“The Windows”

In January 1992, between “Room” and “Nostalgia,” Carol Ann Duffy wrote “The Windows.” When I read the poem for the first time, it struck me as a very lonely poem. The only other people in the poem besides the narrator (a child or a lover) are seemingly imagined. The second thing about the poem that struck me was the reference to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” an iconic Christmastime movie. Duffy’s manuscripts indicate that she wrote “The Windows” on January 15, 1992. It seems that Duffy was inspired by recent events. After further inspection of the poem, I wondered if it was about somebody who lost a family member or friend and subsequently his or her life. The first three stanzas of the poem is in present time, while the last two stanzas seem to be a memory of the narrator’s past life. Hyacinths are flowers that bloom in spring (between March and April) which contradicts the earlier reference to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I was intrigued when I saw that the poem was written in January. I wondered if the narrator is Duffy, what was going on in Duffy’s life at the time, and what was going on in the world that might have inspired her to write this poem. I attempted to do further research which seems fruitless at present.

My trip to MARBL inspired me to do more research on my own about the poem. Even though I wasn’t able to easily identify any connections between Duffy’s life and the poem, it was good that I was interested enough to do research for something not assigned in class. I think that this assignment helped me to respect poetry more in general because I was able to see the amount creativity required to write a poem that people can connect to. Even a simple phrase like “steaming casseroles and red wine” can elicit memories in many people. “The Windows” is clearly another outpouring of Duffy’s emotions; there are few edits and no notes or organizational tools before she writes the poem and simply re-writes the poem before moving on to the next poem, “Nostalgia.”


On Anne Hathaway

Never in my life have I written a poem for a reason other than a class assignment; admittedly, most of those poems look and read like prose except I made the paragraphs look like stanzas. My brain just doesn’t seem to work when it comes to writing (or analyzing) poetry. This is why it was so startling to me when I perused Duffy’s journals how the poems seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Do you remember those concrete poem outlines from elementary school? They were lines made to look like a specific shape (circle, diamond, Christmas tree) and the instruction was to write a poem on the lines about what the shape could be. So, for instance, you might write a poem about baseball on a diamond shaped outline. I think this is how I would have to write a sonnet. I would have to have fourteen lines with the rhyme scheme written out to the side and it would probably take me days to figure out how to write in pentameter.

The only words about Duffy’s sonnet, “Anne Hathaway,” before the actual poem are a note to check Shakespeare’s will to see what it says about the second best bed to Anne Hathaway. Then on the next page, the poem is written in full. There are minor edits; Duffy changes “swear” to “dream” on the seventh line, “dreaming” to “dribbling” on the twelfth line, and “his timeless” to “my lover’s” on the third line.

These minor edits make the poem slightly better in my opinion, but they don’t change any part of the poem dramatically. So, in essence, on November 30, 1998 (thirteen years ago today), Carol Ann Duffy wrote “Anne Hathaway” as it is published today.

Now that I have had a chance to examine and analyze Duffy’s manuscripts, I respect her creative mind much more. I go about writing poetry in a very mathematical way; it appears that Duffy’s poems flow from her mind to the paper with no intermediary.

Scholarship = data + interpretation

Rockwell’s article about what text analysis really is struck me as very familiar. I understood his main point to be that, “we should understand our tools as creating possibilities for interpretation.” We have extensively discussed in class and on the blog how results from any device we use, whether they be from science, math, or humanities, do not explain anything. All data has to be interpreted and analyzed in order to be useful; otherwise, text analysis numbers might as well be chemical equations.

I was slightly frustrated that Rockwell took so many words to say what we as a class have agreed on all along: text analysis exists, people use and improve text analysis programs, and text analysis requires human interpretation. The article could have been improved if Rockwell had expanded upon what scholars can learn from using text-analysis tools. I am not certain that I have been presented with a good example of why counting words in a work or collection of works merits attention.

Bohannon’s article pointed out a specific use of text analysis, but highlighted the problems with inconsistent and unreliable works used in analysis. I was interested, however, in the presentation of the word culturomics. To me, culturomics sounds like a made up word to describe digital humanities. Maybe culturomics will catch on more than DH. It all comes back to the definition of digital humanities. If humanities is simply the study of the human condition, why wouldn’t there be a “data-intensive approach” to scholarly work? Math, science, and social sciences all involve a gross amount of data—whether qualitative or quantitative. Studying anything requires data, otherwise, what is being studied?

Humanities being the study of the human condition, digital humanities is then the study of the digital human condition. Or is it digitally studying the human condition? In any case, culturomics is extraneous vocabulary. Culturomics is the same thing as digital humanities, humanities, or really just scholarship in general.
(I’d like to apologize for once again bringing up the topic of “what is DH?”)

Behind every man…

Duffy uses figurative language and familiar characters to explain common emotions in women evoked from realistic situations. When you simplify the poems to their basic situations, you find that all of the situations are fairly common in real life and other depictions of life: a man devoting more of his time to work than his wife, cheating, falling out of love, materialism, and death.

