Congratulations to Orlando’s Susan Brown, recently appointed Canada Research Chair (Tier I) in Collaborative Digital Scholarship at the University of Guelph. In other news, Laura Mandell includes Susan Brown on her short list of DH leaders in her interview with Melissa Dinsman on “The Digital in the Humanities” for the Los Angeles Review . . . Read more
What is Orlando?
The Orlando Project is an experiment in the integration of text and technology. It has designed and continues to enhance digital tools to harness the power of computers for critical literary and historical research. The project's constantly expanding and improving storehouse of knowledge about women's lives and writings, the Orlando textbase itself, is rendered uniquely searchable and sortable by its encoding. Its widening of the knowledge base in cultural history goes together with the training and professional development of generations of students.
The project began when Patricia Clements, Isobel Grundy, and Susan Brown proposed to research and write a much-needed literary history and to deliver it electronically. It was a bold move: such an undertaking had not previously been attempted in kind, scale, or complexity, and at this stage in the development of humanities computing – the mid 1990s – it was by no means clear either that text encoding (markup) could produce meaningful results in so complex a field as literary history or even that an extensively encoded text could be effectively deployed and accessed on the internet. Nevertheless, Brown, Clements, and Grundy, traditionally trained and hitherto non-computational professors of English, set out to create a multidisciplinary team which could both produce a major history of women’s writing in the British Isles and conceive and build this as a digital history.
The Orlando Project is collaborative and multidisciplinary. The venture at its core brings together literary scholars, digital humanists, and computing scientists, and from the beginning the team has benefited from the generous collaboration of distinguished digital humanists from across Canada and internationally. Orlando research is cross-cultural, and student colleagues – of whom the Project has trained upwards of 85, and rising – learn about both editorial and archival research, and document analysis and markup. Professors and student researchers alike are excited by the experimental environment.
The history the team built is the product of massive scholarly research, of Orlando’s tagsets (built in-house), and of the Orlando production system. Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present was published online by Cambridge University Press in 2006 at orlando.cambridge.org/. It is an unprecedented work of literary scholarship. Not a book, though in length the equivalent of about 80 scholarly books, and not a digital edition of an existing text, it is a richly searchable textbase that caters to the individual research interests of readers/users. Orlando’s unique encoding system enables users to search and recombine detailed accounts of authors’ lives and writing careers, plus extensive contextual material in a way that has never before been possible.
The Orlando Project team continues to explore ways in which the digital can enrich the textual, and its technologies have enabled other innovative projects. CWRC, the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (www.cwrc.ca), led by Susan Brown and built on Orlando as a web-based service-oriented platform, combining a repository and a toolkit, empowers scholars through new ways of pursuing research into Canadian writing and culture.
Searching in Orlando
The first three entry points to Orlando are People (for author entries singly or in groups, and other names), Chronologies (timelines by word, date, or tag), and Tag Search. Tag Search offers picklists of tags, with explanatory diagrams showing relationships between tags. This starburst represents the chief tags in the Production section of the Writing schema developed by Orlando. Some of these have subtags not represented here. For example, the Mode of Publication tag can be narrowed to subtags about subscription, or limited edition, etc.
More about Orlando, onscreen
New Directions/Directors for Orlando
We are delighted to announce that Corrinne Harol has undertaken the position of Literary Director of the Orlando Project.
Dr. Harol (PhD UCLA), Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta, specializes in Restoration and eighteenth-century literature and culture. Areas of research interest include the intersections of literary, scientific, political, and religious discourses; intellectual history and critical theory; feminist theory and gender studies. She is the author of Enlightened Virginity in Eighteenth-Century Literature as well as journal articles and book chapters on eighteenth century literature.
Corrinne Harol joins Technical Director Susan Brown and Research Director Isobel Grundy. This shared direction of the project is part of the shift to a new phase of Orlando, announced at the Digital Diversity conference as Orlando 2.0. Orlando 2.0 sees the project moving in 2016 to welcoming contributions from scholars worldwide through a new online collaborative research platform.
Orlando’s ongoing work include twice-annual updates to the textbase, each of which comprises ten new entries plus many revisions that reflect new publications, new attributions, new contradictions. Current and former project members are contributing to the upcoming Digital Diversity essay collection, which will be published online and in print. Technical work includes developing prototypes for exploring the project’s materials in new ways, and producing a set of linked open data based on Orlando. Recent studies of Orlando are available in DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly and ada: a journal of gender, new media, and technology.
Orlando in the Media
Orlando’s Design Research
Explore in Orlando
1 October 1553
Lady Jane Lumley and her husband attended the coronation of Mary Tudor. As a Roman Catholic, John, first Baron Lumley, was a natural Mary supporter, while his wife was cousin to the recently deposed and arrested Lady Jane Grey.
1 October 1670
It seems that Elizabeth Hooton's petition To the King and both Houses of Parliament was personally presented to Charles on this day, though not by her.
