Mellon DH Fund supports the creation and development of Eighteenth-Century Poets Connect

by Jacob Sider Jost (assistant professor, English)

In the fall of 2014 I applied for a semester-long grant to pay a student assistant, Mary Naydan, to complete a spreadsheet listing the works of 133 English poets active during the years 1730-1740.  This was a continuation of a project begun by Mary and me using a Dickinson summer student-faculty collaborative research grant in the summer of 2012.  Over the course of the fall, Mary logged 64 hours of research, gleaning bibliographical and biographical information about poets from a range of online sources (particularly the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the English Short Title Catalogue, and Eighteenth-Century Collections Online).  Although not able to complete the full roster of poets in the time funded by the grant, she did complete approximately half of them—an impressive one poet an hour.

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I am confident that as with our work in the summer after her sophomore year, this experience will stand Mary in good stead as she looks ahead to graduate study in English or an allied field.  While Mary was in the digital archive researching eighteenth-century poets, our digital humanities postdoc Patrick Belk took the lead on organizing the data in a way that would be not only useful but publicly accessible, building a Drupal database to hold the data stored in our spreadsheets.

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This database is accessible at http://dh.dickinson.edu/18cpc/.

            Thanks to Patrick and Mary, my goal of documenting, visualizing, and analyzing networks of print and patronage for eighteenth-century poetry has moved significantly closer to realization—with the unexpected benefit that thanks to Dr. Belk’s implementation of Drupal the project, while still in progress, is available to me and other researchers online.

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With that said, further research work and technical tinkering remain to be done.  My current timetable is as follows: this semester, Dr. Belk will smooth out the remaining problems with our data, not all of which imported successfully from our Excel spreadsheets into the online database.  Over the summer, I will finish entering the biographical and bibliographical data from the 60 or so poets who remain undocumented.  By the end of summer 2015, Eighteenth-Century Poets Connect will be complete as a publicly accessible online database documenting the poetic culture of Britain in the 1730s.  In the fall of 2015, Dr. Belk and I will work together to find the visualizations and other tools of analysis that make this data most useful, and it will be the work of the following year, 2015-16, for me to write an article for peer-reviewed publication discussing my findings.

Jacob Sider Jost

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