Bienvenidos al nuevo semestre de Escritura Avanzada

Bienvenidos a un nuevo semestre, y al curso de escritura avanzada, Español 413, en la Universidad de Mary Washington (Virginia, USA). Hace 3 años que no he dado este curso, debido a mis responsabilidades como Chair del Departamento de Lenguas y Literaturas Modernas. Estoy muy emocionada de volver al curso, y como siempre me pasa, he decidido cambiarlo un poco de lo que he hecho en el pasado. Mi objetivo general en este curso siempre ha sido ayudar a todos los alumnos mejorar su manejo del idioma del español, aumentar sus destrezas de escribir, desarrollar una voz auténtica, y trabajar en la sofisticación de su escritura. Vamos a trabajar en todo esto en parte con el estudio y la lectura–de algunos puntos de gramática difíciles, y de la escritura de otros. Pero la mejor manera de mejorar nuestra escritura es escribir. ¿Por qué escribir en un blog? En parte, porque hoy en día, los blogs (las bitácoras) son la mejor manera de comunicar nuestras ideas por escrito. Pero también he escogido el formato del blog porque así no solamente podemos explorar nuestras propias ideas, sino que también podemos interactuar con otros escritores. Así me ha pasado a mi, y es a través de varios blogs que he mantenido en el pasado que he conocido a otros escritores, investigadores, y profesores con los mismos intereses. Pero como pueden ver en mi blog, no es fácil mantener un blog. Nuestro desafío este semestre es escribir regularmente, desarrollar nuestras ideas, nuestro vocabulario, y establecer una presencia entre una comunidad de otros escritores–sean de nuestra clase, o de la web.

Como tal vez ya saben, mi investigación se centra en el siglo XVIII español, particularmente en la escritura de las mujeres del dieciocho. Estoy actualmente trabajando en una propuesta para un artículo, y mis lecturas últimamente han sido sobre el concepto de una República de Letras–un concept que desarrolló el movimiento de la Ilustración. En las palabras de Dena Goodman (escribiendo sobre Francia) “it (18th century philosophy, the Republic of Letters) was not confined within the individual, disembodied (Cartesian) mind (…) its tasks could be completed only in a social setting, as a social practice” (Goodman, 8) Creo que lo mismo es verdad sobre la nueva República de Letras que representa el internet y los medios sociales en general, y blogging en particular. ¡Que nuestro curso este semestre desarrolle una República de Letras en Mary Washington, y que se extienda más allá de Fredericksburg!

Image from front page, google books,

Image from front page, google books,

Aquí hay una copia del plan de la clase para el semestre: espanol-413-primavera-2017

Goodman, Dena. The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment. Cornell UP, 1994.

DQ, imitation, GIFs and plagiarism

Don Quijote de la Mancha (película completa sub español)

“Windmills” from Don Quixote (2000), Peter Yates, Director


make animated gifs like this at MakeaGif

This week in my freshman seminar Digital Don Quixote, we are addressing the question of copyrights, Creative Commons and plagiarism at the same time we have been reading chapters 7-9 of Part 1—the iconic windmill scene followed by the less well known episode of the interrupted battle with the Basque squire. In the latter episode, Don Quixote’s battle with a Basque squire is interrupted when the narrator reports that the manuscript he is reading is truncated, and that the rest of the story is missing. On a quest to find out what happened in the story and to the missing text, while perusing a market in Toledo, the narrator discovers a text in Arabic that when translated turns out to be the missing text—the History of Don Quixote de la Mancha by Cide Hamete Benengeli, Arabic historian. The story continues where it left off, and Don Quixote defeats his challenger. This ingenious narrative interruption underscores Cervantes’ parody of the popular novels of chivalry (as he claims to be his main aim in this novel) which often also had supposed historian’s telling of the heroes feats. But also the many layers of narration—narrator, translator, historian, Cervantes himself—complicate the readers interaction with the story. Don Quixote´s “history” is a copy of a copy, with multiple authors presenting, interpreting, and commenting on it as it passes from some supposed true events to its present form. All the while readers participate in this chain of narration, themselves interacting with it, and even changing it. This will become even more the case in the second part when Cervantes has a real-life copier of his novel—the unauthorized sequel to Don Quixote by Avellaneda that was published between in the ten year gap between the first and second volumes—which he takes care to debunk throughout the second part.

