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StoryMaps

This week I had the chance to attend a webinar hosted by the program that I’ve been using as a part of my project; ArcGIS StoryMaps. I went in hoping to get a few tricks of the trade and maybe find a cool new way of displaying the product of this research fellowship, but the webinar provided a totally new perspective on the whole program. I hadn’t really considered all the different ways that the program could be used, instead just thinking about how it was suited to my here and now without considering the future. I definitely have a bad habit of doing that. 

 

However, the webinar, and the projects that it showcased, showed me how StoryMaps (and likely many other programs intended for or that I see as being solely for academic purposes) have as many uses as we choose to give to them. One of the presentations at the webinar was how StoryMaps was being used basically as a website for information to draw people into moving to a city in Minnesota. People discussed a million and one different projects that had been hosted on the StoryMaps server. People have done instructions and tutorials, used it instead of PowerPoint, as art or business portfolios, as a call to action in activist movements, to tell the stories of personal trips. One that I know for sure that I will definitely be using is the idea of using StoryMaps as a multimedia resume.

 

You can display and make accessible pretty much anything on StoryMaps. The opportunities for use of this platform are endless, and I never would’ve considered using it for anything more than this research fellowship and maybe a school project if I hadn’t attended this webinar. This is one of the many things that I have loved about doing this fellowship: the constant learning of new things and the immense amount of transferable skills that this experience has given me.

Too Many Ideas!

A problem I never thought I would have- having TOO many ideas for projects. As I’ve mentioned, I started out this fellowship thinking that I would be tracing the history of the enemies to lovers trope, starting with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Then the pandemic hit and it wasn’t clear if I’d get to do the fellowship at all. Then the fellowship was approved to be done remotely, and I attended the English department’s Pride and Prejudice book club over Zoom and I changed course to a tangentially related research topic. Now it’s week eight (which is wild, it feels like I’ve only been doing this a few days when it’s been two months), and there are far too many irons in this fire. I have a full draft of tracing the enemies to lovers trope, a thirteen page paper that still needs a heck of a lot of editing, and a StoryMap that I want to add more to but I’m not sure how. I’m trying to finish up as much of all of them as possible, but I know I have to cut down. There’s no way I can finish three full projects in ten weeks. At the minute, my plan is to perfect and submit the StoryMap and also make the paper as perfect as possible, and I am on track to do that. Despite this plan, I know that at any minute things could change, the same way they’ve been changing nonstop these last eight weeks. This fellowship has taught me so much about flexibility and the skill that is being willing to change course, go another direction, test another theory, see another side of things. I know that the projects that come out of this are going to be super cool and rewarding, but I think that the most valuable skill that I walk away with will be my new found ability to go with the flow.

Attending the Victorian Popular Fiction Association’s Conference!

This week I got the chance to attend the Victorian Popular Fiction Association’s annual conference, and it has quite genuinely been the highlight of my year. This year it would have been held at the University of Greenwich in London, England, but with the coronavirus having all in-person social functions shut down, there was no way that the conference would be able to take place as planned, especially considering the multi-continental academics who planned to present at/ attend the conference. So, like it seems everyone is these days, the VPFA took to Zoom (or in this case MS Teams). From Tuesday night to Friday afternoon, I was totally absorbed in Victorian narrative; reading people’s papers, watching their pre-recorded lectures, attending online panels, taking furious notes on people’s recommendations for further reading. It’s been the most wonderfully intellectually stimulating blur of a time.

 

I have learned so much about so many things through this opportunity: what neo-victorianism is (and that it is my new favorite thing ever), how to calculate the time difference between British Time and Eastern Standard, that BBC television shows have a lot to say about imperialism, sexism, etc, and how willing academics are to encourage others and expand the field of discussion. I can’t express how incredible this experience has been. To see people from all over the world talk about their research was such a grounding and humbling experience. 

 

For me, this has been one of the few good things to come out of the coronavirus. I never would’ve been able to go to England to attend in person, but because the conference was hosted online I had access, and in the chat at many points other people were discussing how they wouldn’t have been able to make it to the conference this year but because of MS Teams they could attend and contribute. Although I’m sure for some the conference being hosted online was a little disappointing, I thought it was absolutely incredible. The organizers did a fantastic job translating the experience to an online forum and the increased accessibility that it provided could only ever be a good thing.

