The Project

The whole idea of this project is to break away from traditional academic assessment and from conventional analysis of literary texts. I wanted to create a project which combined a literary text with the digital humanities in order to create a visual presentation of my analysis of a contemporary novel.

During one of my seminars Dr Michael Goodman presented his PhD project ‘Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive’ which I thought was an incredible idea of combining literary texts and digital software. Michael took various illustrations of characters from Victorian editions of William Shakespeare’s plays and created an archive which included information such as tags, the illustrator and the publisher information. I took great inspiration from Michael’s project and I started to think about whether I could create a similar on a smaller scale. My main research interest is in contemporary literature (twentieth century-present) and I wanted to combine my research interest with digital humanities, visual presentation and off-the-shelf digital software.

In the initial proposal for my project I had two main ideas which I wanted to turn into a reality. The first idea is a comparison between how urban environments such as London are illustrated in photography and other visual formats in contemporary culture and how these environments are constructed in contemporary literature. My second idea was going to look at creating a project which analysed how the different ways the same character such as Smaug from The Hobbit  was depicted in the various editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel. I settled on the second idea to create a project which focused on illustrations of a specific character in various editions of the same literary text.

However when I met with my supervisor Julia Thomas and we discussed the ideas I had for my project she informed me that majority of the illustrations would be projected by copyright. Julia suggested a good idea to combat the copyright issue which was to focus on illustrations from texts which were published prior to the nineteenth century as Michael did for his project. Despite this good idea I wanted to continue to develop my interest in contemporary literature by using digital humanities in some format.  Following further discussion and brainstorming of ideas with Julia, I decided on my project which was to create a visual mapping of a contemporary novel using off-the-self digital software. The visual map will consist of three keys elements from the novel:the thematic elements, events and episodes.

The initial ideas for novels are:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Kite Runner by  Khaled Hosseini

1984 by George Orwell

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by  Karen Joy Fowler.