When I paired these readings from Don Quixote with the readings on issues of copyright and plagiarism, some of it had to do with what I saw as some loose connections on the topics of authorship, and some had to do with a visit I scheduled with our Center for Honor, Leadership, and Service. To prepare for that visit students have also read a blogpost by Shelly Carson, a Psychology Today contributor, “Plagiarism and its Effects on Creativity.” I also thought that at this point it would be fun to work with some animated GIFs to represent some of these important episodes in the novel to encourage the students to experiment a little with some new digital applications. So hurredly before class on Monday morning, I made the above GIF, taking a couple seconds of video from a television film version of the novel directed by  Peter Yates, and starring John Lithgow into an application called You can see the results of my 30 seconds of work above. Nothing too impressive, but sort of fun. But then I thought, did I just plagiarize?

Our own Center for Honor has an infographic on its website to answer my question.

untitledSo I don’t think I plagiarized. Whether or not my GIF is within the “fair use” definition of the copyright laws is another question, which blogger Peter Van contemplates in this blogpost “Do Animated GIFs Infringe on Copyrights?“ Basically, no one has really challenged GIF creators use of copyrighted material in court…yet! Shelley Carson sees plagiarism as symptomatic of our digital age’s “dumbing down” of culture. Are GIFs (and the related internet memes)also contributing to this dumbing down? Is  my 5 second loop of a windmill spinning round and round and round and round…creative? Certainly I could have put more thought into it, combining the images in a more interesting way, maybe added my own special touch, all of which would have been more possible if I had photoshop and not a web application to work with! GIFs are a great example of our imitative postmodern aesthetic. GIFs can be parody or pastiche, and their endless looping of the same series of images are unique to our digital internet culture. Which is where I think they connect with Don Quixote, which also repeats and re-presents its story multiple times through multiple voices. Readers become authors who in turn become narrators. Let the battle resume!

Don Quijote de la Mancha. Capítulo 7

“Battle with the Basque” Don Quijote de la Mancha (1992), Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón Director.

Another Year With Don Quij(x)ote

I am embarassed that it’s been 5 months since I last blogged. Last spring semester was a whirlwind of teaching, committee meetings, chair duties, and conferences. Spring turned to summer with more of the same. We also experienced a terrible tragedy on our campus right at the end of the spring semester that was a horrifying ending to end what was a pretty contentious year among our student body, and faculty. Unfortunately all of that got in the way of my appreciation, at least my public appreciation on this blog, of the fact that, despite whatever else was going on around me, last academic year was for me a highlight of my teaching career, as it began and ended  with Don Quijote.

I’ve alreay discussed in an earlier blog post about my first-year seminar (FSEM) Digital Don Quixote, its successes and short-comings, and my plans for the spring 2015 senior seminar in Spanish. I’d like to debrief a bit about the senior level seminar, before I look ahead to a new year with the FSEM.

Our advanced seminar course Spanish 451 Cervantes had not been taught in years when I decided to give it a try, despite the fact I´m no Cervantista. But I was a student, and I know how hard it was for me to read the novel the first time, so I tried to look for activities, both in and out of the class that would help students not only comprehend the novel better in Spanish, but also help them start to experience its richness, and the vast bibliography about it. To encourage their reading, students logged in and commented on chapters as they finished them through blogposts, and a progress meter that I kept. We kept collective class notes on our wiki, Don Wikijote. This is also where project groups, which studied a series of characters in the novel, displayed their work.

Some of the sections on the course webpage contain our class-time activities. A really successful one involved two visual maps we created of the movements of the characters in the first and second volumes. It helped all of us visualize who was where, when, and with whom, but also helped us see some major structural and character differences in the two parts of the novel. We used a free tool call Cacoo for this activity, which was really fun for the students,  but I think we could have used Google docs just as successfully. Other class activities that involved collecting images and music associated with the novel and posting it on our website, or creating a word cloud with Voyant, were good, but maybe not as impactful as the wiki or the map.

But by far the best thing was a great group of bright students who were game to try out all my crazy digital tools, and who approached this novel with great enthusiasm. It was such a fun semester that I spent with them, full of lively conversation and great insight that a webpage can even begin to represent!

My year with Don Quijote

I’m halfway through my special year with Don Quijote, and I really need to reflect on the first-year seminar (FSEM) I gave last semester in English Digital Don Quixote–its successes and where I had some problems–along with my first impressions of an advanced undergraduate seminar in Spanish I’ve just begun Cervantes y Don Quijote 21 . In both I’ve tried to introduce students to the novel, some of its major critical interpretations, its modern reception and adaptations, and ways in which it connects with our 21st century digital world.