I <3 Project Gutenberg - Information Accessibility and the Internet

Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is how someone’s access to information can make or break their opportunities. This sounds like an obvious thing to say, but as someone who is immensely privileged in going to an amazing research university like THE Ohio State University, it’s something that I’ve never really had to consider before. I’ve always been able to operate under the assumption that if I need something, whether that be a book, an article, or a librarian to advise me on just what path I should take for a particular research question, all I had to do was strut on down to Thompson Library and I would find it there.

This pandemic has shaken many things up, including that assumption. As I’ve mentioned here before, for a bit I wasn’t sure that I would get to do this fellowship at all. I figured that if I couldn’t access the library, there would be nothing for me. I was so incredibly wrong. I had always known about JSTOR and Project Gutenberg, had gotten some light use out of them for research assignments before, but this research has opened me up to a whole new world of online academia. It turns out that Ohio State’s libraries have loads of their resources available digitally, and with my OSU login I can get access to a surprising amount of articles on JSTOR. Eleven of Charlotte Brame’s works are available for free on Project Gutenberg, which was a surprise to me. I’m profoundly grateful that all these resources are out there, only a few clicks away. My sincerest hope is that these ‘unprecedented times’ provide an incentive for even more universities and academics to start making more articles and books available online. This would be beneficial for situations like this where whether all the libraries are closed, for people who have a hard time getting to libraries in person, or just for convenience’s sake.

Social Distancing and Regency Romances

Up until this project, my understanding of research projects were that they were totally static things. You came into a project with an idea, and you moved through the project with that idea, and it might grow and mature, but ultimately when you came to the end of it, the idea would still be the one you started with. This is most likely because this is the longest I’ve ever worked on one research topic before. I’ve never been allowed to give my ideas room to grow and change. This week is the halfway point of this fellowship, and my project is now totally different from when it started. Initially, I was planning on doing a comprehensive history of the enemies to lovers trope, start to finish. Now, after a Zoom call with Assistant Professor Jamison Kantor (which occurred after hearing him speak at a Pride and Prejudice webinar the first week of this fellowship), my topic is totally different. Now I’m focusing on the idea of social distancing and romance. I think this idea is super cool, especially considering how it will never be as timely as it is right now, in this summer of 2020 when social distancing is pretty much the only option for us. Plus, the ways that you can read the idea of a socially distanced romance are so varied! You could come at it from the perspective of the regency romance, and the strict social rules that governed any and all interactions at the time, or you could take it to the modern day and make it about online dating! This idea is continuing to grow and change even now, and I’m having such a wonderful time seeing how this topic is its own living and breathing thing, growing outward and upward.

Distance Reading as an English Major

This week my main endeavor has been learning to use the tools of the Internet for research purposes, something I thought I was well versed in. I have quickly learned that I was mistaken. There are so many research programs available that I had never heard of, much less used, so this week was dedicated to getting a crash course in all of them. I’m now at least able to work Nvivo as well as getting a start at using Zotero, which is a big accomplishment for me. I was really nervous about using the Nvivo program because the word everyone used to describe what you had to do was ‘coding’. I was envisioning hour after painful hour spent learning coding languages that I’ve heard of for years and always thought of as horrific and intensely difficult. Turns out, coding just means you go through your chosen text and sort quotes into the sections that you’ll later need for your research. Pretty simple, if fairly time consuming and tedious. I’m nearly done with doing this quote sorting for Pride and Prejudice now, and by Monday I should be done, which is super exciting because that means I can start doing the fun stuff, like graphs and charts.  As an English major, you’re trained to be painfully detailed oriented. Close reading sometimes isn’t even the right word. Sometimes you’re coming at every passage with a magnifying glass, questioning the aesthetic and emotional value of every syllable. This distance reading, reading through technology and data points, is uncharted territory for me. Looking at literature like this is something that I have no experience in, which makes me all the more enthusiastic to get started.

Regarding Charlotte Brame

Charlotte M. Brame (Author of Wife in Name Only)

Charlotte Brame (or Braeme, depending on who you ask) is not a name most recognize. If I told you her pseudonym, Bertha M. Clay, you probably wouldn’t have much better luck. I only know who she is out of a serendipitous happenstance, after a trip to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum last December, where Jen showed me some of her work that is housed in Ohio State’s collections. I knew I wanted to include her in my research. Unfortunately, despite being immensely prolific and popular, Brame’s work has largely been lost in the popular consciousness. 

