Looks good on paper…

Neo-Victorian #AcWriMo: week 3

Week three is up, and my #AcWriMo/#NaNoWriMo project is on-track at 36,500 words and counting.

I spent a fair amount of time this week tinkering around with Scalar to try to improve the styling, and I’m increasingly sceptical of the merits of Scalar for digital publishing. It might be useful for people without the time or inclination to produce something independently, but the Scalar 2 interface is currently poor. In the end, I abandoned it and reverted the whole piece back to Scalar 1 in order to get something that was more manageable. In Scalar 2, for example, it proved difficult to change the background colour (because it overlays its grey-and-white page over the top of it) or right-align any text without it intervening into the space left for the annotation tab. The whole structure seems to be under-developed at the moment, so reverting felt like the right thing to do.

I also had to go through the pieces already posted in order to deal with html that followed me from Scrivener. I haven’t used Scrivener for quite a long time, as it didn’t really suit my PhD writing process. Although I still like the organisational structure it gives for chapters and other pieces, which works well for creative projects, for future chapters I’m going to take things first through Atom and do some marking up there, as the Scalar HTML content pane isn’t very friendly for larger pieces (this is one of the few points where the Scalar 2 interface had the upperhand).

In terms of the writing itself, the story is finally branching out from the original, so the amount of creative work required has increased substantially. There’s quite a lot of research to be done, but I’m looking forward to getting the story substantially completed this week, and then getting to work on the framing and final touches. Only 10 days left!

A week is a long time in running… (20/11/16)

So, this is has been a less half-arsed running week than the last few weeks, which is a bonus!

This is how this week went:

Date Planned Distance Actual Distance Time Pace
15 November 4.0km  4.0km  22:03  5:29/km (5:45/km GAP)
17 November 4.0km  3.8km  21:34  5:33/km (5:18/km GAP)
18 November 10.0km  10.2km  55:19  5:23/km (5:16/km GAP)
20 November 8.0km 5.0km  27:12  5:20/km (5:19/km GAP)
Total 26km  23km

And this is how I want next week to go:

Date Distance Time Pace
21 November 4.0km
23 November 10.0km
24 November 4.0km
26 November 5.0km
Total 23km

Wilde week

I’m going to let the obvious pun slide… But it has been a pretty fun week!

This was the final single-chapter week of writing up for my thesis, and it was focused on Wilde’s Dorian Gray. This chapter I have used, in a modified form, as a writing sample, so it was in good shape a a stand-alone piece. Again—and this is something of a refrain now—scaffolding was key to the week. I think of writing larger pieces as a construction project; segments that might stand alone, or which have an inherent coherence, need to be tied and pegged into one another in a way that is structurally valuable, rather than like a McMansion! At times, this can feel like structurally weakening the individual pieces, particularly if they’ve already been shaped, like this chapter, to hold their own weight.

Some highlights of the week:

  • Nicholas Frankel‘s two “unedited” versions of the novel. I have both hardback and paperback, as the former contains a greater depth of commentary. I’ve read them both a few times, but they remain a highlight of my Wilde research. For critical purposes, I think that this edition will probably stand as definitive.
  • Finally getting a chance to read the early chapters of Richard Ellmann‘s biography. I have mostly read the portions related to specific events or publications, but it was nice to read around Wilde’s early life a bit more! I’ve doubled-up with this research, as it’s also been really helpful as part of my digital humanities Wilde project.

Poor Miss Finch (Collins)—book review

I re-read this recently ahead of moderating a panel at NAVSA2016, so I thought it might be worth reviewing here.



Neo-Vic digital humanities project, week 2

So this is week 2 of #NaNoWriMo, and I wrote last week about how I was tackling getting the digital humanities portion of my project—a rewriting of Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun as though by a young Oscar Wilde—up online. In terms of the actual Scalar presentation itself, there’s still some CSS stuff to do, but here are the first few pieces of the novel, letters and prefatory materials! I’m not hugely bowled over by what Scalar offers in terms of other website presentation, but I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt at the moment, and Hypothes.is is up and running, so annotations are more than welcome.

