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Announcements Faculty & Staff Research

Melanie Walsh Receives NEH DH Advancement Grant

Congratulations to iSchool Professor and Textual Studies faculty Melanie Walsh, who has received a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities!

Walsh is a co-project director with Matthew Wilkens and David Mimno from the Department of Information Science at Cornell University. Their project, “BERT for Humanists,” will develop case studies about and professional development workshops on the use of BERT (bidirectional encoder representations from transformers) for humanities scholars and students interested in large-scale text analysis.

We asked Walsh to tell us a little more about BERT, and how AI and machine reading are and will be pertinent for literary and humanistic study. She kindly provided us with the following response.


Large language models (LLMs) like Google’s BERT and OpenAI’s GPT-3 can now generate text, answer questions, summarize documents, and translate between languages—both human and programming—with levels of accuracy and quality that have never been seen before. Most recently, in November 2022, OpenAI released a chatbot called ChatGPT, built on the slightly revised GPT-3.5 model, which launched the impressive capabilities and concerning limitations of LLMs into the public eye like no model had before. 

The BERT for Humanists project, which received an NEH Level I Digital Humanities Advancement Grant in 2021 and an NEH Level III Digital Humanities Advancement Grant in 2023, seeks to make LLMs accessible to humanities scholars so that they can better use, understand, and critique them. The project explores how these technologies, which have revolutionized the field of natural language processing (NLP), might be applied to humanistic text collections and enable scholars to answer humanistic research questions. For example, LLMs can potentially be used to trace how literary genres change over time, analyze how fictional characters interact with each other, or identify and track migration patterns from the locations mentioned in historical documents. 

However, there are serious barriers to humanities scholars adopting these technologies in their work and other challenges and concerns. The texts that we study in the humanities are often trickier and more complex than the texts used and studied in NLP contexts — humanistic texts are typically longer, more archaic, and more ambiguous — and NLP tools are not typically designed with humanities scholars’ skillsets or use cases in mind. Plus there are many other ethical, social, and legal questions that have been raised by these models, such as their well-documented biases or their potential to harm living people. For example, LLMs are “trained” on billions of texts and images scraped from the web, which includes the works of living artists and writers, who are not notified, credited, or compensated for their work. These technologies may consequently harm, exploit, and displace living artists. The BERT for Humanists project thus seeks to bridge the technical gap between LLMs and the humanities, but also to inform and empower humanities scholars so that they can appropriately critique these models and fully understand their flaws and limitations.  

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Announcements Research Students

Annual UW Undergraduate Research Symposium

Submissions are now being accepted for the Annual UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, which will take place on Friday, May 19, 2023

To present your work at this event, you must submit an application by Friday, February 12, 2023. The application and information about the Symposium may be found on the Undergraduate Research Program’s Symposium Page. The Symposium is a celebration of undergraduate accomplishments in research, scholarship, and creative expression in all academic disciplines, including the performing and visual arts. More information and resources for applicants and presenters, including support for preparing abstracts, are available on the Apply for Symposium Page. Students may email URP at urp@uw.edu with questions about presenting their work.

If you have not yet begun a research experience, attending the Symposium is a great way to learn about how to get involved, identify potential projects and mentors and to support fellow students. Students are also encouraged to volunteer for the Undergraduate Research Symposium and may sign up to volunteer here.

We hope you will consider participating in this year’s celebration of undergraduate research!

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Announcements Faculty & Staff Research

Hannah Frydman wins the Larry Schehr Memorial Award

Crossposted from French & Italian Studies.

At the end of last quarter, Assistant Professor of French Hannah Frydman won the Larry Schehr Memorial Award for the best essay at the Nineteenth-Century French Studies Colloquium by an untenured PhD within the first six years since receiving the degree for her essay, “Confidences épistolaires de la Vénus publique’: Le Figaro’s Petite Correspondance and the Business and Pleasure of Sharing Private Messages in Public.” Professor Frydman also presented her paper as part of a panel on “Women Readers” at the 47th Annual Nineteenth-Century French Studies Colloquium in New York City in November of 2022.

