Digitizing the Enlightenment

PI: Danielle Spratt
Collaborators: Ross Brummet, Ellen MacKenzie, Anastasia Prinzing, Jessica Stewart
Project Website: Under construction. Further information is available at http://daniellespratt.com

Digitizing the Enlightenment combines digital humanities initiatives with faculty-student-community research and its relationship to the broader field of the public humanities. The project is grounded in work outlined in Engaging the Age of Jane Austen: Public Humanities in Practice, edited by Danielle Spratt and Bridget Draxler (University of Iowa Press, forthcoming). While we tend to think of publically engaged literary studies as almost exclusively grounded in contemporary works and periods, Digitizing the Enlightenment takes the position that that community-based research and service learning-based pedagogy — incorporating archival work, digital humanities initiatives — find natural grounding in the media culture of the long eighteenth century, the period during which the very notion of the public came to include circulating libraries, museums, and the concept of the literary canon itself.

The project uses digital humanities tools created for 18thConnect.org, an initiative based at Auburn University, to correct the faulty OCR (optical character recognition) in digitized texts produced for Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO). Project members encode the corrected transcriptions with basic HTML and XML markup to make them accessible for visually impaired student and auditory learners, and for use in data mining and computational text analysis. Working with canonical texts, ephemeral pamphlets, and writings from everyday people the project demonstrates the important relationship between civic discourse and political and social action and activism.

Engaging the Age of Jane Austen contains essay contributions by current/former CSUN students Hannah Jorgenson, Nazanin Keynejad, and Jessica Stewart. Future plans include a co-authored an article on the digitization effort to be published through an open access journal.