We are fortunate this month to have Marc Priewe as a NULab visiting scholar. Marc is the head of American Studies at the University of Stuttgart and the German PI on a recently funded Digging into Data project, “Oceanic Exchanges,” in partnership with Ryan Cordell and an international team of collaborators.
On April 10th Marc gave a fascinating presentation on his work to create a digital archive of American captivity narratives, “Tracing Early American Captivity Narratives.” The talk offered an inside view of the project’s design and research approaches, including some mapping work based on an initial set of narratives. The archive, which is projected to include about 400 texts dating from the 16th through 19th centuries, will offer a machine-readable corpus of captivity texts that will provide data for both automated forms of text analysis and also visualizations and maps. Intriguingly for those interested in text markup, Marc suggested that it might be possible to discern a kind of “grammar” of the captivity narrative genre, based on an analysis of how these texts are shaped around specific types of scenes and narrative features. He also raised some interesting questions about authorship and narrative voice that made me wonder about the possibility of using stylistic analysis to understand more about how these texts were written—many seem to be (explicitly or tacitly) “as told to” or narratively mediated in other ways. In the discussion following Marc’s talk we took a closer look at the maps he showed and talked about what kinds of information from the texts they make visible—at what level of precision, based on what kinds of spatial understanding.
Marc has generously shared his slides, and he will be at Northeastern through the end of April. Thank you, Marc, for a wonderful talk!