Thoreau bust comes to the web in 3D

Mark Gallagher, doctoral candidate in English at UCLA, Research and Instructional Technology Consultant at the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities, and editor of the Thoreau Society Bulletin collaborated with Tom Hersey, who teaches writing at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, to produce this 3D photogrammetric reconstruction of Walton Ricketson’s 1898 bust of Thoreau, based on the original at the Thoreau Institute Library of the Walden Woods Project.

If the model doesn’t show up for you below, you can go to it directly on Sketchfab here. Click the “play” button, zoom to fullscreen, and rotate the image for a full experience of Ricketson’s sculpture — or as full an experience as you’ll get without a trip to the Thoreau Institute Library itself (recommended).

If you have a VR headset or Google’s cardboard VR viewer, you can also see the bust in virtual reality.

200th Birthday Gift to Readers: “Walking”

Happy 200th Birthday, Henry David Thoreau! In your honor, we’ve added a new text to The Readers’ Thoreau, Digital Thoreau’s platform for reading Thoreau socially.

The text is “Walking,” one of Thoreau’s most popular essays, published in 1862.

As our “Note on the Text” explains,

On April 23, 1851, Thoreau “tried out a new lecture, entitled ‘The Wild,’ on the Concord Lyceum and on May 31 repeated it in Worcester. It was to become one of his favorite lectures, one that he repeated many times, working it over and adding to it each time until eventually it became large enough to break into two, the new part entitled “Walking.” Because he knew the market for it would vanish once it reached print, he was careful not to have either part published in his lifetime. But just before his death, he put the two back together again and sold the essay to the Atlantic Monthly where it was published in the issue of June 1862 . . .” (Walter Harding, The Days of Henry Thoreau, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962: 286).

Start reading “Walking” now or register an account on the main site and join the public group “General Discussion” to start a conversation in the margin.

Students at Duke Kunshan University Use Readers’ Thoreau As They Analyze Thoreau Across Cultures

This spring, about two dozen students in two sections at Duke Kunshan University in Kunshan, China are taking “Walden International: Analyzing Thoreau Across Cultures” from Patrick Morgan, a Ph.D. candidate and Graduate Instructor in English at Duke University and a graduate of SUNY Geneseo (English, Geological Sciences, 2010).

Morgan’s Kunshan students are discussing Walden in the margins of Thoreau’s work at The Readers’ Thoreau, the online community of Digital Thoreau.

Campus of Duke Kunshan University
Duke Kunshan University

The students are also “analyzing [Thoreau’s] writings from an international perspective, focusing primarily on his engagement with Asian thought,” according to Morgan’s syllabus, asking how Thoreau “‘package[s]’ ancient Asian philosophies in order to comment on nineteenth-century American culture” and what “cultural forces and contexts … allow scholars like Lin Yutang to claim Thoreau as ‘the most Chinese of all American authors.'”

In addition to meeting with Morgan for 300 minutes each week in class and exchanging ideas online in the margins of Walden, the Kunshan University students are taking a digital field trip to Walden Pond thanks to a website Morgan has created that links passages of Thoreau’s text to YouTube videos he made in which he reads aloud from Walden while capturing the pond’s sights and sounds.

Morgan has been active in Thoreau studies since his undergraduate days at Geneseo, where he presented on “Thoreau’s Bedrock: Emerson’s Influence and the Geomorphological Significance of Emerson’s Cliff, Concord, Massachusetts” for Geneseo’s day celebrating undergraduate research, GREAT Day, in 2010. That same year, his article on “Aesthetic Inflections: Thoreau, Gender, and Geology” appeared in the Thoreau Society’s scholarly annual, The Concord Saunterer. In 2015, Morgan participated in an NEH summer institute for college instructors on “Transcendentalism and Reform in the Age of Emerson, Thoreau, and Fuller” conducted in Concord by a roster of scholars that included Sandra Harbert Petrulionis, Phyllis Cole, Jayne Gordon, Robert Gross, John Matteson, Wesley T. Mott, and former Geneseo Harding lecturers Laura Dassow Walls, Megan Marshall, and Joel Myerson.

In addition to his studies and teaching at Duke University, Morgan serves as an editorial assistant at the scholarly journal American Literature, published by Duke University Press.

Life in the Digital Woods: Walden, A Fluid Text Updated

[See our update post on the Milne Library blog too!]

A Recap: What is Walden: A Fluid Text?

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.50.31 AMOur Fluid Text edition of Walden gathers eight years and seven versions of the American masterpiece using the Versioning Machine tool and Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) mark-up. Want the modern edit of the masterpiece?– we also have the 1971 Princeton University Press edition, reproduced with permission. Readers can see the definitive version foremost (with or without our notes, easily toggled off for a clean read), and then view the older workings of the novel. Easily presented side-by-side, readers can wade time’s river in order to view the evolution of Walden as Thoreau honed it over the years. We’ve encoded the textual changes down to the word based on the scholarship of Ron Clapper. A simple click on the text will highlight the cross-edition variations; all the grunt work has been done for the fascinated student of Thoreau, and now further opportunities for scholarship are available with this publicly available text. Coders, too, can step behind-the-screen to see our TEI mark-up and XSLT. The Fluid Text edition of Walden takes the confident and singular challenge Thoreau gave us long ago even further through the field of digital humanities, and studies of encoding and authorial evolution:

It is not all books that are as dull as their readers . .  .