I found it interesting that Duffy depicted the female counterparts to familiar men from mythology, history, and fiction. Using characters readers know about makes it easier to create a meaningful and believable female character in a short poem. I thought the most interesting poems were ones from bible stories. I am probably the most familiar with the bible stories, so it was easy for me to extrapolate from the plot I already knew. The last line of “Pilate’s Wife” made me think in an entirely new way about the crucifixion of Jesus. “Was he God? Of course not. Pilate believed he was.” From the point of view of Pilate’s wife, we can see a more human side to somebody who is often characterized as a villain.

Similarly to House of Leaves, women in “The World’s Wife” give meaning to the male characters. We talked in class on Tuesday about how the male characters in House of Leeaves were deeply developed while the women were looked upon as sex objects or lunatics; in “The World’s Wife,” women’s emotions are deeply described in reference to the males they accompany. When you look at myth about Sisyphus, you can only see the story of Sisyphus and the development of his character. It is unclear why he would continue to roll a stone a mountain up a hill for eternity (other than magic). We can see what is happening, but the why is not clear. “Mrs Sisyphus” gives us a different point of view of the story—Sisyphus is giving all he has to his work. Without this perspective, I doubt if I would have ever come up with that conclusion. His work is given meaning through the lack of devotion he has for his wife and the passion he has to do his work well. Without his wife, we would have nothing to compare his actions to. . In House of Leaves, Navidson is in a similar predicament where he loves Karen but gives a lot of time and energy to his work. It would be interesting to look more from Karen’s perspective to see what more we could discover about Navidson’s character.

Mandala Software Evaluation

Jessica Coons and Rafid Kasir

Mandala—“a rich prospect browsing concept that allows users to explore a data set using multiple criteria.” This software is basically a search engine, but unlike Google, it searches only through a marked up XML file. It creates visual representations of queries based on how often the search term appears in the file and how it is related to other search terms. Mandala has many strengths based on its ease of use and vast range of audiences. This software fulfills all of Unsworth’s ideas of scholarly primitives and is a great addition to literary scholarship. Read the rest of this entry »

Builders and Challengers

William Faulkner is one of America’s greatest novelists; Sally Wolff-King works at Emory and has written multiple books on Faulkner. I’m sure we could all agree that Faulkner is a part of the humanities. I also think we would consider Dr. Wolff-King’s works to be an integral part in understanding Faulkner, thus, also a part of the humanities. Just having Faulkner’s writings in libraries is entertaining and interesting—his works make us think. What is more interesting, however, is when people take these writings and break them down, analyze them, and ask more questions. Disagreement and arguments are crucial to the scholarly process. If nobody ever asked any questions and we just accepted all bodies of work as a complete unit, what would we learn in English classes? Really, where would the human race be if we never asked any questions?

I agree with Sample in his explanation that digital humanities is not simply about building; digital humanities is about “challenging the ways that knowledge is represented and shared.” If digital humanities (or any subject for that matter) was simply about creating new material, we as a scholarly community would never learn anything. We would simply accept new projects as complete, see them, and then discard them. Novels or scientific projects or art would never have any meaning. Architects build buildings for aesthetic appeal and also to be lived, worked, or played in. In digital humanities, we build maps and programs and archives to be interacted with and used. Blogs have comment capabilities in order for readers to express their own opinions on the ideas the author presented. In essence, the author is building while the readers challenge what the author built. In this process of building and challenging, the digital humanities community grows—people learn more from being questioned than by simply coming up with ideas on their own. If digital humanities was just about building, I would have to argue that all humanities and subjects were just about building. This, however, is not the case. Dr. Wolff-King is as much a part of humanities as Faulkner. Movie critics are as much a part of the film community as actors and directors. Without people to challenge and analyze works of literature, film, art, or science, we as humans would never learn anything new.

A mile in somebody’s shoes

In one of my psychology classes last semester, we discussed how it was impossible to understand a person’s situation until you know every aspect of his life. The cliché about walking a mile in somebody else’s shoes is an appropriate comparison. This is how I approached reading “Afternoon.” I did not read about the story or the software before I began reading, so I feel as if I jumped into the story blindly. The first narrative I came to was about the car accident and Peter’s subsequent actions. I took this to be the central plot point of the story. To me, the rest of “Afternoon” explained Peter’s actions and his life.

I think of it almost as a picture of concentric circles. Peter is in the center at the time of the car accident. All the other paths we trace throughout the story surround the central character. We are able to see more of the story every time we read a new path. The end of the story is unclear; but to see the most of the picture we have to continue to read things that sometimes seem unrelated and confusing. Sometimes, we have to read the same thing over and over again. To me, this is the author shouting, “This part is important!” It’s like having the thicker lines in the picture. The more and more we read, the more we see of the full picture and the more we can understand about the entire story. If we only saw the center of the picture we would only see a black circle. This does not mean very much. Similarly, if we only read the story through one time, we would only see one character or one event. There is an entire story and life behind each character and event in any story that we read.
I think we should take this story and apply principles of it to other forms of literature. Stories are not written in a vacuum. There are social, political, economic, and cultural threads that affect each story that is ever written. We need to look at literature as a whole, not just look at each as a single story.

