General:"Blue Sky" Possibilities for Victorian Research



User Story Creator Identification

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Name: Vicky Simpson


Tell us something about your level of study and the type of institutional appointment you hold. 
Choose any of the terms below that apply to you:
* undergrad
* grad
* part-time instructor
* pre-tenure faculty member
* tenured faculty member
* archivist-librarian
* independent scholar
* creative practitioner
* interested citizen

Role: PhD candidate and part-time instructor

Institution: University of New Brunswick, Fredericton

Field of Study/Creative Endeavor: My main field of research is Victorian literature, particularly Gothic and sensation fiction, popular culture, and writing by women.


Please write a paragraph about your persona as a researcher: your position, your discipline, your general research interests, 
and the extent to which you use computers in your research. 
You may wish to mention particular tools that you use with some regularity.

I recently completed my dissertation, which focused on the development of the cultural narrative of Queen Victoria, from the early literary experiments and counter-narratives about her to the frenzied reginamania that coincided with mass-market sensation fiction in the late 1850s and early 1860s. I also teach part-time at UNB; last year I taught an upper-level women’s writing course, and I’m currently teaching the history of the British novel to the nineteenth century. I regularly use computers and databases (such as Orlando, Google Books, the English Poetry Database) in my research, and I also use a course management system with a blog function (Blackboard) for my classes.


Please provide a short description of the larger project from which this story emerges.

My next few research projects will involve developing the parts of my dissertation for publication, and considering what "blue sky" tools might help my work in various ways.


Various "blue sky" tools could make my work easier and more efficient. My main focus is a monograph on Ellen Wood, delving behind her persona as the respectable and middle-class “Mrs. Henry Wood,” to provide a critical survey of the range of her work. Although Wood has garnered more critical attention of late, there are still no book-length critical works focusing on her or her writing, and many of her texts have not yet been reprinted. These are incentives for me to develop this project, but they also make the project more challenging.

Primary Texts: Finding the primary texts is the first step for this project. I’ve found many of Wood’s un-reprinted texts on The Internet Archive. However, I do have to know the exact title or author to find a work on this site. If, instead, I want to search for references to a particular person or place within a text, I have to download the texts that I think might contain them and then search within. An easier way, of course, would be if the site allows one to search within from the main page (as Google Books will do). Another problem is that no resource seems to have access to all of the back issues of a periodical, for instance, or to all of the editions that were issued of a particular novel. This results in a lot of (often fruitless) searching for Victorian texts on different databases (The Internet Archive, Google Books, The English Poetry Database), when one comprehensive one would be much more convenient. One final challenge in locating Wood’s primary texts is that Wood did not always publish under one name; she sometimes used pseudonyms and contributed anonymously to her journal, The Argosy.

A separate idea relates to my work on Queen Victoria. Her letters and journals span the Victorian period and refer to many important figures, events, and places. Most of her letters and journals have been published, but they are collected into multi-volume texts or limited to a particular selection (such as those between the queen and Tennyson). It would be a immensely useful if these documents were collected and digitized, so they could all be found in one place. This means one could search the entire corpus for specific references, to see, for instance, the variety of things that she wrote about childbirth in her journals and her letters both when she had children and when her children began to have children of their own.

Creativity: I’m interested in finding tools that will encourage me to think about my work in new ways. For a prolific writer like Wood, it would be very handy to be able to search for themes and keywords across her work (or, at least, across criticism about her work). In that way, I might more easily find which of her novels focus on or deal with, for instance, adultery, a middle-class family, or the supernatural. I would also be interested in a tool that could search more broadly to connect Wood to other literary and cultural figures of her time, to other writers’ works, and even to general themes or specific keywords. For example, if I could link this search on Wood’s writing to other sensation novels, I might get a rough idea of how many sensation writers besides Wood use, for example, supernatural elements in their works or how many refer to railway accidents.

Criticism: Finally, I’d like to find easier ways of collecting, sorting, saving, and using literary criticism. To use Orlando as an example, it might be helpful if the site had an optional sign-in feature that would open up new user functions. For instance, upon signing in, one might be able to retrieve saved search results and to access a list of bookmarked “favourite” pages. One could even manipulate these results and pages. For instance, upon signing in, maybe one could open a new version of an entry in a separate window, and this version can be marked up in various ways by the user. The more options, the better, but I would like to be able to mark it up as I would my own Word documents – by highlighting text, by annotating an entry by adding comments in the margins, by selecting the font size for the entry, and then by printing it, saving it, or emailing it to myself. Ideally, I’d like this to be possible through other databases too, so I can mark up full-text journal articles as well. Right now, of course, we either read the articles on the computer screen or print them if we want to mark them up and save the paper copies; it seems logical that we could cut one step by allowing people to mark them and save them digitally, and then print if necessary.

How broadly do the practices described in this story apply to others in same field, in related fields, etc?
* broadly applicable
* shared by some
* shared by few or none

Scope: Probably broadly applicable.

Does your story describe current research activities that you think CWRC will enhance (present), 
or future research possibilities that you can only dream of now? (future)

Timeline: Future research possibilities.

Please provide some keywords that will allow us to group or cluster related stories--or aspects of stories. 
Use as many of the ones listed below as relevant or provide your own.
* Aggregate
* Annotate
* Consider
* Discover
* Interact
* Publish
* Archive/Preserve
* Share
* Visualize
* Map
* Historicize
* Edit
* Network
* Collaborate
* Integrated History of Women's Writing in Canada
* Orlando

Keywords: Victorian, literature, discover, consider, reconceptualize, edit, historicize, save, Orlando.

Are there parts of the story that relate to other CWRC stories? 
Please provide title(s) and link to the relevant story page.

Related Stories: From Queen Victoria to the Sensation Writers [[1]]

Are there tools that do some of the sorts of things you'd like to see in CWRC? 
If so, what are they?

Related Tools: VICTORIA-L, Internet Archive, Google Books, Orlando.