The Bengal Annual: A Digital Exploration of Non-Canonical British Romantic Literature

Our Process and Research Challenges

Because Digital Humanities projects are never done ("Published Yet Never Done" Brown, et al), there was always going to be an artificial conclusion to this project on The Bengal Annual. Four of the five graduate students involved had never engaged in any sort of Digital Humanities or collaborative educational project before we began in January 2019. We navigated not only canonical literary texts, but also non-canonical literary texts while investigating print culture, colonialism, and British Empire -- almost everything new to everyone. We kept a running list of research questions (Google Docs) as we met each week, some of which are answered with this project, while others wait for other intrepid and curious literary scholars to take them up. 

What follows are their thoughts about the project, digital tools, and what they left undone at the end of Spring 2019.


This project has given me a unique sort of access to the literature that we are studying. For example, through the use of the tool, I was able to annotate and commentate in a more direct and efficient way. I also felt like it made the text a little bit more accessible to the user. This is just one of the many different aspects that this project has created a unique breadth in research and criticism. The other key aspect about the project is that it allows for areas of research to remain unexplored, providing opportunities for future researchers to enter into different areas that our team may not have had time to study. The greatest challenge that I found was finding the ability to navigate the vast sea called Digital Humanities. There are virtually infinite ways to display and engage with our findings, that I think it was difficult to decide how we were going to tackle the beast. --KG


Having never done a digital humanities project before, I was full of anticipation. However, this type of project allows one to tap into skills they never thought could be useful for research. I was very excited to build a research server on Discord for our team, and the ability to categorize conversations into sections and pin Google Docs kept us from losing important information. It was so exciting to use a tool that I use for gaming and talking about TV shows for an academic purpose. Another useful component of DH projects is their ability to be useful to other groups of researchers. As a graduate student, most papers are shared between the student and professor, and never discussed again. However, knowing that this research will help other students and researchers gives meaning to the hard work we've done! 


This project was a unique experience as it was a new form of research that I never really had done before. One of things I believe was the most frustrating about this project was the image that it would take. Due to it being a team project, it was very easy to get a lot of ideas and throw them in together but then the issue with that was trying to find a consensus in how it would look visually all together. Once it was decided the project became clearer in what we would do and give to it. The project has also helped me in approaching research and recollecting on it in new ways by looking at resources I would have otherwise not have looked at for my research. Specifically, it made me realize the skills and tools needed to do such a project. Having knowledge and experience in using tools like and knowing how Scalar works are vital to doing a Digital Humanities. I was reluctant to use at first but after getting familiar with it I found it incredibly useful for the type of work I was doing as it allowed me to display the texts from the readings and contain annotations with it while making it visually appealing. With Scalar, I wish I had more time to get familiar with it as a Digital Humanities Project all hinges on the online engine used to create it. What I will probably take most from this Digital Humanities Project is how I will approach research as working with my team I learned the importance of the statistical evidence because I often overlook the numbers in my research when it serves as the physical proof where a thesis can stem from. 


Having never worked on a digital project before, I was initially overwhelmed by the prospect of completing a website for a collaborative project for Dr. Katherine Harris’s British Romantics course. However, after laying out the framework of the project, tackling multiple planning meetings with my team, and getting a feel for utilizing Scalar and the tool to annotate my findings, I was able to apply my knowledge of traditional research methods in order to contribute my knowledge to a project that allowed our findings and analysis to be shared on a public platform. For me, it was difficult to hone in my ideas for the time frame we were given, and for that, there were avenues in my own research that I regretfully left unexplored; in trying to learn how to navigate the vast world and tools of the Digital Humanities, I was not able to apply as much critical thinking to The Bengal Annual as it rightfully deserved. Overall, this project was a joy to engage in, as it allowed me to explore ideas and concepts related to Romantic literature that I might never have been able to delve into had I not been introduced to the idea of the “Bigger 6.”

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