Frydman says the essay came “out of my interest in the history of inexpensive newspaper advertising and the way it allowed ordinary people to communicate privately in public to a variety of different ends.” In working to finish revising her book manuscript, Between the Sheets: Classified Advertising, Sexuality, and the Moral Threat to Press Freedom in France, she realized that there were some things in the pre-history of the story she was telling that she didn’t know.

Research led her to a personal ad column created in 1875 in the daily newspaper Le Figaro called the petite correspondance that was critiqued for facilitating adultery and sexual commerce because it allowed people to correspond anonymously via newspaper (for a fee), rather than having to write directly to someone they should not, but it was also incredibly popular with readers who enjoyed reading strangers’ (supposedly real) private missives. Frydman notes it’s “interesting to try to think about as a precursor to social media and its “own monetization of our making the intimate very public.”

 In her essay, Frydman traces the brief but consequential life of the petites correspondances in order to argue for “its importance in the intertwined history of press and sexuality.”  Frydman shows how they introduced a “form of exhibitionism and voyeurism into the press in the very years that witnessed the buildup of fears about the spread of pornography and the conception of new laws freeing the press.” In this climate she writes “moral critiques led to the closure of the column after a few years, but its monetization of a voyeuristic experience of reading the “real” sexual intrigues of anonymous others was to have a long afterlife.”

 The research for this essay and for her work more broadly is threaded throughout two courses she will be teaching this year, FRENCH 223: Sex, Commerce and the Making of Modern Paris, which explores how sex and commerce together shaped ideas about Paris and the city’s topography, and FRENCH 447: Queer Histories and Fictions, on histories and fictions of non-normative sexuality, which also explores the “business and pleasure” of reading potentially real fictions. For Textual Studies, she will also be teaching core course TXTDS 403: Archives, Data and Databases: Thinking with Archives (offered jointly with FRENCH 435) in Autumn 2023.

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Announcements Research

Upcoming Event in Geospatial Humanities

Join the Textual Studies Program at two events related to geospatial humanities here on the Seattle campus:

Maps as Text and Text as Maps
2:30-4:30 pm, Wednesday, November 2, 2022
University of Washington (Seattle campus), Communications Building CMU 202

Talk by Katie McDonough (Alan Turing Institute) followed by a tutorial with Ludovic Moncla (National Institute of Applied Sciences & LIRIS Laboratory).


Talk: Maps as Humanities Data
Katie McDonough, The Alan Turing Institute, London UK

We’ve had several years to consider what it means to have computational access to 1 million books. But what about maps? With so many images being scanned around the world, researchers can imagine using very large collections of digitized maps as primary sources. How can computational methods and the data they create transform the ways we search for and interpret information from the past? What does it mean to turn images into structured text data? In this talk, I explore how creating humanistic data from maps allows us to pursue creative spatial analysis.

Image showing map and geospatial data from historic French texts

Katie McDonough is a Senior Research Associate on the Living with Machines project at The Alan Turing Institute in London, UK, and, from January 2023, a Lecturer in Digital Humanities in the Department of History at the University of Lancaster. She completed her PhD in History at Stanford University and has held teaching and research positions in the US, Australia, and UK. Katie is a specialist of eighteenth-century France and works broadly on computational spatial approaches to early modern and modern history, including the GEODE project. Most recently, she has been PI of Machines Reading Maps, a transatlantic, interdisciplinary project developing methods to make text on maps useful data for humanities research.


Tutorial: Creating Geospatial Data from Historical Texts in French
Ludovic Moncla, National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA) & LIRIS Laboratory (UMR 5205 CNRS), Lyon, France

In this tutorial, we demonstrate how to use a custom version of the Perdido geoparser python library. Using texts in French from Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie as a case study for querying a corpus and wrangling geoparsed data, you will be able to compare Perdido’s Named Entity Recognition (NER) output to the results of other well-known NER libraries. In addition to the core elements below, we’ll discuss why text and spatial analysis can be difficult, but ultimately very rewarding with historical, non-English languages.