Effects of virtual realities

While reading Remediation for the second time, I thought of the effects of remediation, mediacy, and hypermediacy on the way we think and perceive, similar to how Hayles questioned how digital media has changed the way we read. Many of my friends are regularly immersed in virtual worlds: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Halo, and even FIFA 2011. Although these video games are not virtual reality in the way that Bolter describes in the beginning of Chapter 1, these worlds give players an experience that would be impossible in their reality. I then wonder, how does participation in these virtual realities affect the way that players interact in the “real” world?

If something as simple as reading a webpage can impact the way a generation reads novels, what will uncountable hours spent staring at screens immersed in a digital world impact? There have been studies done on the effect people who play violent video games and their outcomes. All in all, violent video games affect children negatively. Similarly, I think that games that require communication only through typing cannot have a positive effect on the way our generation communicates. Sure, instant messaging, facebook chat, and even skype are wonderful tools that allow us to communicate in times and ways we were not able to before. However, none of these tools replace face-to-face conversations. Real live conversations make up a good portion of professions; how will a person who has a majority of conversations through a keyboard fare in a job market that requires different kinds of communication skills?


While reading Maps, no matter how hard I tried to think of something else, my mind kept reverting back to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. During my Faulkner class last semester, we often looked at Faulkner’s illustration of his fictional county and analyzed where different scenes in his stories took place. A speaker even came to class to explain how Yoknapatawpha related to an actual county in Mississippi, Lafayette County.

While I was reading Maps, however, I wondered how we could have learned more about the literature from the map of Faulkner’s “apocryphal county.” Sure, Faulkner spent the majority of his life in Mississippi and probably drew a lot of inspiration from its culture; but what could we have drawn from simply mapping the fictional events that take place in Faulkner’s novels and short stories?  A lot of the novels are connected by characters and setting. I think that we could learn even more about the stories themselves by focusing on the fictional aspect and ignoring the similarities to reality.

After reading “Who’s In and Who’s Out?” I wondered if Ramsay would consider either approach (focusing on fiction or reality) to be digital humanities. If a scholar took on the immense task of mapping different events throughout Yoknapatawpha County on the computer, but did not write a new program for it, would Ramsay still consider that building something? Was Dr. Croxall’s tour of Boston through the eyes of Miranda on google earth digital humanities? Technically, Dr. Croxall did not build anything new; he simply used tools already in place in order to come to a new conclusion about the story.

I think that Dr. Ramsay’s definition of digital humanities is too concrete. I do not think that in order to be a digital humanist you must know how to code programs. I would define a digital humanist as somebody who uses digital technology to learn something new about the humanities. Be it by using wordle or google earth, building a new program or coding text is not necessary to be a digital humanities scholar.

More than powerpoints

In “The Manifesto,” students explain that teaching digital humanities to undergraduates is important because “it gives insight not only into the humanities but also into how the onset of technology has changed our world, and how we can change with it.” This explanation clearly defines digital humanities as an area of study that helps scholars understand the humanities more fully. Their statement further argues that technology has changed our world and asks how we can change with it. I think this question of change is crucial to the area of digital humanities. Especially within the older generation of scholars, dissemination of knowledge and scholarly collaboration has to change with technology.
Right now, there is a disconnect between technology available and what technology is actually used in the classroom. Even at Emory, there are professors who do not accept soft copies of papers, use blackboard or e-mail to post grades, or know what a learnlink conference is. I can’t imagine the time and money that would be saved if I could submit all my papers online. How helpful would it be if every class had a conference where students could easily post homework questions or discuss projects rather than only communicating with people in the class whose e-mail addresses you already know? Increased use of the readily available technology at Emory would not only make life more convenient, but would increase collaboration and overall learning.
If all professors knew how to use the basic technology and utilized it properly, opportunities would open for classrooms to integrate even more advanced technology. Instead of paying an author to come speak, why not set up a Skype date with the author where students can ask questions and simultaneously record it to show to future classes? For example, last year in wind ensemble, we were able to Skype with the composer of one of our pieces who gave comments on our playing. Without even leaving her house, she was able to make sure that her work of art was played the way she intended it to be played. What if we used blogs with more than just students in our class at Emory? If we collaborated with students from different universities on similar subjects, we as a scholarly community could learn much more than we currently do with the 30 people sitting in the physical classroom.
The internet can be used for so much more than digital textbooks and other ways to present information. As a generation, we should work harder to use the technology in place to increase our knowledge base, rather than simply integrate powerpoints into traditional lectures and continue to learn and grow with new technology.