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 of Books. Mandell observes, “the major digital humanists in my field are women . . . 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.
Orlando 2.0: our mission statement
Our new phase of activity, Orlando 2.0, continues the work of the Orlando Project, which recently marked its first 20 years of activity in digital literary history. We launch this phase in 2017 because our new production environment in the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (cwrc.ca) allows us to undertake substantially new practices in our collaborative workflow and the tools that we can offer for using the textbase for research.
On the production side, we are expanding our base of contributors. For technical reasons, Orlando was developed almost exclusively by scholars and graduate students at the University of Alberta and University of Guelph. As we revise and create new project materials, Orlando 2.0 will engage with a larger, international group of experts: external contributors working in women’s writing and in digital humanities, as well as both an advisory board and an editorial board. These developments will allow us to keep Orlando up to date with new scholarship. Moreover, while Orlando has always been committed to principles of diversity in its textbase content, we imagine that this more heterogeneous base of advisors, editors, and contributors will change the textbase in valuable ways. We are particularly committed to increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of the entries in all historical periods, and we are committed to increasing the coverage of contemporary writers.
On the technical side, Orlando 2.0 is committed to ongoing development of new ways to access, analyze, and present feminist literary research. CWRC will be offering new interfaces to allow users creative and productive ways to explore the textbase, and CWRC will also provide a means for the project’s researchers to experiment with new tools for Orlando.
Orlando’s unique contribution to feminist digital humanities has been to encode relationality an intersectionality in women’s writing and its contexts. Going forward, the Orlando/CWRC team will be focusing on linked data and collaborative systems, which we see as having great potential for more aggregation, for different kinds of exploration, and for bringing data from different projects into conversation with each other. In short, Orlando 2.0 allows us to be more collaborative and more diverse, and to develop and use leading-edge tools on an ever-expanding and dynamic textbase. We undertake Orlando 2.0 as a means of building on the feminist project of Orlando.
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
27 February 1680
Some months after Isaac Penington's death, while she was at Woodside sitting up past midnight "with my sick child," Mary Penington wrote a Testimony Concerning Her Dear Husband.
27 February 1706
John Evelyn, scientific enquirer and man of letters, died. He is now best-known for the diary which was not discovered till a century after his death.His wife and his short-lived, precocious daughter, each named Mary Evelyn, were both moral writers of some note.
27 February 1730
Colonel Francis Charteris was convicted for raping a servant.However, he received a pardon. Hogarth pictured him in the first plate of The Harlot's Progress, lying in wait for a country girl new to London.Raping a servant was hardly exceptional behaviour for Charteris. Conviction for rape was, however, not common. There were many acquittals: either on technicalities (like mistakes in the indictment), or because the woman had a past sexual history, or it could not be proved that she had cried out, or her injuries were all external, or the surgeon changed his mind.
- 27 February 1680
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 (right) and the CLC’s Marie Carrière (centre).
April 25, 2016 ·
NEW AUTHOR ENTRIES
- Mary Mollineux, c. 1651 – 1696: A north-country Quaker who directed her poetry to literary as well as religious ends.
- Alison Cockburn, 1713 – 1794: She has the place in the story of the Scottish ballad revival and wrote other occasional poems, letters, and memoirs.
- Ann Thicknesse, 1737 – 1824: wife of a writer notorious for quarrels and shady dealing. Her . . . Read more
March 8, 2016 ·
For March, Women’s History Month, Orlando is open access.
User id womenshistory2016
Because of the ways in which the extensive data can be mined or formulated, Orlando offers the best access to information on British women writers and serves as a model for similar databases that will supplant printed literary dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks (187).
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.
The Orlando textbase is one of those online resources that can swallow hours of your life in pleasurable, work-related browsing. This seductive capacity to devour time may or may not be a good thing, depending on whether you should actually be planning a lecture or marking essays, but it is certainly enjoyable and, joking apart, Orlando is also undoubtedly useful. Those working in the long eighteenth century will find it an informative and in some respects unique research tool, with much of interest for scholars of the period.” (277).
Bibliographic citation links allow you to see where just about everything has come from, and also mean that anyone coming fresh to a particular writer has a useful starting-point for building up a bibliography. This is one of the many ways in which Orlando provides something very different from the various printed dictionaries, encyclopaedias and guides to women’s writing available (277).
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).
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).