1 October 1763
Sarah Cheney (later Sarah Gardner) made her first appearance on the London stage, before her marriage, as Congreve's Miss Prue in Love for Love: A Comedy at Drury Lane.
- 1 October 1553
May 6, 2016 ·
In early April, Margaret Atwood delivered the 10th annual Henry Kreisel Lecture, sponsored by the University of Alberta’s Canadian Literature Centre/Centre de Littérature Canadienne (CLC). Her lecture, “The Burgess Shale: The Canadian Literary Landscape of the 1960s,” will be broadcast by CBC Radio’s Ideas later this year. Here is Atwood at the event with the Orlando Project’s Patricia Clements . . . Read more
April 25, 2016 ·
NEW AUTHOR ENTRIES
March 8, 2016 ·
For March, Women’s History Month, Orlando is open access.
User id womenshistory2016
Like most scholars today, I make frequent use of digital databases . . . . Most of these sessions have left me jaded about the motivations (grant capture before research questions) and limitations (potential obsolescence) of such initiatives. Orlando is, and hopefully will remain, one of the exceptions in this landscape. . . . the term textbase rather than database signal[s] the myriad ways the text and electronic structure can provide qualitative responses to complex research questions. This is not digitisation with extras but literary scholarship and history that is searchable and adaptable to the needs of individual researchers.
Melanie Bigold. ABO. Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 3:1 (April 2013).
Opening up Orlando reminds me of first seeing Judy Chicago’s installation The Dinner Party (a work likewise remarkable in form as much as content)—three decades later, it is still thrilling and affirming to have women’s countless contributions to Western culture and society made visible. What is new in the twenty-first century, however, is that now the guest list of history-making women is electronic—and there are always more seats at the table. In this sense, Orlando goes beyond earlier constructions of alternative canons, whose printed form tended to reproduce hierarchies of “major” and “minor” writers, not to mention the naturalization of a fixed tradition (143).
We might say, then, that Orlando’s narrative is grand not in its seamless hegemony but rather in its tireless productivity. Ceding narratorial agency to each user, this is a women’s history intrinsically committed to a process of continual revision and multiplication of variants (144).
Flexible, practical, and worldly in its approach to identity politics, Orlando is a good example of what I have optimistically begun to call the New Women’s Studies: feminist scholarship willing once again to proceed under the sign of “women”—not in defiance of theoretical work disaggregating “women” and destabilizing “identity” but precisely through having engaged with and processed this work to the point of making it our common sense (146).
[T]he possibilities offered by “interpretive tagging,”… enable the information about an individual writer’s life and work to be searched by time, place, genre and occupation. One can look at all the authors who were nuns or librarians; who wrote agit-prop, anthems or art criticism, who had links with Scarborough or South Africa. The biographers can also be interrogated in multiple further ways. Such options enable kinds of research quite impossible in a book. But they also indirectly help generate alternatives to more “mainstream” perspectives (50).
[H]igh standard of biographical and historiographical interpretation and writing . . . an irrefutable confirmation that any one life (and life writing) is always a network of relations, locations, events, and categories (Booth 728).
Orlando isn’t just all about any woman writer who ever had anything to do with the British Isles, and some affiliated writers, or about the historical context for these longstanding traditions. It’s also all about markup. It’s about demystifying digital research for the scholar who might secretly still believe technology belongs to non-humanists or to nerdy men. On the contrary, markup is man-womanly in a Woolfian sense, some sort of cross-dressing of logic, poetry, sewing, and architecture. No longer romanticizing infinite possibilities, the digital community acknowledges that coding is interpretive (729).
The experiment is unquestionably a successful one. Orlando‘s most obvious utility, as with the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, involves the ability to turn to its entries on more than 800 individual British women writers for specific biographical or bibliographical information. For example, Orlando‘s entry on Jane Austen or Frances Burney is in many ways more useful than the ODNB’s: it supplies more specific dates and employs a hierarchical structure that enables the reader to jump easily to specific portions of each entry. . . . Orlando, in that sense, offers one-stop biographical and book-historical shopping. Orlando’s unique value is in providing ‘materials [that] are capable of a high degree of interaction.’ To be sure, one can do a full-text search in the ODNB for the word ‘antiquarian’ or ‘bluestocking’ and come up with some surprising and valuable results, but in Orlando, the ability to quickly investigate not only such keywords but also circles of writers—particularly by tracing connections among individual writers (male and female)—is unprecedented. One can learn not only about interpersonal connections and literary influences but also about locations, events, occupations, genres, birth position, and other categories that link British women writers (and a smaller selection of male or non-British women writers) to each other.
Two books under review in this essay: William McCarthy’s Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment and Nicholas D. Smith’s The Literary Manuscripts and Letters of Hannah More.
Devoney Looser, “Enlightenment Women’s Voices”, Huntington Library Quarterly 73:2 (June 2010), 295-302. (Available from JSTOR).