NEH Collaborative Research Grant for Digital Yoknapatawpha

August 24, 2016

Stephen Railton, Professor of English and director of Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture, has been awarded a Collaborative Research Grant from the NEH for his Digital Yoknapatawpha project (DY). The project, his second undertaking with IATH, is a collaboration between Prof. Railton, IATH, and 35 Faulkner scholars, representing a wide range of generations and critical perspectives, from 34 colleges and universities. Prof. Railton and his team are utilizing databases, maps, timelines, and text analysis tools to study William Faulkner's fictional county in northeastern Mississippi. Faulkner returned repeatedly to his imaginary 2400-square-mile "postage stamp of soil," setting 14 novels and 54 short stories within what became a microcosm of the American experience, allowing him to experiment and engage with the events and consequences of history, race, and class in the American South.

DY is a visual and a literary resource that will enable scholars, students, and readers to display narrative shifts in both space and time (the continuously evolving place and its repeatedly re-created histories). It will provoke novel modes of interrogating not just Faulkner’s works, but the imaginative and cultural work of literature in general. His work is famously challenging, but DY users will be able to see and explore the spatial and chronological topographies that Faulkner used to construct and direct his complex narratives. "In many respects digital humanities and Faulkner’s imagination were made for each other," Railton comments.

Over the next three years, the DY team will be adding novels and short stories, along with interpretative analysis and an annotated lexicon of keywords that will vastly improve the project's search capabilities. For more information about DY at UVA, see here. Local news station WVIR also aired a news item on the grant.