About

Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present is a highly dynamic textbase. It is a rich resource for researchers, for students, and for readers with an interest in literature, women’s writing, or cultural history more generally. With about 8 million words of text, it is full of interpretive information on women, writing, and culture. It includes documents on the lives and writing careers of over 1,305 writers, together with a great deal of contextual historical material on relevant subjects, such as the law, economics, science, writing by men, education, medicine, politics.

The Orlando Project has for the last decade been conducting research for a major project in literary history and an experiment in humanities computing. It has produced the first full scholarly history of women’s writing in the British Isles – but this is history with a difference. The Orlando textbase is designed to exploit the possibilities of computing for humanities scholarship. The Orlando team has developed computing technologies to meet the needs of its researchers and readers, who are able to manipulate in creative ways the information in the textbase.

Orlando‘s content and the means of its delivery are inseparable and essential elements of the one thing. They were built together, with the result that Orlando is highly responsive to questions its readers ask. The unique structure and searchability of Orlando allows readers to examine the information in a wide range of configurations. The textbase is open to the serendipities of productive browsing, but is also designed for searchers with a specific agenda —that is, for answering precise, complex questions.

The Orlando Project is based in the Department of English and Film Studies and Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta, with a major site in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. Other members of the team are at universities in Canada, the UK, the US and Australia. Funding for The Orlando Project has been given by the University of Alberta, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the University of Guelph, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Reviews of Orlando

In Eighteenth-Century Fiction

… 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).

Ros Ballaster et al. The Orlando Project (review).” Eighteenth Century Fiction 22:2 (2009): 371-379. (Available from Project MUSE).
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    3-5 Humanities Centre,

    Department of English and Film Studies

    University of Alberta

    Edmonton, AB, Canada

    T6G 2E5