Don Quixote and his cell phone by student Maya Baumgartner

Don Quixote and his cell phone by student Maya Baumgartner

The FSEM focused on identity, Don Quijote’s and our own digital identity. It also introduced some major topics of digital humanities and digital studies, using the novel as a springboard into these issues. We read selections of the novel in English, and some articles related to the novel and to digital studies/digital humanities. Students wrote a critical review and presented the article or book reviewed to the class. At then end of the semester students formed groups and created a digital and written project on some aspect of the novel in relation to the themes of the class. Fall 2014 was also the inauguration of a new Information and Technology Convergence Center on our campus, so we were able to make good use of the many resources located there now from our Division of Teaching and Learning Technology, to the Speaking and Writing Centers, and the library. I had a bright bunch of 14 first year students, and had so much fun with them that I’ve decided to offer the course again in the fall of 2015. But before I do, and before I forget, I need to reflect a bit about what went great, what could have gone better, and what I might do differently:

  • Great! Top of the list would have to be the students themselves. They were a bright group, and most of them were very engaged in the course and eager to learn and contribute. The readings I selected seemed to spark their interest and our classroom discussions were lively. Their final projects, which ranged from a series of Vine videos, to a digital newspaper, and a series of Facebook profiles interacting with each other as characters from the novel, were creative and showed a lot of learning from the semester.
  • Needs improvement:I had all of them create and develop their own domain as part of UMW’s Domain of One’s Own project. Some never really did this, others did, but none really shined. I think part of this is that it was too much to ask them to create a digital identity for themselves already in their first semester, before they really have a sense yet of their independent adult identity. So of the ones who tried, some started blogs of favorite quotes, others of photos from their travels, some made a space to post examples of their college work, while others blogged about their favorite music. Others didn’t really try at all. I think I need to give them more guidance in the nuts and bolts of WordPress, but also I need to make it worth more of the grade so all will take it seriously. Another problem were the blog posts for the class, which were weekly reflections on the topics from the readings and class discussions. The quality of these posts was very spotty. As I discovered with the critical review (when I realized in their first drafts that most thought “critical” meant “criticize”), I need to be very explicit with instructions and expectations for first year students in all assignments.

So now it’s a new semester and I’m on to phase two: Spanish 451: Cervantes y Don Quijote en el Siglo 21. Our main goal in the course is to read all of the novel in Spanish, and to examine some of the major issues of the novel, along with its critical interpretations. But we’re also looking at the modern reception of the novel, its numerous adaptations, and we’re creating our own digital presence for Don Quijote on our website through a wiki: Don Wiki-jote. I’m also trying to make all this work a little bit fun with a friendly competition–each student taking on an avatar based on a character from the novel, and logging their progress through “progress posts“, which I then record on a progress meter on the Reto Don Quijote.Reto Progress meter Already we’ve had some problems, mostly due to a lack of familiarity with how to create a blog post, what a “category” is, and how to edit a wiki. But hopefully we’ll overcome these issues soon and the technology will stop being a hurdle and turn out to be a help to them as I had hoped–aiding their study and inspiring them to keep going the end!!

Using Voyeur text analysis tool with Feijoo

Today I played around with a tool in its beta stage–Voyeur, a tool for web-based text analysis ( I copied the first part of Fray Benito Feijoo’s 1726 essay “Defensa de las mujeres” (published in his collection Teatro crítico universal). The tool generated the word cloud below. The most frequent words are common words in Spanish, and at first I couldn’t see how I could eliminate them, but the others that show prominently give a good visual of this early eighteenth-century Spanish proto-feminist work! It also offers some interesting graphs, breaking up the text into equal parts, showing word appearance frequencies throughout the entire selection.

Feijoo Defensa World Cloud

Now that I know better how to use Avant, I’ve been able to use it in other classes to look at texts. Here is one we did with a selection from la Celestina. Of course, word frequency doesn’t equate with importance, but it is one more way to get students to look at a text, and think about the words an author uses, and the meaning behind them.

Don Quijote Digital: Two Experimental Seminars to Celebrate 400 Years of Innovation

This is a copy of remarks I’ll be making at the Mountain Interstate Foreign Language Conference at Furman University in Greenville, SC this Saturday, October 18th, 2014.

In this brief presentation I will share some ideas and plans that I have in place to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the second volume of the Quijote, 21st century style. This year is a personal celebration of Don Quijote for me. I’m not a Cervantista. I’m not even a specialist in Siglo de Oro. My specialty is eighteenth-century peninsular, with a focus on gender, and a recent interest in digital humanities.

