Queens of Antiquity

Project Summary

Understanding how to generate, analyze, and work with datasets in the humanities is often a difficult task without learning how to code or program. In humanities centered courses, we often privilege close reading or qualitative analysis over other methods of knowing, but by learning some new quantitative techniques we better prepare the students to tackle new forms of reading. This class will work with the data from the HathiTrust to develop ideas for thinking about how large groups and different discourse communities thought of queens of antiquity like Cleopatra and Dido.

Please refer to https://sites.duke.edu/queensofantiquity/ for more information.

Themes and Categories
Year
2018

Graduate Student: Grant Glass

Faculty: Dr. Charlotte Sussman

Course: “Queens of Antiquity” (English 390S-7; Spring 2018)

Grant Glass taught this Data Expedition activity to students in ENGL 290, a spring 2019 course aimed at undergraduates. This experience exemplified that by introducing simple “distant reading” or qualitative concepts in a humanities undergraduate classroom, students would be able to use these tools to drive new types of research questions and think about how reading can include qualitative analysis.

The goals were to give students an introduction to “distant reading,” show how data and collections are created, what algorithms we can apply to those collections, and what types of analysis we can do from the results.

Over the course of two, 1.5-hour class sessions, 10 undergraduates were given the opportunity to create their own datasets and explore the results. For the end product, students created posts to discuss how the visualizations created from their collections helped them better understand.

Guiding Questions

  • What visualization is the most useful? Why?
  • What does the visualization help you understand about the corpus? What does it obscure?
  • What research questions can you generate from the visualization?

The Dataset

Dido

Elizabeth 1

Anne

Cleopatra

In-Class Exercises

Creating Collections with Hathitrust

Understanding the Visualizations

Related People

Related Projects

A team of students led by faculty of biology and directors of the largest virtual museum in the world (a Duke-base web repository called MorphoSource) will develop tools for assessing the societal and scholarly impact and importance of museum specimens made available as 3D digital resources over the web. They analyze patterns of user data from 12,000 users interacting with 140,000 datasets and communicate directly with museum curators, researchers and the general public to understand use cases before developing a number of new tools to collect and provision new kinds of use data. The ultimate goal is to generate use statistics that (1) show the research and education value of virtual museum objects in novel ways to motivate greater sharing and to increase appreciation of museum collections; (2) show how to strategize data storage based on use in a way that minimizes storage costs and maximizes sustainability. They will learn valuable skills in data science, museum informatics, and web development; the project provides an opportunity to contribute to a professional resource utilized by almost a thousand  museums around the world and to set the trajectory of online museum research practices for years to come.

Project Leads: Doug Boyer, Julia Winchester

Who should get to decide what a utopian society looks like? After London was razed to the ground in the Great Fire of 1666, its reconstruction into the “emerald gem of Europe” was heavily influenced by the monarchy and aristocratic elites. In building a utopian epicenter focused on political and economic interests, immense sacrifices had to be made by London’s most marginalized citizens. A team of students led by Nicholas Smolenski (PhD Candidate, Musicology) and Dr. Astrid Giugni (Lecturing Fellow, English) will thus explore how London was rebuilt into a utopia; by employing topic modeling and applying the resulting lexicon to seventeenth-century architectural sketches, students will demonstrate how a language of progress became inextricably linked to its own image while also exposing the paradoxes entrenched in utopic representation. This project will additionally show how its framework can apply to current political discourse, as the tearing down of statues and monuments over the past three years has highlighted inescapable tensions between a governing power, a nation’s history, and its people.

Is there a right type and amount of consumption? The idea of ethical consumption has gained prominence in recent discourse, both in terms of what we purchase (from fair trade coffee to carbon off-sets) and how much we consume (from rechargeable batteries to energy efficient homes). Concern with the morality of consumption is not new to capitalist societies; we can find debates on the ethics of consumption in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. A team of students led by Dr. Astrid Giugni (English, Duke) and Dr. Jessica Hines (English, Birmingham Southern College) will analyze approximately 60,000 Medieval and Renaissance digitized texts by performing topic modelling, which will allow them to track associations between the languages of consumer culture and ethical practice.The team will organize their results in a series of visualizations that trace the development of the ethics of ‘consumerism’ in terms of frequency of use, timeline of relevant events, authorship, location of publication and name of printer/printing press, and genres.