The Orlando Lecture series was launched on 4 November 2014 to
celebrate the feminist achievements of the University of Alberta’s
Department of English and Film Studies, including both the Orlando
Project and the Orlando textbase. The inaugural lecture was delivered
to a packed and appreciative audience by Larissa Lai and Rita Wong.
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. 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. Read more > →
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.
CONFERENCE NEWS: Digital Diversity 2015: Writing | Feminism | CultureWhereas the Orlando textbase was first published by Cambridge University Press in 2006, the Orlando Project itself began in 1995. This May, the conference Digital Diversity 2015: Writing | Feminism | Culture will take place in Edmonton to mark the Orlando Project’s 20th birthday and to explore ongoing advances in the fields of digital literary and cultural studies. We look forward to welcoming an international, multidisciplinary group of delegates, who will participate in workshops, panels, and poster and demo sessions. For more information about the conference, including its featured speakers, check out its website at digitaldiversity2015.org and follow its Twitter account @digdiv2015.
Orlando in the Media
Orlando’s Design Research
Explore in Orlando
22 December 1591
Three months after her first husband's death, the twenty-year-old Margaret Devereux (later Margaret Hoby) married Thomas Sidney (younger brother of the poets Sir Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke).
22 December 1802
Sara Coleridge was born at Greta Hall near Keswick, Cumberland.
22 December 1821
Ellen Weeton was accused of assault; she was jailed and threatened with the lunatic asylum.
- 22 December 1591
November 27, 2014 ·
The Orlando Lecture series was launched on 4 November 2014 to
October 2, 2014 ·
Whereas the Orlando textbase was first published by Cambridge in 2006, the Orlando Project itself began in 1995. In May 2015, the conference Digital Diversity 2015: Writing | Feminism | Culture will take place in Edmonton to mark the Orlando Project’s 20th birthday and to explore ongoing advances in the fields of digital literary and cultural studies. We look forward to welcoming an international, multidisciplinary group of delegates, who will . . . Read more
March 1, 2014 ·
Once again The Orlando Project was delighted to celebrate Women’s History Month by making the textbase freely available for the month of March 2014, courtesy of Cambridge University Press.
September 24, 2013 ·
Susan Brown and John Simpson presented a paper titled “From XML to RDF in the Orlando Project” at the 2013 International Conference on Culture and Computing in Kyoto, Japan, on September 16. The beginning of the conference was postponed due to a typhoon warning for Kyoto and the surrounding area that had shut down the train systems, preventing . . . Read more
In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the number of digital Restoration and eighteenth-century archives and databases has proliferated. . . . . With diminishing resources for many universities, however, distinctions need to be made. Worth the investment, Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present . . . should be considered indispensable for all scholars of literary history. . . . Much to their credit, the project’s editors, Susan Brown, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, have given great consideration to Orlando‘s macro- and micro-organizational principles. Ranging across factual, conceptual, critical and interpretive tags, their customized markup system provides in-depth information on the lives and works of women writers as well as their political, literary, economic, and cultural contexts. With the goal of creating a “comprehensive scholarly history of writing by British women,” it provides individual investigators with a productive tool for generating chronologies and “herstories” that we could only have dreamed of writing in an earlier era . . . . Fortunately, the editors here do more than most to explain their choices and to discuss the potential implications of their markup system. Thanks to their collective intellectual labors, users will have access to as many rooms of their own as they can imagine.
Lisa A. Freeman. “Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present (review)”. The Scriblerian, 44: 2, 45: 1 (Spring and Autumn 2012), 87-9.
Orlando features not only British women writers but rather a wide range of male and female writers in some way related to literature associated with the British Isles. As a modernist, I welcomed entries on American writers H. D., Djuna Barnes, and Marianne Moore (Hickman 181).
It is inspiring to see such richly collaborative work in action in the humanities, enabled and encouraged by the Orlando framework; this reads as a real example of what Vera John Steiner calls the ‘co construction of knowledge.’ . . . I soon realized that the ground breaking (I should say pathfinding) nature of the project’s set up lay in how its structure allows one to navigate such pages [individual entries] in aggregate. . . . What Orlando allows you to do, in a spirit nicely faithful to the agility implied by Woolf’s Orlando, is to choose your own adventure. . . . When one departs from the usual technique of shuttling immediately to an individual writer’s entry, one appreciates more fully the mercurial quality of the information, uniquely susceptible of rearrangement thanks to the intricate electronic encoding system. This system of electronic tagging both indicates and enables theoretical savvy (Hickman 182).
The rich corpus of information the Orlando team has managed to build in the project’s brief lifespan is nothing short of astonishing. In both theoretical and practical terms, this exciting project makes superb use of the implications of new technologies, and like Woolf’s Orlando, it points to the future. Like Woolf’s oak tree, may it flourish and ramify (Hickman 184).
Most readers of this journal will be familiar already with Cambridge University Press’s magisterial database, Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present, overseen by Susan Brown, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy. The database . . . has changed the parameters of the scholarship and teaching of British women’s writing. . . . The information on the Orlando database is nothing short of priceless, breathtaking in its scope and endlessly useful.
Toni Bowers, “Exploring the Richardson Circle using the Orlando Database”. The Scriblerian, 44: 2, 45: 1 (Spring and Autumn 2012), 56-8.
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).
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).