This week involved a bigger focused on thinking about content. How would Wilde change this novel, narratively and stylistically? What pressures would his prejudices, concerns, and experiences have brought to bear on Hawthorne’s original story?

As part of examining the style of the original, and thinking about which terms and phrases I might want to include/exclude in order to shift it closer to Wilde’s own, I used Voyant to produce some clouds and other visualisations.

The Voyant site proved a little unreliable. It produced a bunch of default visualisations from Hawthorne’s text almost instantly, but then went into spinning-beachball-of-death mode when I tried to export a simple word cloud. I tried switching browsers, only to a get a server-unavailable error message, and so that was the end of the first effort! It worked better after a quick pause, although I continue to find the multi-paned interface really cluttered. One thing that is definitely coming up for me in this project is that the tools that are available are not necessarily as user-friendly as they could be. That’s something that digital humanities needs to be willing to address—either in terms of training or in terms of the tools that we actually provide for each other—in order to normalise the use of these approaches.

In any event, the visualisations made me feel that Hawthorne’s novel (or at least the first, on which I’m working at the moment) was actually really rather boring! The predominance of “said”, both in word clouds, the link visualisation, and in co-locates analyses was just staggering, so I removed it (as well as “chapter”). Still, there were some few phrases that repeated (but only at a low frequency of two occurrences each) that caught my eye:

  • “On the edge of a precipice let us”
  • “At the foot of the precipice”
  • “Caught it in the air and”
  • “Foot on the head of his”
  • “Himself at full length on the”
  • “In the bowels of the earth”
  • “Of the palace of the caesars”
  • “One of the angles of the”
  • “The door of the little courtyard”
  • “They had now emerged from the”

I’m still trying to determine whether I want to conduct a comparative analysis of Wilde’s style based on his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, or a wider corpus, perhaps focusing more on the earlier works. At the same time, I need to produce a narrative that Wilde might have found compelling, or at least amusing and worth telling. It’s difficult to focus on these two components simultaneously, so this next week is definitely going to be content-focused. If I can establish a strong new narrative, then hopefully much of the style will come with that, and small tweaks can be made later on the basis of some of these macro-analyses.


A week is a long time in running… (13/11/16)

Half-arsed running weeks continue, it seems. I’ve had a bit of a struggle getting motivated because my morning rhythms have changed now that I’m working at home, and I haven’t quite figured out how I want to structure running in this new schedule. So I’m going back to scheduling aspirational runs!

This is how this week went:

Date Distance Time Pace
9 November 5.1km  27:35 5:21/km (GAP 5:20/km)
11 November 3.7km 19:30 5:16/km (GAP 5:30/km)
13 November 8.3km  47:22 5:41/km (GAP 5:42/km)
Total 17.1km

And this is how I want next week to go:

Date Distance Time Pace
15 November 4.0km
16 November 10.0km
18 November 4.0km
20 November 8.0km
Total 26km

Vernon Lee Week

Following the NAVSA2016 intermission, I’m back on schedule with writing up, and this week was Vernon Lee week.

I’d already done some fairly significant revisions when I was thinking of using this chapter as a writing sample (I eventually used my Wilde chapter, which will be the subject of next week’s extravaganza!). Again, the main task was structuring and interweaving. This chapter is the first in a second part of my thesis: part one deals with poetry (Field and Rossetti), and part two with fiction (Lee and Wilde). That means that part of this week was also writing the introduction for the part.

Some highlights from this week:

  • As most of my writing up seems to involve hanging around on digital archives, this week was mostly about the Colby special collection on Lee.  There’s a really useful summary of Lee’s correspondence with her family (PDF), as well as a bibliography (PDF).
  • Rereading some new work on Lee by some fellow doctoral candidates, such as Leire Barrera-Medrano’s ‘Dolls in Agony’. While requiring original thought, the PhD is often a case of also having to be seen trotting out the “standard texts” to demonstrate knowledge of the field. I always think it’s worthwhile finding less-cited pieces, and there is so much great scholarship being done by those close to completing, or just after completing, that deserves to be seen and brought into dialogue with ‘canonical’ scholarship.