The Early Novels Database: a Case Study

by Rachel Sagner Buurma, Assistant Professor of English Literature, Swarthmore College,  Anna Tione Levine, junior Honors English major, Swarthmore College, and Richard Li, senior Honors English major, Swarthmore College.

(Originally Posted April 30th, 2011)

Project description1

The Early Novels Database (END) is a bibliographic database based on the University of Pennsylvania’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s extensive collection of fiction in English published between 1660 and 1830. Produced by the collaborative effort of Penn librarians, information technology specialists, faculty from Swarthmore College and Penn, and Swarthmore College undergraduate researchers, the completed database will include richly descriptive records of more than 3,000 novels and fictional narratives, from the very canonical to the almost unknown, from fictions that clearly announce themselves to be novels to the works of fiction (fable, travel narrative, romance) that formed part of that genre’s notoriously murky origins. Users will be able to perform both keyword and faceted searches across bibliographic records containing both edition-specific and copy-specific information about each novel. END seeks to unite twenty-first-century search technologies and twentieth-century descriptive bibliography with the sensibility of eighteenth-century indexing practices in ways that enable researchers to write new histories of the novel.

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English Majors Practicing Criticism: A Digital Approach

by Paul Schacht, Caroline Woidat, Rob Doggett, and Gillian Paku, State University of New York at Geneseo (SUNY)

(Originally Posted April 30th, 2011) 

Project Overview

At SUNY Geneseo, Practicing Criticism uses digital technology to help build a sense of community, common purpose, and shared identity among undergraduate English majors enrolled in separate sections of a required, introductory course, English 170: The Practice of Criticism. A long-established course at Geneseo, English 170 introduces students not only to the essential disciplinary skills of interpretation and critical writing, but also to some of the basic theoretical questions that help constitute English as a discipline: What types of works should we read? Why should we read these particular works? And, most important, how should we read them? By prompting students to engage with these fundamental questions, English 170 aims to create self-reflective majors who are skilled at critical analysis and have a deep understanding of the disciplinary issues and debates underpinning the various modes of critical analysis. In other words, students in this course learn both to practice criticism and to examine criticism as a practice.

This essay reports on our effort to launch Practicing Criticism in the fall 2010 semester. It explains our purpose in creating the project, describes the tools we chose and the assignments we designed with them, and explores some of the lessons we learned.

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