Digital Yoknapatawpha: International Team Collaborating to Digitize Faulkner’s World
From the University of Virginia:
About six years ago, John Corrigan was working on his Ph.D. about William Faulkner and visited the University of Virginia Library’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections to examine the renowned Southern writer’s manuscripts.
There he met UVA English professor Stephen Railton, who was bringing together Faulkner scholars for a new project, and asked Corrigan to join. They would create a website that maps and organizes characters, events and locations of Mississippi’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County prevalent in Faulkner’s novels and short stories to aid in studying and teaching the writer’s masterful and difficult works.
Corrigan, who is Canadian, lives in Taiwan and has been teaching at National Chengchi University there. He uses that website, “Digital Yoknapatawpha”, in his teaching as well as in his research.
“This project has been crucial for my students,” said Corrigan, who added that they come from not only Taiwan, but also China, Japan and European countries. “William Faulkner is one of the great American modernist writers, but he’s incredibly intimidating.”
Corrigan said he uses “Digital Yoknapatawpha” – which comprises data from 14 novels and 54 stories written by Faulkner and published between 1929 and 1962 – as a type of guide that gives context, but not interpretation. It’s not going to take the place of reading, but gives students ways to follow characters and insight into Faulkner’s use of language, according to several of the collaborating scholars. The website also links to manuscripts and audio recordings, bringing together resources that would take students countless hours of searching, Corrigan said.
With a few months remaining under the nearly $300,000 grant the National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research division awarded three years ago to develop the website, the team of about 35 scholars has reached a milestone: all the data of characters, events and locations have been entered.
Some of the collaborators are working on a book about the Digital Yoknapatawpha project that will be published by UVA Press. Theresa Towner, the Ashbel Smith Chair of Literary Studies at the University of Texas-Dallas, is serving as editor and writing the introduction. The collection will describe the scholarly team’s efforts, how the work was done and why certain decisions were made, and what the website can contribute to studies of Faulkner and Southern literature, as well as its limits.
Even all this data-entry work to create “Digital Yoknapatawpha” has been done by the team, because, as Railton and colleagues pointed out, it takes someone very knowledgeable about Faulkner to decide what information should be included. They have entered data on almost 5,000 characters, more than 8,000 events and almost 2,100 locations. Users can search for connections between these aspects to yield graphs and heat maps.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.