English 201 Children’s Literature and Publishing was team taught by Constance Crompton and Margaret Reeves, and wrapped up the term with a launch of the students’ Digital Editions on April 3rd.
The idea was born out of a casual conversation between Connie and Margaret. They found they were both interested in Children’s Literature, and the digitization of historical materials and texts, and in examining the intersection between Children’s Literature and Digital Humanities, and the impact of the internet and online publishing, on Children’s Literature, and children’s culture.
Constance and Margaret were looking for a collection of texts not yet published in a modern edition, and were of interest to the history of Children’s Literature and the history of ideas about childhood. They selected Hannah More’s Tracts, which were very important for Children’s Literature in the 18th Century. More’s Sunday School tracts to help children and adults (specifically the large population living in poverty; the ‘lower classes’) learn to read.
The course offered students the opportunity to add digital content to the texts. This content could be information about history, social and political contexts, and publishing contexts. This extra information was used to help explain 18th Century anachronistic terms. The content is generated in different ways; hovering, links to another page, or bottom of the page footnotes. Connie explained that students had to justify their design choices, which prompted them to think critically about content delivery in the context of a specific audience.
Millions of Hannah More’s tracts were sold. The tracts used fiction to socialize children and the poor; they were meant to teach morals and confirm the legitimacy of the class system.
18th Century Connect is a website that aggregates and peer reviews 18th Century online scholarship. The Board is composed of scholars significant either to 18th Century Literature or the technical aspects of scholarship. As part of a partnership with the Eighteenth Century Collections Online, which houses almost 200,000 computer-scanned 18th century texts from the British Library, 18th Century Connect has a special section where digital transcription can be submitted to ECCO in plain text, which will help improve ECCO’s searchability.
The texts in the original scanned form are not always materially, and contextually, legible. They contain old fonts and forms that make it difficult to read. Computers do not always recognize these old letter characters, but by submitting their plain text, the 201 students have made the Tracts machine-readable. Through the transcription the students learned and applied provided explanation and exegesis of some of the more arcane aspects of these 18th Century texts. The students in 201 clarified esoteric terms and made them legible to their target audience of a current 1st year students.
This course gave students the unique opportunity to learn about digital editions and 18th Century literary contexts. Connie and Margaret are very proud of the work the students did. It was their first encounter with coding for the students. Margaret said the students came away with two important skill sets; an intellectual, critical thinking skill set; and a technological skill set.
The Digital Editions can be found online at: people.ok.ubc.ca/ccrompt/2014/201More/