My only claim to any sort of authority is that I read the Quijote for the first time 25 years ago with the great Javier Herrero Herrerowhile in graduate school at UVA. Since then, I’ve read the novel two more times—once in English and again in Spanish. For the past fifteen years or so I have led students every fall semester through their own readings of chapters 1 and 8 of the first volume as part of a Survey of Spanish literature course I teach. My program has a course on Cervantes, last taught 10 years ago when our Siglo de Oro specialist left and was replaced with a Colonial Latinamericanist, who has also since left. So after the 400th anniversary of the first volume came and went in 2005, I decided I couldn’t avoid teaching this class anymore. Generations of Spanish majors were leaving with very little idea about how wonderful this novel is, and I had to do something about it. So this is the year that this will happen, in various ways and with various groups of students. To me it was a crazy idea, but I’ve approached it in my best quixotic style, taking an adventure with my students that I hope they don’t forget, and I know I won’t. If you’re interested you can read more of my musings about the projects on this blog (see the category “Don Quijote“), on my professional website, and on a course domain that I and my students are developing around the year’s experiences:

This fall semester I am offering a first-year seminar (FSEM) “Digital Don Quixote.” All of our students must take an FSEM as part of their general education requirements, providing freshman the experience of a college level seminar early in their academic career with the aim of engaging them intellectually in ways that the typical introductory courses don’t. My FSEM uses Don Quixote as a gateway to various issues of digital studies and digital humanities, and also requires students to develop their own web domain through our UMW Domains program. All together students will be reading about 25% of the novel, together with about a dozen other articles or blogposts about either Don Quixote or issues in digital studies. Some of the topics we’ve been discussing so far have been digital identity; game studies; the future of the library; authors, authority, copyrights and Creative Commons; social media; digital humanities, MOOCs, and digital storytelling. Students reflect weekly through their own blog posts, are currently writing a critical review of a scholarly book or article on Don Quixote, will be developing their own digital identity on their own domain, and will create a group final project that brings together the issues we’ve explored in the class. In addition, students are working on some skills basic to all freshman seminars in writing, speaking, and research. Here are some of the observations from my students thus far on their blogposts:

Blog 1Blog 2Blog 3Blog 4

Recently students have broken into groups to plan a final project that, in addition to having written and oral components, needs to incorporate a digital component as well. Some of the suggestions I’ve given students to spark their own ideas include:

(“Creative” digital projects”)

  • A video of key episodes from DQ highlighting certain themes from our course
  • Another digital storytelling method, such as a game, using a web application like twine (
  • A parody website or a parody profile of DQ in social media
  • An animated GIF, or series of GIFs

(“Academic” or Digital Humanities projects)

  • a digital exhibition of illustrations associated with a particular episode in DQ
  • a comparison/contrast analysis of various translations of a particular episode in DQ, using Voyant (
  • a database and graph tracing the bibliography on DQ, perhaps analyzing by categories to see areas of scholarly emphasis. Could also compare by time–how has our interest in DQ changed over time?
  • a map of the translations of DQ

As I’m taking this journey with these freshman students, I’m planning the next with my advanced students, a senior level seminar that I’ll be calling “Cervantes y Don Quijote en el siglo 21”. Span 451

In some ways the two courses will be quite different: one is for freshman of varying majors and interests, the other for advanced Spanish majors only; in one we’ll be reading selections of the novel in translation, and the other we’ll be reading and discussing the entire two volumes in its original Spanish. But I hope to unify the two through an emphasis on digital studies and digital humanities. The senior-level seminar (to be taught Spring 2015) will focus on critical reception of Cervantes’ novel, and will explore how Don Quijote continues to be vibrant in our digital age. As part of the class we will work as a group to create our own class digital humanities project on the novel, perhaps even a larger version of one of the projects students begin in the FSEM. One of the main objectives of the course will be that students read all of the Quijote in Spanish. I know plenty of programs do this with undergraduates, but it really is a monumental task for our undergraduates. I hope to help it along by encouraging students to accept a challenge, and to log their reading in to our site as they progress.
Donquixote en biciThere’s one more component to our year-long celebration. I’m trying to organize a spring break bike tour of the Ruta del Quijote. This part may or may not happen, depending on enrollment. If it happens, we will connect to the other two projects by documenting our trip on the gohidalgo domain.

Oh, and one more thing. I’ll turn 50 this year just like our ingenioso hidalgo. To paraphrase one of my students, I too am just ” an elderly woman living humbly” hoping to have a great adventure this year!  But seriously, it is my hope that seeing Don Quijote through this modern digital lense might open up possibilities for new perspectives and new learning for me and my students, not only about an amazing novel, but also about some of the most current topics in our society today.

