The Early American Bestseller Digital Initiative

The Boy Nihilist, by Allan Arnold in Pluck and Luck June 16 1909
Image by Allan Arnold.
Frank Tousey publisher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

PI: Colleen Tripp

The Early American Bestseller Digital Initiative @ CSUN develops a nineteenth-century popular culture digital archive that combines exhibits and an online research-pedagogy lab for the CSUN faculty-student-reader community. The gradual increase in the affordability and availability of print culture in the nineteenth century — the viability of cheap books for the millions — meant that early bestselling and popular writings document a boom of working-class, diverse fictions. Using open-source, digital humanities initiatives and electronic text encoding, this long-term project brings early American popular writings out of the CSUN archives and makes them accessible to a wide audience of teachers, students, scholars, and the general reader. This project is associated with Oviatt Library's Special Collections, as well as the English department's Popular Culture minor, whose courses such as "The American Bestseller" can particularly use the resources of the project.

The goal of the Early American Bestseller Initiative is twofold: to introduce our contemporary diverse CSUN community to the diverse writings of nineteenth-century America, as well as to provide an online research lab associated with the archive that would provide open-source, computational analytic tools for research and pedagogy. Students and faculty will be invited to use the provided open-source tools associated with the archive to engage in scholarly and pedagogical experimentation, such as data-mining, word clouds, and computational analysis. Faculty are also encouraged to use the Early American Bestseller Initiative in their course activities, such as curated online exhibits, and use the archival readings to contribute to our Affordable Learning Solutions initiative at CSUN.