The WWP begins research on the representation of racial identities in early women’s writing

The WWP begins research on the representation of racial identities in early women’s writing

We are excited to announce that the WWP has begun work on a new project, “Representing Racial Identity in Early Women’s Writing,” funded by a Northeastern University TIER 1 grant awarded to professors Julia Flanders and Nicole Aljoe. 

This project will develop new text encoding protocols and prototype data visualizations with attention to the representation of race in the Women Writers Online collection of early women’s texts. We will also convene an international group of scholars who work in critical race theory to inform our encoding and collection development practices, and will publish the results of our discussions. WWO is a useful corpus for investigations of race, not only because of its generic and chronological diversity, but also because of the collection’s strong focus on gender, which allows us to examine the ways that race is co-constitutive of other identity categories such as gender, national identity, and class.

A collaborative group of graduate and undergraduate research assistants will be trained as part of the WWP’s encoding team in TEI/XML markup and related XML skills and tools. They will develop a set of five newly encoded texts by authors of color or whose subject domain is focused on race. We will also enhance the encoding of 20 existing WWO texts by adding expanded metadata and an inventory of characters, local markup to capture racial descriptors, and markup of names and other references to persons in the text to enable linking between in-text references and the character inventory. These 25 texts will form the body of test data for our experimental visualizations to be published on the WWP Lab site.

The data will support a wide range of analytical methodologies, including both topic modeling and network analysis. To expand the impact of the project and bring these new resources into the broader scholarly community, we plan to release preliminary datasets during Black History Month in February 2021, inviting scholars to experiment with analyzing and visualizing this data. 

As we move forward in our research, all of the project’s activities will be communicated in detail via regular posts on the WWP’s research blog, and a final white paper will summarize and synthesize the project’s outcomes. We are very excited to begin this project—if you have comments or suggestions, please contact us at wwp[at]northeastern[dot]edu. 

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