Tom Blake

Project Proposal

My English 331: Global Middle Ages course in many ways will develop and expand DH assignments from previous courses. Serving as a global literature requirement for the English major, this course seeks to help students see medieval literature as less exclusively European and/or English and more global and cross-cultural. A core theoretical lens of this course is postcolonial theory, and a digital mapping project would imbue students with the tools to tell stories of international and cross-cultural transmission. Specifically, this course could benefit from a DH tool suited to highlighting through map and story the international journey of narrative.

In the past, I have used WordPress blogs effectively as a way for students to track medieval issues and themes to the modern day blending texts, images, and videos. However, Global Middle Ages presents unique challenges that would benefit from a more spatially and geographically oriented DH platform. Many of the following student learning outcomes below highlight the need for a map-centered DH platform:

English 331 Student Learning Outcomes (DH outcomes in italics):

  • develop an understanding of the importance of medieval literature and its influence on modern society through issues like literary translation, immigration, and travel
  • demonstrate a working knowledge of postcolonial theory and be able to apply it to medieval studies
  • design and edit a StoryMap which sheds new light on the international and cross-cultural scope of a medieval narrative
  • integrate text, image, video, and hyperlink to enhance and more effectively convey the global nature of medieval literature
  • validate the study of medieval literature by making it accessible to a larger audience and emphasizing its global reach
  • situate one’s research project in the larger fields of literary studies, postcolonial studies, medieval studies, and digital humanities scholarship

When I teach Global Middle Ages in the Fall of 2016, I will use the Mellon Grant to highlight the confluence of medieval narrative and global scope with Story Maps. Story Maps is a DH platform that deploys maps as the nuclei of narratives. Recently, medieval scholars have utilized DH mapping programs to emphasize topics like racial diversity in medieval Europe, geographical difference, and medieval climatology in medieval conceptions of the world (ex: Arab maps of the West @ ; England’s Immigrants 1330-1500 project @ ; Mandevillian Map @ Junior and senior English majors will choose, research and map out a core medieval narrative, tracing the narrative from its original sources across national and linguistic boundaries through manuscript transmission and narrative clusters or “constellations.”

Selected volunteers from this class would ideally present their mapping projects at the Austin College Scholarship Conference in Spring of 2017. I will use the grant to continue my education in DH as I teach this course biennially and many other courses that will benefit from further immersion in digital pedagogies. Furthermore, I will gather feedback to improve DH mapping assignments and look forward to sharing successes and failures in avenues like Johnson Center lunches or faculty panels.