A “writer of mushy love stories for the English lower classes” (Northern Illinois University Libraries), Brame wrote 200 novels. Eleven of those are available for free public consumption on Project Gutenberg (all hail accessible information!). I read five of these novels in pretty quick succession over the course of a week, so at this point I feel pretty well-versed in Brame and all her literary quirks and trademarks. For instance, she was clearly a firm believer in the idea of the narrative foils. In most of the Brame novels I read, there were consistently two women. One blonde, made to suit men, described as fair, good, and kind. The other, a ‘dark’ and passionate beauty, someone fiery. 

A Definitive Ranking of the Five Brame Novels I Read-

1. Love Works Wonders (4 / 5 stars) I loved this one, in no small amount because it was the one I found that fit in with my research. It splits the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope into two different relationships, but uses it pretty clearly!

 

2. Wife in Name Only (3.75 / 5 stars) Something that I really appreciated in Brame’s work was her continuous way of implying that men were easily enchanted and even easier misled. Too often in this period it is more about the woman of the story being naive or foolish and having her purity ripped from her. In this one, the woman has her good name ripped away, but the man’s life is fairly shaken up as well.

 

3. Dora Thorne (3.5 / 5 stars) A fairly classic Brame story and her most popular work, this is a multi-tiered narrative with women being set in opposition in beauty and manner, class getting in the way of love, and a family drama that carries through generations. (SPOILERS!) I felt badly for Lillian, Beatrice’s twin sister who is fair and unassuming, and thusly ignored by literally everyone. Also, at the very end, Charlotte threw in this shining nugget ; “Lillian Dacre never troubled her head about ‘women’s rights;’ she had no idea of trying to fill her husband’s place; if her opinion on voting was asked, the chances were that she would smile and say ‘Lionel manages all those matters’” (209). I talked to Jen about this and she mentioned that this was also a technique Anna Katharine Green used (an early American detective fiction novelist), trying to distance themselves from the New Woman and the suffrage movement. 

 

4. My Mother’s Rival (3 / 5 stars) This one was pretty short, a little underdeveloped. If I told you anything about it, I’d ruin half the story. 

 

5. A Mad Love (2.5 / 5 stars). A swing and a miss from our Charlotte. Here is where Brame shows as being more sexist than I would expect from her, even though her particular brand of sexism is a modern one. If you have spent any time reading fanfiction, or even some romance novels, you’ll be familiar with the ‘Not Like Other Girls’ trope. This is where the male love interest of the female lead (or sometimes the female lead herself) describes the female as being “not like other girls”, implying that they are in some way more special or simply better than other types of girls. Brame actually says this verbatim – “And then he owned to himself that she was not like other girls” (16) – which I found quite funny. 

Go out and read some Brame! The link to her Project Gutenberg page is below. 

SOURCES-

Pride, Prejudice, and Who is Burdened by Change

When it comes to relationships borne of the enemies to lovers trope, one stands above the rest. In every female English major (or at least this one), there is a little girl who fell in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy, who saw herself as Elizabeth Bennet, armed with a book and a smile. The idea for this research project stems from far too many viewings of Pride and Prejudice (2005) and a childhood attachment to the idea that people who miscommunicate, misunderstand, and are tremendously angry with one another, could still end up falling in love. 

 

Austen is known for her careful and complex female characters. The women of her stories are never just a mother figure or a pretty thing to look at. They have depth, personality, quirks and flaws. They grow and change over the course of their stories in ways that many female characters are not given the chance to.  In many ways, I would describe Jane Austen and her writing as a feminist. 

 

One thing that has always bothered me about Pride and Prejudice is the title. Austen initially had planned to publish the book under the title First Impressions. I think that is a perfect title for the story. It covers the source of the conflict – a misunderstanding when Darcy and Elizabeth first meet one another – and doesn’t give too much away. Of course, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as the final title and Austen was really feeling alliteration and opposition in titles in the early 1810s (with Sense and Sensibility in 1811 and Pride and Prejudice in 1813). However, I think that the descriptors pride and prejudice aren’t really reflective of the difference between Darcy and Elizabeth. 

 

To be more clear, I don’t think that Darcy and Elizabeth are really that different at all, and to divide them into two monikers with the connotations that the words pride and prejudice have is to set us up to have assumptions as to who is right and wrong from the jump. Pride, despite being one of the seven deadly sins, isn’t the worst thing you can be called. It is in our vernacular as a positive most of the time, with sayings like “you should be proud of yourself” or calling June ‘pride month’. There is no prejudice month. Prejudiced is never something anyone is encouraged to be. 

 

Anyways, Darcy may be prideful, but why shouldn’t he be? He is tremendously rich and well-landed. He deserves to be proud, to think well of himself. His “large estate in Derbyshire” and “his having ten thousand a year” (12) are allowances not afforded to Lizzie, who is “tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me” (13).

