General:Visualising the Charter



User Story Creator Identification

This is optional. Provide if you are comfortable doing so.

Name: Benjamin Authers


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: Postdoctoral Fellow

Institution: University of Alberta

Field of Study/Creative Endeavor: Canadian Studies, Law and Literature, Victorian Studies


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 am a postdoctoral fellow who works in Canadian Studies, with a particular interest in the representations of nation produced interdisciplinarily by law and literature.

I use computers in my current research mainly in order to access primary and critical materials. Major case law and legislative materials have been made publicly available by government and universities, so much of what I need for my research is readily available online (although, frustratingly with case law, without the pagination of the original text). I use the collection of Supreme Court decisions and CanLII very frequently (both are provided by LexUM), as well as material provided online by government. I use legal journal searches less frequently (often because of lack of institutional access).

Fewer of the primary materials that I need for research are available online (I largely work with novels that are currently in print and in copyright). That said, I make extensive use of online tools such as library catalogues and journal indexes in finding material for research, and have used tools like Google Books and OCLC WorldCat for bibliographic information.


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

Much of my work tends to be explicitly text-based analysis. Having found that teaching this material, and interdisciplinarity more generally, has come with challenges, I am interested in how such interconnections might be represented visually. I am also interested in creating a tool that might be deployed to enable further research in this area. The big limitation to this work with the current Orlando textbase is the Project’s relatively small body of Canadian material, and a tagset that has not been explicitly oriented towards rights discourses in any nuanced sense.


Having completed a project that examines how rights concepts such as freedom of expression, legal rights, and equality, as well as more abstractly rights-based ideas including the personal, excess, or citizenship, are promulgated by, and constitutive of, Canadian national discourse, a textbase tagged in a manner that recognises concepts like these across a spectrum of works would have been a fantastic research and teaching tool. In particular, because interdisciplinarity (and trans-disciplinarity) has for me a visual nature—metaphors of meshing, of cross-pollination, of border-crossing and liminality—some way of representing this visually could have mirrored my research and theoretical project and provided a useful means for students to begin to conceive of literary texts in their legal and political contexts.

To give an example, Margaret Atwood’s novel Bodily Harm looks at a number of issues that can be interpreted through discourses of rights. The protagonist, a journalist, becomes inadvertently involved in a political coup in the Caribbean island of St Antoine and is imprisoned on “suspicion.” The novel engages thematically with a number of different ideas connected to rights: censorship, pornography, and torture. Beyond these explicit concepts, Atwood’s idea of rights is expansive, including concepts less readily understood in this (legal) context, such as the ways systemic gendered representations create a social space in which women are perpetually subject to violence. These are ideas that can be seen in a number of novels, as well as in legal texts like the Supreme Court of Canada case R v Butler, which formulates the harm of pornography in a manner reminiscent of Atwood’s more expansive definition and contemporary anti-pornography feminist thought. Some way of tracking these concepts and their interdisciplinary manifestations would provide an intriguing entry point of into my research, while a means of visually representing interdisciplinarity would provide a teaching tool to introduce students to jurisprudential context.

The current Orlando interface provides some ways in which I can pursue this research, but there are limitations because of the tagset and tagging practices (which are not focused on rights discourses, especially in discussions of literary texts), as well as the relative absence of Canadian material. However, while my work has not focused on literary biography, the Orlando system provides a way of tracing the often very different ways Canadian authors have been involved in questions of rights, as well as in issues of social justice more generally. This would be an interconnected way of understanding biographies as influencing literary texts and as a means of contextualizing literature in its legal and political culture.

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: * shared by some

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: present

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: * Annotate

  • Consider
  • Visualize
  • Historicize
  • Contextualise
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Integrated History of Women's Writing in Canada
  • 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: Legal Advice to Women in the Eighteenth Century

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: LexUM Supreme Court of Canada Decisions, CanLII, MLA Bibliography