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.
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
5 May 1640
The Short Parliament was "unhappily dissolved."
5 May 1646
King Charles I surrendered to the Scots Covenanters, with whom he had been at war for seven years.
5 May 1649
Women calling themselves "female Leveller petitioners" protested to Parliament about the continued imprisonment of their husbands: this action had been well prepared for.The title identifies one of the earlier steps taken: A Petition of Women, Affecters and Approvers of the Petition of Sept. 11, 1648. The text mentions the historical record of women as supporters of liberty in British history, including the recent role of Scottish anti-episcopalians. Signatures for this May document had been requested on another presented on 23 April and summarily rejected.
- 5 May 1640
April 25, 2016 ·
March 8, 2016 ·
For March, Women’s History Month, Orlando is open access.
User id womenshistory2016
January 8, 2016 ·
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 . . . Read more
July 16, 2015 ·
NEW AUTHOR ENTRIES
- Lady Hester Pulter, 1605 – 1678: major poet who has remained unknown until fairly recently because she seems not to have circulated her work, even in manuscript.
- Margaret Calderwood, 1715 – 1774: Scotswoman whose journal of travelling to Continental Europe includes trenchant observations about England. She also wrote an unpublished novel . . . Read more
Wernimont takes Orlando, together with Women Writers Online, as “exemplary instances of digital literary scholarship.” Orlando’s DTDs or interpretive markup, she writes, are tools which are generative and transformative, not merely declarative. They "can be read as paratextual with respect to the absent primary texts — the literary texts written by women that Orlando articles discuss. Consequently, we can see this markup as generating a feminist and materialist hermeneutic space through which a reading of primary texts is enabled.”
Jacqueline Wernimont, “Whence Feminism? Assessing Feminist Interventions in Digital Literary Archives” (Digital Humanities Quarterly, 7: 1 (2013), http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/7/1/000156/000156.html#fraiman2008.
… each Orlando Project entry serves the beginning student and advanced researcher alike; it provides an introductory survey of a particular author, but can also function as a source of the latest critical understandings of the author and an encouragement for further advanced research on the themes, influences, and cultural contexts radiating out from that author (377).
[…] Orlando‘s most innovative contribution to humanities scholarship is the modelling of more interpretive, open-ended, thematic database research. The database encourages what it terms “Tag Searches,” in which entries have been tagged to highlight key terms relating to topics unique to literary history; searches can return information relating to biographical details, literary production, literary reception, textual features, and essential or “core tag” details such as dates and names. Orlando allows searches for topics that are not part of a “typical” database search—such as editions, circulation, anthologization, and type of press—but are of keen interest to researchers of reading and writing culture. Orlando thus captures some of the most recent trends in history of the book and material culture studies and translates those interests into research queries that can be performed quickly and efficiently (377).
[…] Orlando enacts exciting new approaches to women’s history, literary history, and the history of the book by translating those approaches into an equally exciting database organization. The textbase features authoritative summaries of women’s lives and writing, new cultural and thematic topics for “tagged” investigations, and innovative processes for performing searches across disciplines and time periods. Perhaps most importantly, Orlando encourages the researcher to see new patterns, new connections, and new traditions—and thus to think in new ways. The transformative effect of women’s writing is keenly felt by the Orlando researcher. With its ability to encourage new thinking in both the entry-level student and the advanced researcher, Orlando deserves a prominent place in the electronic database collection of every research library (378).
[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).
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).
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).