This project was born out of a curiosity about the growing field of digital humanities – how it works in theory and in practice. Having spent four years doing traditional literary studies- pouring through books and writing papers- I determined to do something different for my English Honors Thesis: to see where the intersection between our increasingly digitized world and the study of literature lies.
What is digital humanities? Digital humanities is the field of research, pedagogy, scholarship and creation that focuses on how digital tools can be used for the study of humanities. New digital tools are being developed to enhance a method of literary scholarship that is rooted in the capabilities of computing.
For my research I focused on one kind of popular digital tool – the hypertext. First I delved into the literature of hypertext theory to learn about the historical development of digital humanities, previous iterations of the hypertext system, and what the goals of the future are. For further discussion of the theory behind hypertext, as well as my critical discussion of the possibilities and limitations of hypertext, see “What’s All the Hype About? : A Critical Exploration of Hypertext Theory and Authorship.”
As Jerome Mcgann says “the next generation of literary and aesthetic theorists who will most matter are people who will be at least as involved with making things as with writing text” (Radiant Textuality 19). So I couldn’t stop at just the theory; I had to make something – the site presented to you. In short, my goal was to see how the use of the hypertext system can illuminate the poem in a way print cannot. I used my theoretical knowledge to guide my decisions in content and design. For a larger discussion of the process of creating the hypertext of “Snow on the Desert” see “From Hypertext User to Hypertext Maker: Reflections on Turning Theory into Practice through the Creation of the “Snow on the Desert” Hypertext.”
With the help of a remarkably supportive team of specialists here at Hamilton College (see Acknowledgements) the “Snow on the Desert” hypertext project went from sketches to reality, and is presented to you now in its most completed form, though it is still and can always be a work in progress. The project stands as a testament to the possibilities for undergraduate students to engage the field of digital humanities. Creating the product you see now required that I hone my traditional literary analysis skills and acquire new ones, like a how to digitize video clips and write HTML code. Ultimately the “Snow on the Desert” hypertext project was the most challenging and the most rewarding endeavor I undertook during my undergraduate career. I hope it proves the value and exciting possibilities for the use of digital humanities tools for the study of literature.
Hamilton College Class of 2012