Editing Modernism in Canada


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June 13, 2014

“All the People”: A Look at Qualitative Research


Blur's "All the People"

Blur’s “All the People”

“Meeting people, all the people, all the time” makes Anouk Lang’s list of “Thirty-three ways of Looking at a DHSI Week.” Similarly, DHSI is all about networks for Hannah McGregor. Reading through the many posts about DEMiC 2015, I am reminded about what I missed most about DHSI—the people. That’s right, I did not attend DHSI this year, but, in a fit of nostalgia, I am thinking about my past experiences. Last year, I wrote about the Digital Databases course. This year, I want to talk about what I left out: the qualitative research.

DHSI is, at least in part, about meeting people. Last year, I met “all the people,” which included two scholars who had worked on Carroll Aikins. As a bit of a recap, I am working on a critical edition of Aikins’s play “The God of Gods” (1919), which premiered in Birmingham, England, and involves Nietzschean intertexts, theosophy, an Aboriginal reserve, a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and anti-war sentiment, to name a few. DHSI brought me to Victoria, B.C. and to the stomping ground of James Hoffman (Thompson Rivers University) and Jerry Wasserman (University of British Columbia). Jerry offered to send me photographs of the first Birmingham production, which were waiting in my mailbox upon my return from the West Coast. James met with me several times to discuss his past research of Aikins, he lent me the manuscripts of Aikins’ unpublished plays, he shared theatre reviews of The God of Gods (some of which I had not yet uncovered!), and last but not least, he regaled me in stories about meeting Aikins’s family. Qualitative research, it seems, also played a major part in James’s work. I should probably mention that all of this wonderful research and sharing was unplanned: I met Jerry and James at separate talks, introduced myself and my work, and they offered the rest.

As if DHSI 2014 wasn’t already a gold mine of learning and of scholarly networks, it was also during a DEMiC social event that I connected with Melissa Dalgleish. As a result of that meeting, Melissa (who writes a series of posts about alt-ac work) is now working as a RA on the Aikins project (more about her RA work to come in a later post).

I can’t help but feel how indebted I am to qualitative research and to the generosity of scholars like Jerry, James, and Melissa as well as to networks of people like EMiC.

Hart House Theatre

Figure 1Hart House Theatre: The God of Gods was performed at Hart House Theatre in 1922.


Qualitative research is important in the field of drama because the form relies on theatre reviewers or people’s personal notebooks to record production details. Do you engage with qualitative research in your work?

May 13, 2014

EMiC 2014-15 PhD Stipend Recipients

The Editing Modernism in Canada Project has awarded the following students PhD Stipends for 2014-2015. Congratulations to this year’s winners!


1) Michael Nardone

Concordia University

Project Title: PHONOTEXT.CA

Phonotext.ca is a project initiated for the creation of a comprehensive open-access digital index of sound recordings related to modernist and postmodernist Canadian poets and poetry. The site will index recordings in all available formats, document any relevant bibliographic information, list where recordings are physically located, and provide links to access recordings that have been made digitally available.

In addition to providing a platform for listening to Canadian poets and poetry, phonotext.ca will serve as an important tool for preserving and accessing phonotextual materials, acting as a hub to catalyze future research and critical study. Funds from Editing Modernism in Canada support developing the site’s indexing and metadata protocols, the initial compiling of resources, and outreach to acquire additional resources among communities of poets, scholars, researchers, librarians and archivists.



2) Carl Watts

Queen’s University

Project Title: Laura Goodman Salverson’s The Dove

In addition to works of autobiography and realist fiction, Laura Goodman Salverson published a little-known novel called The Dove (Ryerson Press, 1933), in which a group of Icelanders is kidnapped by corsairs and sold as slaves in Algiers. While much has been written of the arrangement of realism and romance that informs Canada’s modernist literature, The Dove is unique in that its peculiar historical romance registers a radical inversion of commonly expressed relationships between Europeans and non-Western peoples. It is for this reason that I am proposing a digital edition of the long-out-of-print novel. Based on the first edition as well as the novel’s typescript at Library and Archives Canada, this edition will also include an introduction and notes that draw from archival materials and critical work on Salverson’s corpus.


3) Graham Jensen

Dalhousie University

Project Title: The Canadian Modernist Magazines Project

The Canadian Modernist Magazines Project (CMMP) will focus its attention on the digitization and transcription of a limited selection of Canadian “little magazines” so that their constituent poems, essays, and editorials can be read, searched, and analyzed by scholars within EMiC’s Modernist Commons or using a variety of existing third-party digital humanities tools.  Following the precedent set by similar projects—such as the Modernist Journals Project (U.S.A.) and the Modernist Magazines Project (U.K.)—the CMMP will attempt to digitize complete runs of two important Canadian magazines of the 1940s: Preview (1942-44) and First Statement (1942-45).  Once these initial goals have been met, the CMMP will have established the online infrastructure and editorial processes necessary for the digitization and transcription of additional magazines.  Following the initial funding period, Graham hopes to expand the CMMP through other grants or as part of a postdoctoral research position.


