Demo Timeline: Evelina


Have you used Timeline JS to recreate a novel with enriched digital resources? I am testing what this might look like in an epistolary context, using Frances Burney’s EvelinaBy sharing the google sheet on which the timeline is based, students could be assigned letters or chapters to add–some things I’ve discovered so far are that you can add entries in the timeline to groups, useful for visualizing the epistolary network, and you can also use simple numbers instead of dates in the year category–by doing that, coupled with providing a “display date” that can be a text string, one can create a non-date-specific timeline, useful for a novel.

Things to consider: how and when to paraphrase or excerpt a representative quote from the letter, identifying what makes a relevant media resource, how to cite and caption it, using groups (how many can be used?), how best to use the date/display date tools, what is the “type” feature.

Major Women Writers: London, Chawton, Bath

Next week my upper-division writing intensive literature class on women writers before Austen is going to the UK for an extended Spring Break field trip. We’ll be spending the first few days in London, with a day trip to Strawberry Hill (I know, I know… I just couldn’t help myself!); then we’re off to Chawton; and last but by no means least, two days in Bath. Among the many fun things we’re doing are a letterpress and early printing workshop at the St. Bride Foundation, and a visit to the Chawton House Library, both of which I’m particularly eager about. This is a group of non-majors, for the most part, finishing their core requirements, and that is in many ways a boon–we are more beholden to finding interesting ways to engage the material, and one of the things I’ve tried to do is incorporate more elements of material culture, which is perfect for a study abroad opportunity.

By this point in the term, students have discussed coterie manuscript writing (and we’ve learned how to letterlock!), amatory fiction, and the domestic novel, and they’ve also had the chance to see a few 18th century conduct books. Our special collections just received a grant to purchase some more books, and we added Nivelon’s Rudiments of Genteel Behavior and Allestree’s The Lady’s Calling, in addition to a few other wonderful materials. Everyone should have read a few poems, in addition to Behn’s “History of the Nun” and two works by Haywood, “Fantomina” and Love in Excess. We also read excerpts from Amanda Vickery’s The Gentleman’s Daughter in conjunction with (substantial!) excerpts from Burney’s Evelina. This week, we’ll be reading Austen’s Lady Susan during our travels! After our return, we’ll have some drama by Burney and Behn as well as some more poetry and a bit of Wollstonecraft and Astell on marriage to round out the term.

Publicity Flyer for EN340GC SP17

@AustenSays twitter bot

With the help of Zach Whalen’s extraordinarily clear instructions, I set up my first twitter bot, @austensays, which tweets out a single sentence (provided it’s 140 or fewer characters) from Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park. I was teaching the novel last term, and while this started out as a form of procrastination, it actually turned out to offer some interesting insights about tone, style, and voice.

I procured a copy of Mansfield Park from Project Gutenberg, and then ran some regular expressions to separate it out into individual sentences–I looked for the ends of sentences, as indicated by periods, and then added a line break after each. This I could then copy directly into a google spreadsheet, which was much simpler than I’d anticipated, as each paragraph became its own row in the spreadsheet. The data preparation I did does not register exclamation points or question marks as line breaks–more robust regular expression searches would help me do this, and look for capital letters after such punctuation, but for the time being I chose to simplify this way. If you’re curious about the data, here is the spreadsheet.

What I was surprised by the way that genre of “the twitter post,” with all its restrictions, proved perfect to capture the sense of distance, even isolation, in much of the novel. It also offers an opportunity for readers to see, in a microcosmic way, how Austen’s irony works. For instance:

Many of these tweets, for instance, exemplify the use of passive voice, and the fraught simplicity of the verb “to be.” The broad sparseness of the sentence structure employed injects an element of loneliness in the language, which is embodied in Fanny’s experience. Other patterns we might notice include the use of the comma to balance, in a strangely imbalanced way, sentences like these:

It is as though you can hear the pause of a sigh in each comma. With more refined data, I wonder what else this kind of algorithmic reading can reveal? Ultimately, then, this was not quite as much about procrastination as I might have initially thought. 🙂

Mary Toft Lives

Our final show just wrapped! This summer, I’ve been working with the amazingly talented Jon Gann to produce a Capital Fringe 2016 show on the famous “Rabbit Woman of Godalming,” who gave birth to a series of rabbits–in parts–over the course of a few months in 1726. It was a song cycle, each song in which was composed by a DC-area composer/songwriter, and then as a whole orchestrated by a brilliant friend of mine, Stephen Lilly, and the band he plays in–These Quiet Colours–lent their talents as the house band, The Bloody Bunnies. Craig Houk directed our four performers: Rachel Jones, Colin Brown, Christopher E. Robin, and Grant Collins. We rehearsed at Marymount University, where I’m sure we more than turned a few heads in the library!

Rachel was spectacular as Mary–here she is feeling very uncomfortable with her husband, Joshua Toft’s plans:

Here is Nathaniel St. Andre working it, as he sells his story:

We were extraordinarily lucky to receive two stand-out reviews, one by DC Theatre Scene and one by DC Metro Theater Arts, who described it as

a tale that is not only compelling in its own right, but, as we are reminded in the program notes, resonates forcefully today with its emphasis on “spin, celebrity, and agenda.”

You can read more about the performance at the website, and watch a mini- music video below), created by Pete Duvall and Tim Tate, featuring These Quiet Colours performing The Mauls’ song, “Media Madness.” The video was edited together for sound by the talented Steve Wanna.

Here is the program, and you can now view the whole show (and see more pictures!) at

Learning over Lunch: Use Microsoft Word Like a Pro

This afternoon, I’m doing a brown-bag workshop for students at Marymount about using Microsoft Word more effectively, sponsored by the First Year Experience office. I will be going over how to use spell/grammar/style check advanced features, how to use find/replace for revision, formatting details that always stump people, and differences between full/simplified Word and google docs–among a few other things.

Here are my  notes for the session:

Here is a sample document, unformatted, in google docs for use in the session: