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).
This post is password protected. Enter the password to view comments.
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).
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).
… 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).