Woolf Online Is Up!

Posted on: February 20th, 2014 by Matthew Clarke

Loyola University Chicago is pleased to announce the creation of Woolf Online, a digital archive of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse. Based at Loyola’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities, the site expands a pilot project devoted to the novel’s “Time Passes” section, which was begun by the late Dr. Julia Briggs, of De Montfort University, in 2008. In its new instantiation, Woolf Online offers users access to an array of materials relating to the novel in its entirety—including typescripts, proofs, revisions, editions, collations, diary entries, and letters—while also providing a selection of advanced digital tools meant to enrich their examination.

Exemplifying interdisciplinary collaboration, Woolf Online is the product of years of Leverhulme Trust- and NEH-funded work between scholars in different departments at Loyola and elsewhere. Directed by Dr. Peter Shillingsburg, the site includes among its co-editors Drs. Pamela Caughie of Loyola and Mark Hussey of Pace University, who together were co-principal investigators on the project’s NEH grant, as well as Dr. George Thiruvathukal, of Loyola’s Computer Science Department, and Marilyn Deegan, of King’s College London. Dr. Nick Hayward is the site’s Technical Development Officer and the creator of all of Woolf Online’s programs, tools, and interfaces.

The site digitizes the five first editions of Woolf’s novel, as well as images and transcripts of previously difficult-to-access proofs and manuscripts, like Woolf’s original draft of To the Lighthouse, which is currently housed in the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection. Woolf Online also offers a number of valuable tools: search functions make the entire site searchable, while a magnifying tool renders texts larger and more readable, and scroll-over features allow users access to overlaid textual transcriptions of each line of primary documents, enabling readers to interpret Woolf’s often cryptic handwriting without having to open any new pages. Contextual materials—including letters and diary entries in which Woolf refers to the novel, and even essays penned among the pages of the Berg draft—are supplemented by resources ranging from images of Talland House and the Stephen family, to a timeline documenting the novel’s creation, to scholarly essays applying such contexts to the novel’s interpretation.

According to Dr. Caughie, the structure of the archive as well as the materials chosen to be included in it were meant to ensure that “our hands as editors [were] very light.” By gathering together documents without affixing explanatory or interpretive notes, the creators hoped to produce a “democratic” archive that would allow users to develop their own interpretations of the novel and draw their own connections between the documents comprising and surrounding it. Future additions to the archive will extend this aim: according to Caughie, a collation tool is “in the final stages” and will “make it easier to make collations of the editions.” Woolf Online’s editors also hope soon to invite essays on the novel by users of the site.

Woolf Online represents only the most recent expression of Loyola’s vibrant engagement with textual studies and the digital humanities, evidencing the English Department’s commitment to cutting-edge, interdisciplinary, and international scholarship. Projects like Woolf Online continue to depend on Loyola’s institutional support: Loyola’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities will sustain the site, and a large aggregator, the Modernist Networks project, is due to appear soon, further extending Loyola’s collaborative role in digital humanities research at the international level.

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