I am beginning my career at a time when research and publishing practices are in a state of transition. While much of my undergraduate education still focused on the codex and the scholarly journal article as the epitome of academic authority, by the time I reached my graduate studies at the University of Texas, attention was already shifting to electronic modes of research, archiving, and publishing, and UT was, and still is, on the forefront of this movement with its optional English PhD focus in Digital Literacies and Literatures and its state-of-the-art Digital Writing and Research Lab. At the same time, one of the university’s most distinctive features is its Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. My experience in both the HRC and the DWRL taught me the value of text as both material artifact and also something that is organic, dynamic, and ever-evolving. And it is this hybridization of past and present that informs the focus and approach of my research. While my primary focus is on the work of James Joyce, a Modernist figure who himself pushed the boundaries of his artistic medium, I do so through digital tools that have only recently become available, are still emerging, or that I can help develop and share with other literary and digital humanities scholars.
My current project, the Mapping Dubliners Project, emerged from my dissertation’s digital appendix. The dissertation, which looks at Joyce’s use of multi-modal techniques in his writing, culminates in a series of potential projects arranged as appendices. The first of these is a Google map I created that shows the location of each of the nearly 200 geographical references inDubliners. Though it started as a simple reference tool to accompany my own reading of the text, over the past five years, I have expanded the project significantly. The project, which is hosted on my current university’s servers, now includes two versions of the map, which vary in their interactive capacities, as well as an entire section devoted to critical analysis of each of the references in the context of the book. These explorations take the form of a blog in which each location is a separate post containing analysis, historical contextualization, photographs from various digitized archives, and linked references to all my sources. Thus, what began as a reference tool is now also a complex scholarly contribution to Joyce studies, especially those that engage with geographical and spatial elements.
This project has already led to several presentations and a forthcoming publication, and it continues to offer potential for future presentations and publications. I recently visited Dublin and gave a talk at Trinity College’s Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute wherein I presented the project and discussed its value to Joyce studies. While in Dublin I also conducted archival research at the National Library of Ireland. As part of my critical work on the Mapping Dubliners Project, I have an interest in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century modes of transportation. At the NLI’s manuscripts reading room, I accessed train and tram timetables inEaton’s Monthly Diaries from the late nineteenth century to establish what days and times characters in Dubliners would have had access to these modes of transportation and whether the availability of Dublin trams and trains might have played a role in their methods of traveling from place to place. I also visited the NLI’s Photographic Archive to find undigitized images and ephemera related to transportation and have now catalogued several objects I might use in publication, either digital or traditional. While in the city, I also obtained photocopies of turn-of-the-century ordinance maps which I hope to use to improve the historical integrity of my digital maps through imaging and layering. I highlight this particular research process because it demonstrates my commitment to accurate contextual and historical readings of text even while applying the knowledge gained to digital formats.
In addition to my lecture at Trinity College Dublin, I have also presented my current project at the Popular Culture Association’s annual convention and the past two James Joyce symposia in Charleston, South Carolina and Utrecht, Netherlands. My presentation in the Netherlands led to my forthcoming chapter in a collection of essays on the Dubliners centenary with Palgrave’s Irish Studies series. The editors of the collection invited me to present my work on a panel which was selected by the International James Joyce Foundation as its guaranteed panel at the upcoming 2016 MLA Convention in Austin, Texas. Although the project currently exists in digital form, by the time I have completed the remaining 100 critical overviews of each geographical reference, there will be more than enough material for a book. Alternatively, the project contains enough potential for multiple books if I were to approach each section of Dubliners (e.g. childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and public life) as a separate study. Many of the individual place studies, if expanded, could serve as potential articles as well. Essentially, this one digital project contains potential for several future digital or print publications.
Future projects I am interested in pursuing include a study, through textual markup and analysis, of the overlapping characters, places, phrases, references, and images in Joyce’s fiction. Like my current project, this stems from my dissertation’s appendix and, while utilizing digital methods for the study, could be published digitally or in print. Another, perhaps more artistically driven, project entails producing visualizations of Ulyssesepisodes in various forms. The appendix shows an example using the “Sirens” episode in which Joyce claims to have used “all musical notations.” The visualization is a symphonic layout of the multiple voices in the chapter as they would appear in a musical score. Through digital methods, and in conjunction with Joyce’s own schema, I would attempt to depict the various multimodal inflections and influences culminating in, perhaps, the first digital multi-sensory edition of this text that remains a cornerstone in English literature.
In essence, as a Modernist literary scholar, I value the historical artistic aesthetic of literary criticism promoted by Eliot and Pound, but like Pound and Wyndham Lewis, I also acknowledge that modes and methods of cultural critique must be challenged and reimagined to create something new. My interest in Beckett, one of the writers whose archives I explored at Texas’s HRC, very much informs my curiosity with new media. Just as Beckett integrated communicative technologies into his plays and films to reinvent his artistic mode, I hope to employ the latest innovations of cultural transmission to reshape and revitalize methods of research in literary studies.