The Upgrade

With the release of the newly updated Walden: A Fluid Text comes plenty of detail, and quite a few major features. SUNY Geneseo’s Fluid Text team has worked primarily to clean up and edit the text, and to work on a new face for the project. Various bugs and textual errors reported by ours users have been amended, and we used this data to forecast how we wanted to improve the webpage for this update, and this is what we’ve done.

Our Walden: A Fluid Text Data Dictionary has been updated, so now TEI experts and novices alike can view the substratum of encoding mark-up–  the usage of TEI elements and attributes, as well as definitions and further usage tips. On a similar note for coders and the curious, our XSLT source code is now available [zip, tar.gz].

Support for Thoreau’s journal notes (added by Dr. Paul Schacht’s “Literature and Literary Study in a Digital Age” course students) are now available in our work as Notes studded throughout the text. These journal notes were the earliest conceptions of many famous thoughts and passages found in Walden, jotted down by Thoreau years in advance. If you want to take a look at the student work and how this was done through scholarship and various coding methods for this semester-long undertaking, head over here.

In our polishing, we’ve also overhauled the graphical qualities of Walden: A Fluid Text. Stylistic textual rendering has been tweaked, and the distinctive tables in Economy, the inaugural and often mathematical chapter, are reformatted for easier understanding. Currently, individual columns in the versioning machine layout can now scroll independently of each other as well, so that reader’s can compare different sections of Walden at once.

What’s Next

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 11.47.34 AMOur Fluid Text, as the name suggests, is always changing, and we have many more features in mind. In keeping with the possibilities of digital tools, and TEI in particular, we have a planned revamp of the website interface to gild our look with a simplicity inspired by Walden itself. Dr. Paul Schacht plans on involving students in this project through further work in his Digital Studies course. A new users manual is planned to accompany the new look. Special attention will also be paid to accessibility on tablet screens, for scholars who want to read Thoreau in the library and woods alike.

No wonder that Alexander carried the Illiad with him on his expeditions in a precious casket. A written word is the choicest of relics . . . 

 

Open for Business – Fluid Text “Walden” and The Readers’ Thoreau

Today, we’re thrilled to announce that two of our projects at Digital Thoreau — Walden: A Fluid Text Edition and The Readers’ Thoreau — are ready to use.

Walden: A Fluid Text Edition enables readers to track Henry David Thoreau’s revisions to Walden across the seven manuscript versions he composed between 1846 and 1854.  

To create it, we’ve taken the critical apparatus of the manuscript versions first prepared by Ronald E. Clapper in his 1967 Ph.D. dissertation The Development of Walden: A Genetic Text and encoded it in TEI. When displayed in the Versioning Machine, open-source software first developed under the editorship of Susan Schreibman, our TEI makes it possible to compare any of the seven versions with any other or with the base text, the Princeton University Press edition of Walden. To produce our fluid-text Walden, we worked closely with Prof. Clapper; Elizabeth Witherell, editor-in-chief of Princeton’s The Works of Henry D. Thoreau; and Syd Bauman, XML Programmer-Analyst at Northeastern University Libraries. We gratefully acknowledge their assistance and the cooperation of Princeton University Press.

The Readers’ Thoreau embeds the published version of Walden in a social network, making it possible for readers to form groups to discuss Thoreau’s classic in the margins of the text and in discussion forums. Funded largely by a State University of New York Innovative Instruction Technology Grant, The Readers’ Thoreau is built entirely with open-source tools and has resulted in improvements to those tools that will benefit everyone who uses them. The social network is provided by Commons In A Box, a WordPress plugin developed at City University of New York, and the in-text social reading capability comes from another plugin, CommentPress. The current lead developer of CommentPress, Christian Wach, has written new code that tightens the integration between the two plugins and adds many new affordances to the CommentPress interface, including more granular visibility settings, the ability to “like” and feature comments,  and the ability to let selected users enrich their comments with media. Readers will be able to filter the comments that are visible to them so that they see only those they care about. In addition, all readers will be able to follow discussion among a “panel of experts” — readers whose knowledge of Thoreau gives their contributions to the discussion added interest and value. We’ve seeded these expert comments with the late Thoreau scholar Walter Harding’s annotations to his 1995 edition of Walden.

We have a third, ongoing project at Digital Thoreau: The Days of Walter Harding, Thoreau Scholar. The Days is an effort by undergraduate digital humanists at SUNY Geneseo to explore the life and work of a pre-eminent Thoreauvian who helped to found the Thoreau Society in 1941, produced numerous scholarly books and articles on his subject — including the influential biography The Days of Henry Thoreau (1965) — and taught at Geneseo from 1956 to 1982, where he achieved the ranks of SUNY Distinguished Professor and University Professor. Using the open-source archiving platform Omeka, Geneseo students are digitizing materials from Harding’s vast trove of Thoreauviana and organizing them into online exhibits.

We’re excited about all three of these projects. We hope you’ll visit them here and send us your feedback.