Here is a copy of the Prezi that I’m using at the MIFLC conference:

Humanidades Digitales en español: What I learned at the Segundo Encuentro de Humanidades Digitales

I’ve just returned from my first digital humanities conference, the Segundo Encuentro de Humanidades Digitales (2EHD) hosted by the RedHD (a group based in the Universidad Autónoma de México-UNAM) at the Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City. Biblioteca VasconcelosWhile I had attended some sessions at MLA and ASECS on digital humanities before, and participated in an MLA DHCommons workshop and a THATCamp ASECS, I still feel pretty new at DH (or HD in Spanish) stuff, plus I’ve really wanted to meet digital humanists who work in Spanish. This was a great conference for me, and I feel like I’ve come away with a better understanding of some of the DH/HD work going on in Latin America and Spain, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to meet some great people doing very interesting work. In this post I want to share some of the sessions and information that I found interesting and pertinent to my own work. I have to confess I didn’t go to all the sessions. The conference went all day from 9-6 for three days, plus two days of pre-conference workshops. But I also had never visited Mexico City before, and experiencing all the historic sites, and museums that I’ve read about—even taught to my students—but never experienced, was also important to me not only personally, but also professionally. So, all the great information I’m about to share is only a fraction of what went on at this conference, and what I present is really from my point of view, as a professor of Spanish from a small public undergraduate liberal arts institution in the United States who is still discovering DH. Still, I think it might be of interest to others who, like myself, would like to know more about Humanidades Digitales.

Some of the sessions dealt with libraries, digital collections, and digital archives. I heard a presentation from Alberto Martínez of the Biblioteca Daniel Cosío Villegas at the Colegio de México in Mexico City, detailing plans for their Proyecto Biblioteca Siglo XXI, in which they are working towards something very similar to our own Convergence Center at Mary Washington, seeking similar connections between libraries, technology, research, and teaching. I also heard about digitalization initiatives by the Mexican Institución Nacional de Antropología e Historia, and the Fondo Antiguo of the BIblioteca Central of the UNAM. Beth Plale of Hathitrust gave one of the keynote talks on her work at the Hathitrust Research Center, explaining some of the tools and resources available to researchers (both from member institutions, and non-member institutions) and demonstrated a few examples of what could be done. Her main point is that the idea of massive scale being the future of DH research was already a reality with their collection of 11 million volumes. However, she also cautioned that because of the problems of copyright, two thirds of that 11 million are not available in full text to the users. So they have developed tools that will allow researchers to collect large quantities of data from all the volumes of the Hathitrust collection, returning only the data requested but not the full text, which they believe to fall under “fair use”. Some in the audience questioned the validity of such limited views, similar to the “snippet view” in Googlebooks. Others questioned errors in the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) of the texts. Clearly Hathitrust is making some progress in this idea of massive scale, but we’re not there yet either technically or legally. This connected to some of the more theoretical questions of the conference. For example, Glenn Worthey, a digital humanities librarian at Stanford University, argued that DH research focused on the text is rooted in Russian formalism, now possible on a much larger scale than, for example, Vladimir Propp could detail almost a hundred years ago in his Morphology of the Folk Tale.

There were some interesting projects and new applications presented. RedHD has developed a questionnaire that will help guide students and researchers as they evaluate their digital projects to make sure they are following best practices, following MLA guidelines, something I could really benefit from with my digital humanities work with my own students (and the topic of my poster presentation of my undergraduate research project “Women and Charity in Spain”). 20140523_104544

Rocío Romero and Alberto Rodríguez of the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Azcapotzalco(UAM-A) presented their website on the essay “Del ensayo y su escritura”, which presents students with important characteristics of the essay, the works of major Mexican essayists, and a space for them to present their own essays (similar to an approach that I take in my Escritura Avanzada course).

I learned about some important digital humanities centers and digital initiatives in Spain, Latin America and the US. In Spain, Nuria Rodríguez Ortega, an art historian at the University of Málaga spoke about her university’s ArtHis_Lab and their multiple digital initiatives to promote art and digital culture in the Spanish speaking world. Esteban Romero-Frías, a sociologist at the University of Granada, spoke about numerous projects that his group GrinUGR has begun, promoting digital studies and digital pedagogy in Spain. Like ArtHis_Lab, this group is very interested in the idea of “public digital humanities” and Dr. Romero pointed to several initiatives directed beyond the academy.  Elena González-Blanco García of the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) shared her group LiNHD (Laboratorio de Innovación en Humanidades Digitales) and a new certificate program (taught on line) they’re offering a summer course this June digital humanities in Spanish for students, researchers, professionals, and anyone else interested, with more planned for the future. In Mexico, there are several groups working along similar lines. RedHD, the hosts of the conference, sponsors a Seminario HD, which seems a bit similar to some of the ideas emerging from Mary Washington’s own Digital Scholars Institute. Iván Martínez, of the UNAM and also representative of Wikipedia Mexico and president of the board of directors of the Wikimedia Mexico Foundation, spoke of efforts to add more content about Mexico to Wikipedia, and of guidelines to help contribute to the project. Mexico will be hosting Wikimania 2015 at the Vasconcelos! The Department of Philosophy at the UNAM has begun to look into the relationship of philosophy and technology in their project Seminario Tecnologías Filosóficas. Alex Gil, of Columbia University, and Barbara Bordalejo of the University of Saskatchewan, spoke of their work with Go-DH (Global Outlook::Digital Humanities) and efforts to network and create working groups for digital humanists all over the world, with special emphasis in countries not often represented in current anglo-centric DH centers.