In this tutorial, we will demonstrate how to:

  • Load data from TEI-XML files into a Python dataframe;
  • Use a dataframe for simple data analysis;
  • Test the Perdido Python library for geoparsing (geotagging + geocoding);
  • Display geotagging results;
  • And explore geocoding results on a map.
Page from Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopedie

Ludovic Moncla is an Associate Professor at INSA Lyon since 2018 and is a member of the Data Mining & Machine Learning team at LIRIS Laboratory (UMR 5205 CNRS). He obtained a PhD in Computer Science in 2015 from University of Pau (France) and University of Zaragoza (Spain). His research interests include pluri-disciplinary aspects of Natural Language Processing, information retrieval, data mining, digital humanities and geographical information science. He is currently scientific manager on the interdisciplinary GEODE project (funded by LabEx CNRS ALSAN, 2020-2024) on the development of methods for diachronic study of geographical discourse within French encyclopedias.


Both speakers will be in Seattle for the ACM SIGSPATIAL International Conference on Advances in Geographic Information Systems and the 6th ACM SIGSPATIAL International Workshop on Geospatial Humanities.

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Announcements Research

Call for Submissions: ACM SIGSPATIAL International Workshop on Geospatial Humanities

The 6th ACM SIGSPATIAL International Workshop on Geospatial Humanities will be held in conjunction with ACM SIGSPATIAL 2022 International Conference on Advances in Geographic Information Systems in Seattle, WA in November 2022.

The workshop is concerned with the use of geographic information systems and other spatial technologies in humanities research and seeks to bring together researchers and practitioners from computer science, geographical information sciences, and the humanities. Suggested topics include:

  • Gazetteer development (e.g., models, data conflation, semantic technologies, etc.)
  • Ontologies and linked data for modeling geohistorical data
  • Historical and literary geographical information systems
  • Spatio-temporal network analysis in the humanities
  • Text geo-parsing and other NLP techniques for geographical text analysis
  • Deep learning techniques for the spatial humanities
  • Novel approaches for the analysis of vague and imaginary place
  • Spatial simulation in the humanities (e.g., cellular automata and agent-based models)
  • Spatial and spatio-temporal analysis of humanities data
  • Visualization and cartographic representations
  • Handling vague and imprecise historical spatio-temporal data
  • Creating new spatial datasets from historical materials (maps, aerial photography, postal or other directories, newspapers, etc.) using state-of-the art methods
  • Novel approaches for the analysis of humanistic spatial data at scale
  • Applications of the aforementioned techniques

Submissions are due September 2, 2022. For more information on the workshop, paper formats, and how to submit, see the Call for Papers.

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Announcements Research Students

Recent Publications by Textual Studies Students & Alumni

We recently checked in with our Textual Studies graduate certificate alumni and are pleased to share news of several publications over the past year.

Cover of Frankenstein

Following her work co-organizing the bicentenary of Frankenstein at UW in 2018, Sarah Faulkner (English PhD, 2020) was approached by Flame Tree Publishing (London) in 2020 to write an introduction to their Collector’s Edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. In her introduction, Faulkner highlights the historical and literary context for the novel as well as its multimedia afterlife. She concludes with a new reading of the monster as a touchstone for conversations about sexual violence, the climate crisis, and other current issues. You can find the edition at most bookstores, including the Lake Forest Park Third Place Books.


Cover of George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies

Three Textual Studies students contributed to the most recent volume of George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies (vol. 73, no. 2), published in late 2021, a special issue containing the proceedings from the Middlemarch 150th Anniversary Symposium at the University of Washington.

