I participated in two projects: I made a Julius Caesar patriotism theme page for Shakespeare-Nagivators.com, and I conducted research for Alex’s project, heretofore called “Project Percival,” because that title is only an inch better than calling it “Romantic-Chivalry-Game-Thing” in a formal presentation.
For the Julius Caesar patriotism page, I was asked by Dr. Weller to go through all of Julius Caesar and pick out any lines dealing with, in Dr. Weller’s words, “what it means to be a Roman.” So, I searched the text, using the website’s search engine, for any lines mentioning Rome, Romans, country, or countrymen. Then, Dr. Weller asked me to take some time and learn basic HTML coding. I studied the source code page for similar theme pages on the Shakespeare Navigators website, and it was pretty easy to understand. Then, in class, Dallas and Cassandra helped me check the HTML I had written before I sent it off to Dr. Weller.
While the page is completed, it will not be visible until Dr. Weller completes other theme pages for Julius Caesar, but when he does, my page will be available here.
I really enjoyed working on this theme page. It required me to do my own close-reading and analysis of the text, which is the academic work I want to do, since I have a degree in English. I also had to learn about HTML coding, which was an enriching experience. I agree that digital humanists should be able to “do” digital humanities, like coding, even if it is rudimentary coding.
Since I had finished Dr. Weller’s project and he didn’t have anything else for me to do that was very pressing, I offered my help to Alex and Joe, who were working on a game dealing with themes of Romantic chivalry via Twine.
Since I only have an abecedarian grasp on any type of coding, I couldn’t help Joe with the technical work of the Project Percival. For Alex’s project, I annotated a good chunk of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, and my notes were mostly character analysis of knightly tropes. Alex decided that he wanted to the project to follow the story of Percival, so I watched The Natural and The Fisher King and analyzed how the two movies did or didn’t match up with Chrétien de Troyes’ Percival, the Story of the Grail and Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival.
I think the value of my work—which was pretty much the same for both projects, just critical analysis of literature—in the broader context of digital humanities boils down to what digital humanities is and what digital humanities is trying to be.
Shakespeare Navigators is what digital humanities is, but we’re in a transitory period. The reason why it’s so easy to navigate is it is built of the foundation of a linear framework. You want to read the text, here’s the text. You can use a table of contents-type feature to navigate to a scene, or a glossary/search engine to look up specific words or passages. There are also theme/motifs pages, notable quotes, and other appendices-like features for reference. I enjoyed working with Shakespeare Navigators because the linear framework is one I’m comfortable with. But a lot of projects like Shakespeare Navigators get passed over in favor of something a little more glamorous, like Project Percival, something a little more abstract.
What digital humanities is trying to be is not, say, in internet version of what academia has already done in print, but something that refines the structure of academic thinking. The best digital humanities projects we’ve seen use sight, sound, and movement. It’s not this linear thing, where someone opens a book, reads each page until the end, and closes the book, hopefully having learned something. With sites like Project Percival, the learner (I can’t think of a better word; consumer?) has a variety of pathways to follow; he or she can move forward, back, into footnotes, hear or see auditory or visual cues, and the story itself might not technically be considered as linear a thing as a “choose your own adventure” story—it may have no ending at all. I know it sounds ambitious, as if the internet will totally redefine the way we process information, but I think the attitude with forward-thinking digital humanists is: why not, when we have all of this at our disposal?