Which brings me to my final take-away, and really why I wanted to come to this particular conference—that is the presence of digital humanities in Spanish. One glaring problem with initiatives like Hathitrust, that Beth Plale didn’t really address in her talk, is the under-representation of Spanish. According to Plale’s statistics she shared, of the 11 million volumes that form their collection, only about 300,000 are in Spanish—that’s less than 3%! And Hathitrust is not the only place where Spanish is under-represented. DH is thus far an anglo-centric field. Elika Ortega (University of Western Ontario) and Esteban Romero-Frías highlighted in their presentations problems with surveys like Centernet whose map of digital humanities centers focuses heavily on English-speaking and European countries, and doesn’t represent as well DH/HD activity in Spanish speaking countries. MapaHD and Atlas de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Digitales are two projects that have tried to map digital humanities in Spanish. MapaHD, through a questionnaire distributed through social media and various email lists, collected information from 80 self-declared digital humanists in Spanish and Portuguese, and found that the largest group of them were located in Spain (24), followed by Mexico (14), Portugal in third place (13), United States fourth (7), and United Kingdom (5) and Argentina (5) tied for 5th place. The majority of respondents identified their research as related to literary studies, followed by history, information science, linguistics, visual arts, and philosophy, although there was much overlap between these fields. They are creating digital editions, doing digitalization of texts and images, and creating databases among other activities.

I definitely left this conference with a sense that there is a lot going on in DH/HD in Spain and Latin America, and I hope to see more Hispanists in the US and the UK learning from them and collaborating with them, as I hope to do. I also am more convinced than ever of the importance for those of us teaching students of Spanish language, literature, and culture to include digital humanities and digital studies in our curriculum, because cultura digital is part of the many culturas that speak Spanish, and is an undeniable and ever-increasing part of all of our present and future.

Digital Scholars Institute at Mary Washington

I’m blogging this time in English after a few months of Spanish-only, to share with my non-Spanish-speaking colleagues some of my work and ideas about digital scholarship as I practice it. This semester I’ve been participating in Mary Washington’s Digital Scholars Institute a group of faculty interested in digital issues related to pedagogy, research, and scholarship. We’ve met every other week since the end of February in two cohorts to share our work and discuss pertinent issues. This project has been a natural next step for a campus that has been active in these issues for years with help and leadership from the great staff at the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies and the Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation. They have given the faculty and students at Mary Washington the opportunities, training, and tools we have needed to jump in to digital work, especially through initiatives like Faculty Academy,  UMWBlogsUMWDomains, and OpenVA.  As a result of those years of cultivating, coddling, preaching, and even sometimes prodding, there is a sizeable group of faculty here that is doing VERY COOL stuff! What has most impressed me in my own cohort–Andréa Livi Smith (Historic Preservation), Shawn Humphrey (Economics), Jack Bales (Simpson Library), Steve Gallik (Biology), Mary Kayler (CTEI), Jim Groom (DTLT), and me, Betsy Lewis (Modern Languages and Literatures)–has been the creativity with which each person has approached his/her discipline and then how that work has directly benefited students, even when not expressly (or exclusively) “pedagogical”. Check out to see their work, and the work of the other 5 faculty participating in another cohort.

So on Thursday April 24th it’s my turn to present my work. Some of what I’m going to outline below, I’ve narrated elsewhere before, so I’ll link to those places and you can read or skip as you wish. I’d like to focus on a digital project I’m finishing right now, sharing some of the frustrations, questions, and doubts I’ve had throughout, and end with some future projects I hope to start soon.

First of all, I don’t consider myself an accomplished “digital scholar”. It’s something I’ve been pursuing (more like playing with!) for years, and if you’re interested I’ve already reflected a bit about my trajectory thus far (“Domain of One’s Own Faculty Initiative”). I say play, because that’s what the digital has added to both my teaching and my research: active engagement of new skills, creativity, along with a sense of joy and wonder.