Nikita Willeford Kastrinos and Francesca Colonnese (English PhD candidates) wrote “Coreading Middlemarch in Pandemic Times: Using Digital Humanities to Build Community at a Distance.” This article, written in the context of remote teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, defines the practice of ‘coreading,’ a collective form of reading that uses Manifold digital annotation tools. In doing so, they explore decentering traditional forms of knowledge production in favor of crowd-sourcing to build connection and community from a distance.

Matthew Poland (English PhD, 2022) contributed the article “Middlemarch in Melbourne,” which examined the underexplored serialization of George Eliot’s Middlemarch in Melbourne’s Australasian newspaper using a global media history approach anchored by a southern-hemispherical perspective. This approach permits the canonical British novel to be recontextualized within the flows of transnational circulation, and decenters Eurocentric forms of thinking about imperial literary culture and realist aesthetics.


Cover of Journal of Victorian Culture

Matthew Poland also wrote “Commemorative Print: Serialized Monuments during the Shakespeare Tercentenary Debates,” published in the Journal of Victorian Culture. The article concerns Victorian debates about how best to commemorate the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s birth in 1864, comparing the success of Staunton’s serialized facsimile of the First Folio and the National Shakespeare Committee’s failed proposal for a Shakespeare statue. Both the statue’s controversy and its potential resolution in Staunton’s Folio are revealed in essays published in the Reader, a short-lived literary weekly. Staunton’s facsimile came to be regarded by the Reader and commentators in other periodicals as the most apposite of tercentenary monuments.


Are you a program alum and have news to share with us? We would love to highlight your accomplishments! Email us at text@uw.edu.

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Research Students

Graduate Certificate Capstone 2022

On June 3, 2022 Francesca Colonnese and Nikita Willeford Kastrinos gave their presentations as part of the capstone for completion of the Graduate Certificate in Textual and Digital Studies.

Christina Rossetti's poem in a newspaper
Rossetti’s poem in the Dallas Daily News
Francesca Colonnese presenting at Capstone event

Francesca Colonnese, PhD student in English, presented “When I am Read: The Temporality of Christina Rossetti in the Newspaper.” Colonnese looked at posthumous reprints of Christina Rossetti’s poem “Song [When I am Dead]” in a number of different American newspapers and examined the temporality of the poem both in its lyrics as well as the experience of reading it, both in its original form in a collection of poems versus its appearance in the dense and chaotic newspaper page. Using TEI text encoding to apply structured metadata to the content, her project, she writes, “explores the spatiality of newspaper pages to ask questions about readerly attention and whether or not the periodical context alters the reader’s temporal experience.” The impact of attention on reading was further emphasized by Colonnese in that she came to this work via the limitations of conducting research remotely during the university’s physical closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nikita Willeford Kastrinos presenting at Capstone

Nikita Willeford Kastrinos, PhD student in English, followed with “Intimate Threads: Text and Textile in the Pages of Pamela.” Kastrinos’ paper explored “the expansive material textuality of Samuel Richardson’s eighteenth-century novel Pamela by investigating the connections between bodies, clothing, and texts present in the novel’s rag pulp paper.” Kastrinos wove together a narrative of the titular character’s garment construction, letter writing, and the sewing together of the two, as well as the extreme popularity of Richardson’s novel leading to its reading and handling by multiple readers, and the role and presence of rag paper production in those readers’ daily lives.

Quote about text by D.F. Mckenzie
Slide from Nikita Willeford Kastrinos’ presentation

Congratulations to our 2022 graduate certificate recipients and thank you to those who attended the event to support!

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Announcements Faculty & Staff Research

Professor Hannah Frydman Wins Malcolm Bowie Prize

Congratulations to Professor of French Hannah Frydman for her receipt of the Malcolm Bowie Prize from the Society for French Studies!

The Bowie Prize goes to the best article published in the preceding year by an early-career researcher in French Studies. Frydman’s article, “Freedom’s Sex Problem: Classified Advertising, Law, and the Politics of Reading in Third Republic France,” was selected by a panel which included Diana Holmes (University of Leeds, Panel Chair, and Society of French Studies Vice-President), Shirley Jordan (Newcastle University), Judith Miller (NYU), Michael Syrotinski (University of Glasgow, Society of French Studies President), and Downing Thomas (University of Iowa).

