberates with echoes and referential gestures. This deeper exploration will be strongly informed by the research of our scholarly collaborators and the particular projects they undertake.

Our initial research has already found several promising ways that text encoding can support research into citation and quotation practices. For example, we can trace the increased secularization of writing over time by tracking biblical references in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Biblical quotations make up a dramatically higher percentage of citations in seventeenth-century texts (about 1,600 out of 2,100) when compared with eighteenth-century ones (about 200 out of 1,700). We have found this same pattern in the titles that are named by WWO authors—in the seventeenth century, books of the Bible are most frequently named, while in the eighteenth there is a broader spread of writers and genres. The expanded markup we will be performing as part of this project will enable us to make much more precise and detailed analyses of reference patterns and practices in early women’s texts.

We have recruited an initial set of collaborators and we are currently soliciting proposals for additional scholars interested in joining the project. For more details and to submit a proposal, see here. We will be posting updates on our progress and discoveries, as well as guest posts from our collaborators, here at the WWP’s blog so follow this space for more news.  

Intertextual Networks has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Prototype Visualizations for Cultures of Reception

Prototype Visualizations for Cultures of Reception

We will soon be publishing an exploratory interface for the more than 600 reviews, advertisements, and other periodical items that we’ve encoded for our Cultures of Reception project—which explores how the authors in Women Writers Online were discussed in periodicals from 1770 to 1830. In preparation for that interface, we’re also working with Steven Braun, the Data Analytics and Visualization Specialist in the Northeastern University Library’s Digital Scholarship Group, to set up some visualizations that will help to highlight patterns across the texts in the collection.

Steven recently sent a few prototype visualizations to us and we wanted to share those here, since we’re really excited about them. Essentially, the reviews in Cultures of Reception are tagged by their evaluations, running from “very positive” to “very negative.” The visualizations Steven designed show variations in individual authors’ reception over time by mapping each possible evaluation to an integer value and plotting those evaluations over the course of each author’s lifetime. Positive evaluations are represented by dark green circles (on the upper y-axis), negative evaluations are represented by dark red circles (on the lower y-axis), and partial gradations are colored accordingly in between. Each circle represents a cluster of reception evaluations at that point in time and the size of each circle is proportional to the number of evaluations.

For example, here’s Maria Edgeworth, who was very widely reviewed over a fairly long period of time; her reviews are usually positive, but there are a few negative responses:m_edgeworth-evals

And here’s Charlotte Smith, who received more positive responses overall: c_smith-evals

Mary Darby Robinson, by contrast, has a narrower timeframe, with a particularly notable dip in review positivity around 1800 (in responses to The Natural Daughter):


Finally, here’s the collection as a whole:


When we publish the exploratory interface (which should be very soon!), we’ll be including more evaluation visualizations like these, along with others that will show the geographic ranges of periodicals and reviewed texts, the topics covered in the collection, the circulation of reviews and editions—and quite a few more. So, if you’re interested in the reception of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century women’s texts (or in transatlantic periodical cultures, publication practices, literary circulation, &c.), watch for the publication announcement here and on our website—and, in the meantime, we hope you enjoy these visualizations!

Early Modern Digital Pedagogies Workshop

Early Modern Digital Pedagogies Workshop

On March 30, we held a workshop on early modern digital pedagogies, partnering with Heather Wolfe and Paul Dingman of the Folger Shakespeare Library. The conversations we had were really exciting and the group came up with some excellent strategies for working with digital materials in the classroom. We also collected a list of resources and links to digital tools that attendees had found helpful. The workshop schedule, which includes sample teaching materials and images from our discussions, is here.

To keep the conversation going and make these materials accessible to those who weren’t at the workshop, we’re posting them here. Please feel free to add your responses, additional resources & strategies, or any other thoughts in the comments. And, to all of you who attended the workshop and shared your ideas and enthusiasm, thank you so much!

Strategies and best practices for using digital resources in the classroom

  • Having students work in teams can make difficult work go more quickly
  • Multiple students (or even a whole class) transcribing the same document is another effective approach, one that fosters comparison and can take some of the evaluation/correction load off of the instructor
  • Consider collaborating with other instructors as well—gather a group of people who are interested or look into partnering with another class
Dealing with difficulty:
  • Be prepared to offer a lot of support, especially in getting students set up, and be prepared for some frustration as well
  • If you can, spread the work out so it doesn’t feel overwhelming (for example, ask students to transcribe a few lines each class over a whole semester)
  • Do a terminology inventory; make sure that students are confident using the terms that are relevant for the project
  • Another approach is to let students choose between a “DH option” and an alternative, so that digital scholarship feels like something students get to do, rather than something that they have to do
  • Emphasize “the beauty of the messiness” and let undecidability be a thing that the class can work with
Fostering ownership:
  • Let students choose their own texts/persons/research objects to work with and encourage them to feel a sense of ownership and expertise
  • Help students to see themselves as important contributors to a public body of knowledge
  • Have a conversation about what it means to be an owner in a community, and think about the TEI as a community-constructed authority
Theory and pedagogy:
  • In transcription assignments, ask students to think about the entire publication process, not just marking the text up; make publication an intellectual problem for them to consider
  • Physical objects can be a jumping-off point for discussing the mediations that have to take place before students access a text from a digital archive—that is, for a physical object to become a digital object
  • Bring the rationales to the surface—get students to articulate and debate the rationales that are guiding any relevant aspects of the digital work and make those rationales visible

Resources and tools



We’re happy to welcome readers to the Women Writers Project’s blog. Despite the fact that blogs are a bit late-20th-century, we’re excited about starting this one. We’ve just finished up a few major projects and are about to start on some new ones. And, since the project will turn 30 in just another year or so, it feels like a good time to invite readers more directly into our discussions. Please join us here to learn about new developments, get a more detailed view of our work, and share your own thoughts and questions.

This blog will be a space where we can share work in progress, reveal interesting details about specific texts and encoding problems, and explore ideas for new features in Women Writers Online. We’re also planning to provide updates about the work we do, including additions to Women Writers Online, Women Writers in Context, and Cultures of Reception (coming soon). We’ll also post announcements about upcoming workshops and seminars, as well as any research or presentations that we publish or grant proposals that we submit.

We welcome guest posts on any topic related to the work of the WWP, including descriptions of research or teaching that uses the WWO collection, reports from WWP events, reflections on early women’s writing and/or text encoding, or updates from related projects. Contact us (wwp[at]neu[dot]edu) if you’d like to contribute!