 

Elizabeth and her prejudice, on the other hand, are given no excuse, even when her judgement on Darcy is far better warranted than Darcy’s smugness as to her family. Elizabeth is supposed to be wrong for holding a bad view of Darcy for as long as she does, but for a vast majority of the novel Darcy does nothing to redeem himself from their calamitous first meeting. 

 

My biggest issue with the moral coding of the title is that Elizabeth receives a negative attribute when she behaves much the same way as Darcy does. Darcy is prejudiced against the Bennets because of their social status and their admittedly grievously awkward and inappropriate behavior in social settings. Elizabeth is too proud to consider that she might be wrong about Darcy. Yet Elizabeth is the one who is prejudiced, and Darcy is the one who is proud. This is a classic case of traits that are perceived as negative in the woman being the same ones that are heralded in a man. You’ve heard this story before. When a woman speaks up in a board meeting, she is ‘bossy’, ‘bitchy’, ‘overbearing’. When a man does the same, he’s ‘authoritative’, ‘confident’, ‘assertive’. 

 

In many enemies to lovers narratives, the emotional burden falls on the woman to improve the man or be improved themselves. What does the woman have to improve to become lovable versus the man? In this case, Darcy has to learn to accept that he might not be too good for Elizabeth, despite her embarrassing family. Elizabeth has to forgive Darcy for being actually pretty mean to her on more than one occasion. 

 

Pride and Prejudice— it seems like Elizabeth and Darcy behave the same way, commit the same sin? Why the semantics? Well, because pride is far more unforgivable in a woman than it is in a man. 

 

It may seem like I have a grudge against Darcy. I promise that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Despite that, I do think that the way that women and men are depicted in narrative directly correlates to how women and men feel they should act in the real world. Therefore, semantics aren’t a petty matter. They’re important. 

Pride and Prejudice is a story that so many little girls grow up reading. They should know that they deserve to be the one who is too proud, who thinks themselves too good. Far too often the opposite is true.

 

WORKS CITED:

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics). Penguin, 2011.

 

Research During COVID-19 ~ Changing Plans

Hey! My name is Katherine Watson and I’m an English major in my last semester of my undergraduate degree here at THE Ohio State University. This summer, I’ve undertaken a research fellowship funded by the University Libraries. My focus is the enemies to lovers trope; a classic romance plot where the two romantic leads of a story get into a conflict or miscommunicate in some way, and have to work to come to an understanding to reach their romantic resolution, often changing one or both characters for the better. I’m sure you can think of a dozen instances in modern television, movies, and fiction where this happens. Anne with an E, Ten Things I Hate About You, The Proposal, and the smash hit young adult novel Of Red, White, and Royal Blue all come to mind. For me, the first characters that I think of are Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. With them as a starting point, I plan to go through nineteenth century popular literature and learn more about how writers used and developed this trope, making it into what it is today in 2020. 

 

Something that the coronavirus has made me realize about myself is that I’d been getting into the habit of being far too confident that the future will happen as I plan it. When I first designed this research project, my plans were pretty straightforward. My primary research resources were going to be Ohio State’s immense collection of penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and ladies’ magazines from the nineteenth century. I intended to spend my summer sitting in libraries across campus, getting to look at, hold, and do research with real literary artifacts. Then the pandemic hit. 

 

There were a few weeks where I was certain that this research fellowship wasn’t going to go through at all. As plans solidified and the dust settled from the enormous change that we’ve all found ourselves having to make, one thing was clear. The way I was going to be doing my research was going to have to adapt to the new normal. My incredible advisor, Jennifer Schnabel (hey Jen!), suggested I continue with my thesis as planned, with a few small changes. Obviously I’d have to work remotely, as quarantining and shelter in place orders went in effect across the United States. I would now be making use of the digitized resources that Ohio State and universities everywhere had to offer. 

 

So that’s what I’m doing! Tabs housing Project Gutenberg and JSTOR are now perpetually open on my computer. Google Scholar is my best friend at the moment. Even as much as I use the Internet, as I’ve utilized it for academic work in the past, I had no idea how much was really accessible with just an Internet connection and an Ohio State login. As amazing as it would have been to get to hold these books in my hands, I’m still having an incredible time doing research with the digital materials. I think that this digital component is adding a whole new level to my research- what really is possible when you don’t have immediate access to libraries? How accessible is information? Over the next ten weeks, I’ll be keeping you updated on just that.