I have numerous colleagues here at Mary Washington to thank for everything I’ve learned and accomplished professionally in digital pedagogy and digital scholarship. They have helped me see my work as part of an intellectual and global community.

First, UMWBlogs inspired me to use technology in my classes. Through digital applications and blogging, Spanish 413 (Advanced Writing) evolved from a grammar and writing course (a snooze-fest for me and the students!) to be about writing and creativity through the composition of a large digital project. In Spanish 375 I took a nineteenth-century novel course (again, hard to get the students enthused), and made it about film adaptation of novels in which students story-boarded and eventually produced their own video adaptation. In both I saw the digital medium as a way to engage students in exciting, creative and more real ways, turning boring and dry courses to something much more interactive and rewarding for all involved. I then decided to go a step further by involving students in my research. As part of that, in 2011 I decided to try for a Digital Humanities start-up grant from the NEH . I was denied the grant, but still took two groups of students to Madrid to do research at the Biblioteca Nacional, and created a digital exhibition with them (more about that in a minute).

When UMWDomains came along, I tried to be a little more intentional about my  web presence apart from my courses, through bringing my work together on my own domain, I started keeping a personal blog more regularly, where I write about my research, my teaching, and some issues that I see in the academy, which has included among other topics diversity, disability studies, language study, and the future of the book . Sometimes blogging feels a little disconnected–is anybody actually reading this?? But it has been a useful tool for me to work out some of my ideas and to reflect, if nothing else.

The bulk of my digital scholarship recently has been through the creation of a digital exhibition on the evolution of women’s charity in Spain. I’ve reflected (in Spanish) in my blog on the experience of working with students on such a project (“Haciendo humanidades digitales con mis alumnos”).  I’ve also presented some preliminary results of our work at several conferences: at the Asociación Internacional de Literatura y Cultura Femenina Hispánica XXIII Congreso Annual held at Pomona College in October 2013 (“Concepción Arenal’s La Voz de la Caridad Through the Lens of a Database“), a poster presentation with my students at the OpenVA conference also in October of 2013, and next month I’ll be presenting the whole site as a poster/demo at the Segundo Encuentro de Humanidades Digitales in Mexico City.

This work with my students has been amazingly rewarding, and lots of fun, and I think it has been a great experience for the three groups of freshman and sophomores who worked with me. But is it scholarship? It’s certainly not what I had envisioned when I proposed the project to the NEH three years ago. Lack of time, money, and resources have all limited what I could actually accomplish without the grant. Another issue I’ve had has to do with permissions from libraries and archives to display the material I’ve collected from them. Due to the permissions that I needed (still need), I haven’t made the site publicly available. Even though everything I display is OLD and in the public domain, the National Library in Madrid requires that I pay 25 euros per image to display them (that is up from 7 euros last fall, when I wasn’t quite ready to apply for permission!). Wasn’t the web supposed to be free and open? I suppose I can’t begrudge a library that has given me and my students open access to their collections the funds they need to keep their own work going, but it has made things difficult, if not downright expensive.

Despite these frustrations, I’ve learned TONS through this process over the last three years: about digital applications, issues of digital humanities, and about researching with students.Which leads me to my next steps. I’m offering a first-year seminar Digital Don Quijote, in which the students and I will use Cervantes’ great novel as way to approach some of the issues of digital humanities and digital studies that I’ve mentioned, and others that I haven’t (See my post “Quixotic” that I wrote last summer as I prepared to make the proposal for the FSEM).  It was originally planned for this spring (2014), but no one enrolled (another topic for discussion) so I’ll be trying it again for Fall 2014, with the senior seminar in Spanish planned for spring 2015, the 400th anniversary of the publication of the second volume of the novel. I’m trying to get together a bike tour of the Ruta del Quijote for spring break, something like this video below. Andy Rush has already got me psyched about mounting cameras to our helmets to document our experience to share with the world! Oh, and I’ll be department chair too. ¡Qué loca soy!

La investigación digital cruza fronteras con la Sociedad Ibero-Americana para Estudios del Siglo XVIII.

