Alison Booth and Suzanne Keen Feb. 24 Workshop on Narrative Theory and Digital Humanities

February 8, 2012

Washington and Lee English Professor Suzanne Keen will collaborate with University of Virginia English Professor Alison Booth on a hands-on workshop on Friday, February 24, from 2-4pm at the Scholars’ Lab in Alderman Library. The workshop is co-sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) and will draw from a study of biographical narrative, narrative theory, and methods of digital literary interpretation, Collective Biographies of Women, which has been developed at IATH and the Scholars’ Lab.

The workshop will offer a hands-on demonstration of BESS (Biographical Elements and Structure Schema), an XML standoff markup schema designed at IATH as part of Professor Booth’s IATH Fellowship to analyze narrative structure. Professors Keen and Booth will suggest that teams of humans can be trained to analyze narrative form, rhetoric, and other genre conventions using controlled vocabularies—a longstanding dream of narratology. Digital text-editing projects have shown that computers and humans can collaborate on markup, analysis, and display of data concerning immense archives. This project seeks to move beyond traditional formalism while acknowledging the need for textual detail in any quantifiable analysis of corpora—both close and distant reading.

Workshop participants will become familiar with the Collective Biographies of Women (CBW) project, and will see for themselves how concepts of narrative theory and cultural criticism, genre, and social history might be brought to life in the classroom or by teams of digital editors.

Hands-on use of elements of BESS and selected texts from the CBW archive will create a shared experiment in team-interpretation that might be used in the classroom. We will interpret short nonfiction narratives using low-tech photocopies, transparencies, and markers, demonstrating that narrative theory concepts help with close reading, and aid in collaboration in interpreting narrative.

As part of her visit to UVA, Professor Keen is appearing in the Spring 2012 Peters Rushton Seminar series, on Thursday, February 23, from 4-6pm. Her presentation, “Narrative and the Emotions,” based on her article of that name in Poetics Today, will focus on emotions, narrative theory, and “intersectional” models that acknowledge a flesh-and-blood reader, relating to a current interest in affect and cognitive approaches to narrative. She will also meet with graduate students over bagels and coffee on Friday, February 24, from 10-11:45am. Both of these events will occur in the English Department faculty lounge on the second floor of Bryan Hall.

Professor Keen is the Thomas H. Broadus Professor and Chair of English at Washington and Lee University, and author of Empathy and the Novel (Oxford University Press, 2010), Narrative Form (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), Romances of the Archive in Contemporary British Fiction (University of Toronto Press, 2001), and Victorian Renovations of the Novel (Cambridge University Press, 1998).