Emily Dickinson

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About the Project

Dickinson Development Group-Fall 2015

The original Emily Dickinson site was developed by four students at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg to look at Dickinson's Fascicle 16. Our members were part of the Digital Humanities Fall 2015 class which required an end-of-term project. Our team decided to take on a project which was originally started by Michele Ierardi. Her site, Translating Emily: Digitally Re-Presenting Fascicle 16, was a daring site which was created by Ierardi after completing her PhD coursework. Ierardi worked on the project in the summer of 1997 with her then-fiance-now-husband Adam Ferrari. On her original site, Ierardi chose to use JavaScript to show the variants within Dickinson's manuscript. Her JavaScript would show one variant which would then slowly change to show a second or third variant.

Ierardi presented the project in a paper titled, "Translating Emily: Digitally Representing Dickinson's Poetic Production Using Fascicle 16 as a Test Case," at the November 1997 Society for Literature and Science Annual Conference that was held in Pittsburgh, PA. She wished to continue the project and do a much longer PhD dissertation on it at the University of Virginia, but she was discouraged from doing so. Ierardi's most recent project is a novel about relationships between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, which, in a way or two, uses Dickinson's poem 1108. More about this can be read in her blog post, Life and Death and the Novel.

After finding Ierardi's original site, Dr. Elisa Beshero-Bondar—our Digital Humanities professor—found that the original JavaScript was broken and contacted Ierardi to ask for permission to continue the project on her own site. Dr. Beshero-Bondar adapted the site and made her own version to teach in her English Literature classes at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. Ierardi was glad to see that her project was seeing new life. However, Beshero-Bondar made the site during a plane flight, and it needed several updates and revisions when our class looked at it early in the semester. Her site, "Emily Dickinson's Fascicle 16: Eleven Poems," featured the text of Dickinson's original poems and the variants were coded to sit on top of each other. Below, images of the poems in printed form could be found to view the differences between the original and the publications. Our class found it confusing, and we were unsure of the relationship between the images and the text as it had not been explained on the site. The images of published poems were also confusing as the poems were often split on two pages and other poems sat above and below them on the page of the book. Thus, the Dickinson Team was formed to combat these issues and to repurpose this site once more in our own way.

Our original research question for Fascicle 16 was posed to compare line variations in Dickinson's manuscript and, then, compare them to which version of the lines were chosen when they were later published. However, upon starting the project we realized that we should be looking at all of the changes made to each poem. We found out that much more than the variants were changed. Dashes were added and subtracted, lines were flipped, capitalization was changed, and much more. For more information about how the published poems are read differently from Dickinson's original Fascicle 16 poems, please visit our Conclusion page. We also took a look at the usage of dashes, comparing Dickinson's original poems and the published versions. More information about this can be found in a graph under Dash Usage Comparison.

After two of the team members' first round of creating the original Dickinson website and analyzing Dickinson's Fascicle 16, Brooke Stewart and Nicole Lottig decided to take a challenge and continue analyzing and adding to it in the Spring of 2016. For our second Fascicle, we chose Dickinson's Fascicle 6 (which seemed to be happier and less about death than Fascicle 16). Because Fascicle 6 is made up of more poems that were not already transcribed and had a basic coded structure, we had to take extra time to transcribe and code the poems to match the code the team originially used in Fascicle 16.

Throughout the Fall of 2015, we learned all of the tools that we would need to make our own Dickinson site. We learned basic TEI XML coding of documents, how to apply XSLT Stylesheets to these documents to make them into HTML pages, use SVG to make graphs, and construct CSS and JavaScript to go along with the webpages, along with several other skills. We worked hard throughout most of the semester to learn all of these skills and spent the last three weeks of class applying them to our project in real life. After revisiting the above mentioned tools used to create the original Dickinson site, in the Spring of 2016 we had a better understanding of how to use them to our advantage to create an even better, and more user friendly, site. We had many hardships when trying to add to the site. We also learned how to use a new kind of method, XQuery, to pull information out of an XML and create network analyses using Cytoscape. We used this new information to analyze the shared variants between all of the different published versions and Dickinson's original poems. We created a Network Analysis for Fascicle 6 and one for Fascicle 16. For more information on how all of this was done (and our harships), please visit our Methodology page.

When starting the project, we needed to find a way to display the poems on a webpage that allowed the user to see Dickinson's variants and compare Dickinson's poems to the published poems. Our site features buttons on the side of each poem that allow you to click to see which version of the poem you would like to look at. Multiple poems can be selected at once and viewed by color above and below one another to compare the different variations. This allows you to view Dickinson's original poem next to a published version of the poem. Our site differs from the Emily Dickinson Archive, which requires that you search for a poem by a specific word or set of words. Once selecting a poem on this site, you are brought to a page which focuses on the image of Dickinson's manuscript and you must click on the side to be able to view the text of different published versions. Our site puts both the text and the image side-by-side and allows you to view the variations, whereas their site requires that you click to view the text and Dickinson's variations are placed in footnotes below the poem. Our project aimed to find a way to make this easier for the user to view both the manuscript and published versions for side-by-side comparison. Our site also takes a close look at each individual fascicle—just Fascicle 6 and Fascicle 16 at the moment—on its own part of the site, while the Emily Dickinson Archive lets you view any of her poems.

Our hopes are that this site can provide an insightful look at Dickinson’s Fascicle 6 and Fascicle 16 and offer a user-friendly way to compare the original poems to the published editions and analyze the changes that were made. We hope to add more of Dickinson's fascicles in the future!

Dickinson Development Group-Spring 2016