Recientemente fui a la reunión anual de la Sociedad Americana para Estudios del Siglo Diecicho (ASECS), que ocurrió en Williambsburg (Virginia) el 19 al 22 de marzo de 2014. Me encanta los congresos de ASECS, principalmente porque allí también se reunen mis colegas de la Sociedad Ibero-Americana para Estudios del Siglo Dieciocho (IASECS), un grupo de profesores en varias instituciones estadounidenses,  pequeño (de unos 30 miembros) pero muy activo. Somos dieciochistas especialistas en la literatura, la historia, el arte, y la música de España y Latinoamérica.  Organizamos 4 o 5 sesiones durante ASECS cada año, y durante los dós últimos años hemos organizado una mesa redonda internacional por medio de video-conferencia en la que hemos podido conversar con nuestros colegas en España y Latinoamérica sobre asuntos relacionados a las humanidades digitales. En esta entrada quiero resumir las dos sesiones (la de 2013 y de 2014) y luego dar algunas posibles direcciones futuras.

Organicé el primer panel en 2013 para la reunion de ASECS en Cleveland, con la idea de compartir algunas actividades y proyectos digitales ocurriendo en EEUU y España, y buscar nuevas maneras de colaboración, a pesar de la reciente crisis económica. El primer panel se tituló “Enriching Ibero-American Eighteenth-Century Studies in Times of Austerity.” Participaron Jesús Astigarraga (Universidad de Zaragoza) , Helena Establier Pérez (Universidad de Alicante), Kevin Sedeño (University of Kentucky), Karen Stolley (Emory University) and yo. Rebecca Haidt de Ohio State University dirigió la discusión. Mientras los participantes estadounidenses apuntaron unas cuestiones interesantes para nuestro campo del siglo XVIII, (aquí tenéis mi contribución), fueron nuestros colegas internacionales los que veradaderamente dieron vida a la conversación. Jesús habló de su participación en un proyecto digital internacional, coordinado por la European University Institute y la Universidad de Paris-8, que va a ser un diccionario internacional de traductores del siglo dieciocho. Helena editó el portal sobre la dramaturga dieciochesca María Rosa Gálvez en la Biblioteca Cervantes Virtual. Kevin, un estudiante colombiano en el programa doctoral de Kentucky, habló de los recursos digitales en la Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia. Creo que parte del éxito de la sesión fue que pudimos hablar con distintas voces que probablemente nunca podrían participar en persona de otra manera, por cuestiones económicas. Pero además, fue bonito conocer a nuestros colegas internacionales en sus oficinas, o incluso en sus casas— lo cual creó un ambiente más amigable y relajado.

Este espíritu de amistad y cooperación contiuó el segundo año con el panel “Estado de la cuestión: el mundo digital y la enseñanza en un clima de escacez financier, “ esta vez organizada y dirigida por Renee Gutiérrez de Longwood University. Nos enfocamos más en Latinoamérica este año, con la participación de José Antonio Amaya y Camilo Andrés Páez Jaramillo (más el resto de su equipo investigador) de la Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia, y de Janeth Vargas Castillo de la Biblioteca Nacional del Perú. También invitamos a Laura Mandell, de Texas A & M University—profesora de literature inglesa, directora de la Intiative for Digital Humanities, Media and Culture de su universidad y directora de Eighteenth-Century Connect, un portal de investigación digital sobre el siglo XVIII. Puesto que Laura no hablaba español, ni tampoco los participante en Colombia y Perú hablaban inglés, Renee consiguió a dos alumnos graduados del programa de interpretación de Wake Forest University para proveer traducción simultánea. ¡Fue otra sesión fabulosa! Los colegas José Antonio y Camilo Andrés de Colombia hablaron de un archivo digital de la coleccion de José Celestino Mutis a punto de publicarse. Janeth nos demostró los recursos en la Biblioteca Virtual de la Biblioteca Nacional de Perú, mientras que Laura nos mostró el proyecto de Texas A&M, The Cervantes Project, un temprano proyecto de humanidades digitales que estableció en parte la dirección para futuros proyectos semejantes, pero que también ha sufrido de unos cambios en la tecnología con los años. Laura usó este ejemplo para animarnos a usar TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) en nuestras ediciones digitales para evitar tales consecuencias.

El éxito de los dos paneles ha sido tanto que queremos seguir con ellos en futuros congresos. En 2015 la reunion de ASECS será en Los Angeles. Queremos organizar otra sesión “a lo digital”, pero esta vez dejando atrás las ideas de “austeridad” o “escasez” para, en cambio, abrazar toda la riqueza del medio digital. Voy a estar en el Segundo Encuentro Humanistas Digitales en México este mayo, presentando un poster sobre un pequeño proyecto digital mío. Espero conocer a otros dieciochistas en la reunión y explorer la posibilidad de nuevas colaboraciones con nuestro pequeño pero muy entusiasta grupo de IASECS.

Pelucas 1

Las famosas pelucas de IASECS

Pelucas 2

Así vamos a las reuniones oficiales de IASECS– pelucas decoradas según el lugar del congreso.