The panel describes her article:

Through the lens of newly developed classified advertising, this essay analyses the Third Republic’s effort to police reproduction and sexuality at the expense of the regime’s formal commitment to democratic freedom and expression. The judges found it to be a very fine piece of historical writing, meticulously researched and argued, providing a fascinating window into morality laws of the period and the ways in which they attempted to manage language, alongside an exploration of the complexities this situation brought to the commercial landscape of periodicals. It offers an original and illuminating perspective on sexuality and gender relations in the early decades of the Third Republic.

The article, published in French Historical Studies, is free to access through August 2022 from the Duke University Press.

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Announcements Research Students

2022 Capstone Event for Textual Studies Graduate Certificate

Textual and Digital Studies Capstone Presentations
Friday, June 3, 3-4:30pm
Simpson Center, CMU 202

On June 3, Francesca Colonnese and Nikita Willeford Kastrinos will be giving short presentations as part of the capstone for completion of the Graduate Certificate in Textual and Digital Studies.

The TDS certificate is open to any student enrolled in a graduate program at the UW interested in the history of texts from antiquity to today, including any and all aspects of the creation, publication, editing, reception, circulation, adaptation and materiality of texts. You are especially encouraged to attend if you are interested in the program.

Francesca Colonnese, English
“When I am Read: The Temporality of Christina Rossetti in the Newspaper”

Christina Rossetti’s morbid little poem “Song [When I am Dead]” experienced a second life on the American Newspaper page, being reprinted numerous times in different papers. This eschatological lyric itself evokes temporality and yet what does it mean to alter its medium from printed collection to the densely printed periodical? This project explores the spatiality of newspaper pages to ask questions about readerly attention and whether or not the periodical context alters the reader’s temporal experience.

Nikita Willeford Kastrinos, English
“Intimate Threads: Text and Textile in the Pages of Pamela

This paper explores the expansive material textuality of Samuel Richardson’s eighteenth-century novel Pamela by investigating the connections between bodies, clothing, and texts present in the novel’s rag pulp paper. Recuperating the extensive material literacies of its eighteenth-century readers, this paper argues for a renewed attention to the interactions of text and textile in the novel and the primacy of touch in reading practices of the rag paper period.

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Announcements Research

Call for Submissions to Printing History

The American Printing History Association welcomes submissions for a special issue of its peer-reviewed journal Printing History dedicated to any aspect of printing and related arts across Latin American and Caribbean cultures. The issue will focus on the study of printing history and practices of peoples and cultures related to U.S. Latina/o, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Papers that center the experiences of Indigenous people, Afro-descendants, Hispanic, and Latina/o/x groups are particularly wanted. Scholars, stewards, practitioners, and collectors are encouraged to submit articles, interviews, and book reviews.

Topics may span the pre-colonial era to the present and can include, but are not limited to:

  • printing and publishing in all of its forms from hand bills to newspapers and books
  • the dissemination of printing technology and its allied trades
  • the social, cultural, and political impact of printing and publishing
  • modern developments in the field including digital innovations and the popularization of self-publishing

The deadline for receipt of submissions, which may be in English, Spanish, or Portuguese, is July 17, 2022. All correspondence, articles, book reviews, inquiries, etc., should be directed to publications@printinghistory.org.

PRINTING HISTORY SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

Articles usually range between 2,000 and 8,000 words, but shorter notes are also welcome. Illustration is encouraged. Peer review of submitted articles to Printing History is coordinated by the APHA editorial committee. Writers from all backgrounds are encouraged to submit.
We are readily prepared to receive submissions that are created in the major word processing programs. Images should, ideally, be submitted as six-hundred-pixel-per-inch files in the TIF format. We, in general, follow the guidelines of The Chicago Manual of Style. A style-guide and further information for contributors is attached.