4) Alix Shield

Simon Fraser University

Project Title: Curating Digital Aboriginal Orature and Literature

This project will focus on the digitization, editing, and critical analysis of First Nations orature and literature, looking specifically at the collaboration between Chief Joe Capilano (Sahp-luk) and E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) that culminated in the text Legends of Vancouver (1911).  The project will begin with the gathering of versions of the Legends text, and will then move to the digitization stage, where scans of the various editions will be ingested to EMiC’s Modernist Commons repository and web-based versioning platforms will be used to collate variant texts and produce visualizations that highlight exact instances of change across versions. Finally, the project aims to produce a digital scholarly edition of this collaboratively-authored text, and in doing so engage in the process of repatriation by creating an archival space that involves members of the Coast Salish and Mohawk communities and respects cultural codes and protocols.


June 13, 2013

Reflections on DHSI 2013: Or How I Learned to Love Databases and Acronyms (“RoDHSIoHILLDA”)

Ramping up in the wake of Congress, this year’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute, or “DHSI” for the acronym-inclined, gathered an unprecedented number of scholars, students, and researchers for training in, you guessed it, the digital humanities. Thanks to support from the Editing Modernism in Canada project (“EMiC”), a course on Digital Humanities Databases was my home for the intensive five-day summer institute that punctuates class time with colloquium and unconference sessions.

Taught by Harvey Quamen, Jon Bath, and John Yobb, the Digital Databases class led us through project planning, MySQL coding (Structured Query Language), database building, and finally, database queries that enable you to ask specific research questions. In short, I mapped out and built a database on Canadian literary adaptations in five days (however minimally populated it may be). When organizing the structure of my database and its multiple tables, I found it very helpful to think of the connected tables as a sentence: there is usually a subject (e.g. person), verb (e.g. adapting), and object (e.g. source). As with literary work, I learned that too much repetition is a bad sign and that spelling counts; the latter was quite horrifying for someone like me who is codependent on autocorrect because there is no autocorrect or red underline to aid in spelling or typos. I also made sure to take advantage of the one-on-one help from Harvey and the Jo(h)ns.

Andrea Hasenbank—an EMiC Doctoral Fellow—introduced the class to a free, online website called “SQL Designer” that not only enabled me to map out nine inter-related tables but also created the MySQL commands. Although seemingly sent from the digital gods, it still requires a background in MySQL in order to understand how to use, navigate, and implement the Designer, but the first three days of the Digital Databases course covers many of the database-specific commands and related structures. For those interested in taking the course and/or trying out SQL Designer, I have a few tips from a novice’s perspective:

–       Be sure to save the database design often; I saved mine in my browser under a unique name.

–       There is a button that will create foreign keys for you (which link two tables together). At first, I typed in all the foreign keys myself before discovering that the Designer will create and appropriately name foreign keys in junction tables. (For those unfamiliar with databases yet, fret not, this jargon will be all too clear by the end of the course’s first day.)

–       There were some glitches for me in the MySQL Code, such as the repetition of the “null” command and the addition of “primary key” commands in junction tables that included no primary keys. Also, be sure to erase the last comma in a list of commands before the closing bracket and/or semicolon.

–       I needed to edit the generated MySQL commands in a text editor (such as Text Wrangler) before inputting it into Terminal.

Here is a sample draft of my database design in SQL Designer:

Sample Database design

Kailin Wright Database Design in SQL Designer

You will notice that the SQL Designer can also encode the column type (primary id, date, foreign key, etc.).

My research investigates how Canadian literature rewrites popular narratives—Greek myth, Shakespearean plays, colonial legend, national histories—by changing the identities of marginalized characters. I examine Canadian revisionist plays that critique cultural figures like Philomela, Othello, and Pocahontas as reductive emblems of layered racial, sexual, and gendered identities. The digital Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project, or if you haven’t had enough exciting acronyms, “CASP,” features an online database that has been integral to my research (Daniel Fischlin). Building on CASP, I am interested in creating a database that encompasses multiple sources and enables researchers or students to search Canadian adaptations of Greek mythology, the Bible, and Native mythology, to name a few. You could also, for instance, limit your search by author, date, and/or location that would list all the Canadian adaptations of Ovid, during post-WWI Canada, and/or in Nova Scotia. This database would help establish a wider field of Canadian adaptation studies.

The Digital Humanities Databases course cemented my appreciation of digital tools for literary scholarship . . . as well as my reliance on acronyms. Last but not least, thanks to the Databases course, I now understand why this is funny:

Database comic

“Exploits of a Mom” comic strip is courtesy of xkcd.