Final Project

UPDATE 10/4/17: For inspiration, see also this group of DH projects

All students are required to discuss this with me early in the semester.  I will set up an appointment schedule. Se e syllabus for due dates.

The final project can either be a seminar paper or a digital humanities project (possibly collaborative) dealing explicitly with some aspect of the history of the novel in the long eighteenth century.  Either way, make it a strategic choice; do not choose the course of least resistance.  See this article on deciding which medium is right for you.

A seminar paper consists of a twenty-page (or so) original interpretive argument.  It should explicitly situate your thesis in terms of the larger scholarly debate on the issues and include up-to-date scholarship, whether on the novel generally or your specific author(s) and work(s).  It should be contextualized historically, but you are not limited to works covered in class.  I will supply more detailed instructions, especially if this genre of writing is new to you.

This form of highly focused, linear exegesis is ideal if you hope to eventually present this work at a conference, turn it into an article, or see it as a possible dissertation chapter.  This may apply even you do not plan to specialize in the eighteenth century, if you choose a theory, method or topic related to your interests.  For example, students in the past focusing on early modern religion have written papers on religious representation in the eighteenth century, which helped them understand religious studies more broadly (ditto print culture studies). A nineteenth-century student might chose to focus on Jane Austen and domestic femininity or Thelwal and Romantic abolitionism.  Some students just feel like they need more practice writing in this longer, critical mode that will be so important as they move forward.  However, if writing a paper will not help your future endeavors, consider sharpening your digital skills with a project.

Examples of paper topics :

  • The function of homosocial desire (or commodity culture, or technology, or X) in the construction of subjectivity in Evelina
  • Robinson Crusoe and Daughter of Adoption as purveyors of racialized nationalist values in a global economy
  • Education and class mobility in X
  • The novel in print culture (a study of a specific bookseller; the effects of copyright law; title pages; marketing strategies, etc)

A digital humanities project can take an almost infinite number of forms, although in line with its media it focuses more on making connections, representing information visually (eg, illustrations, title pages, maps, graphs), sharing or teaching, forming collections or archives, editing unavailable texts, providing contexts or linked annotations.  A DH project does not necessarily require advanced technical skill or expensive software, although the Wayne State WRT Zone has some limited software.  The subject can be wide-ranging or tightly focused; either way, collaborating is highly encouraged: it will allow you to share skill sets and research, and minimize the individual time investment. (By the way, undergraduates are often much better about collaborating than grad students, with remarkable results!  See the undergrad sites below.)  If you are worried about competing schedules, remember that you can meet after class and/or virtually.

Why DH? It gives you practice in the latest techniques in scholarship and research; it can be helpful on the PhD job market; it providers useful skills when pursuing an alt-ac career; and it is a form of public humanities, a way of sharing research with the public that is becoming more necessary everyday as we defend our scholarly and pedagogical endeavors.


  • Publish an online edition of an unpublished novel or historical works relating to the novel, including an introduction that discusses the editorial choices you made and why you made them.  (Make sure you choose a book in the public domain)
  • Create a collection of works or objects using Omeka (or other site) that helps contextualize one or several novels.
  • Map the geography in a novel or of the book trade in novels
  • Use a text mining tool such as Voyeur to reveal interesting things about language use:  Here is an historian’s take on text mining:
  • Write a Wikipedia article (or series) on an issue related to a writer or novel–there are definitely still gaps (some mostly outdated links here)
  • Submit an article to the public humanities site 18th-Century Common
  • Create and interactive text from an C18 novel with Twine or other platform
  • Create a timeline for the novel/period with Timeline JS, Dipity, or other app
  • Make an educational resource: think about your audience, and what they need to know.  Will you supply historical background? Images? Explanations? Teaching ideas? Who is your audience? Children? College students? Teachers?
  • Develop an interpretive guide:  This is the most like a paper, but you need to think more about your audience and purpose.  Who will read this and why?  This website might have a thesis and supporting evidence like a paper, but it would be divided into linked sections and include images.
  • Produce a creative project: rewrite/remake one of our novels in another genre or medium (only for students on the CW track)
  • Choose the right tool to use at Bamboo DIRT (review at ProfHacker)

I will supply more details on proposals, elements to include, etc.

Below you can see examples of WSU student projects.  Please feel free to comment here with questions or ideas.

Best projects by students in past courses:

1. ENG 7021: The Eighteenth Century Media Matrix (Fall 10, 13)

Looking East: Adventures in the Ottoman Empire by Melanie Zynel and Nabilah Khachab
“This project was designed to translate Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters into a twenty-first-century experience, as if Lady Mary existed today and was sharing her travel experiences with her friends and family (and the world). ” You can follow Lady Mary on Twitter, too.

George Huddesford’s Warley: A Satire by S.P. Cooper
The only publicly available electronic edition of the poem that unmasked Frances Burney as ‘The Authoress of Evelina.’

Eighteenth Century Clothing and Literature by Kristen Mrozek
“The purpose of this site is to connect works of 18th century literature to their historical fashion. …This visual representation can help students as well as researchers to better understand the clothing of their characters, as well as the social context. This site is especially useful for 18th century reenactors looking to base their costume on literary and visual sources, even if they have no prior experience with these texts.”

World of the Dunciad by Donald Naggie
“The purpose of this site is to provide a user friendly version of the Dunciad.  It is a selectively annotated version of Pope’s 1728 Dunciad in Four Books … [that]centers mostly on the historical places and personages that in a Dantesque fashion crowd its pages.  There are also some general explanatory notes and references to classical sources.”

The Beaux’ Stratagem: A Play Guide by Kristi Banks
“[This] play guide to accompany George Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem. . .offers a collection of information and resources that might help to illuminate the play. I have conceived of and constructed the site as a sort of dramaturgical or educational reference tool, offering a quick resource for information that may prove tricky to come by, or tedious to collect.”

The Development of British Children’s Literature in the 18th-Century by R.C. Thorsby
“The development of English children’s literature took huge strides forward during the 18th-century, especially in Britain.  This site intends to serve as a compendium of influential texts, authors, and scholars that helped shape the development of children’s literature during this period.”

Equiano’s World by Liz Goetz
A mapping of Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative. Clicking on the title downloads a .kmz file that requires  Google Earth to open.

2. ENG 7024: Rise of the Novel (Winter 10, 13)

Arabella’s Romance by Melanie Zynel and Ruth Haller
Catalogs and describes sources within the romance tradition for the novel The Female Quixote.

Narrative Theory and the Early Novel by Julia Bozyk
A guide to narrative theory, especially in relationship to 18th Century novels

Adeline’s Journey:  An Investigation into Radcliffe’s Use of Location in Romance of the Forest by Kimberly Majeske
This site not only literally “maps” the Gothic, but it also collects period maps–and draws conclusions about the use of place in the novel.

The Tristampedia Project by Andrea Silva
This is an irreverent approach to reading and understanding this strange, quirky novel.

18c Architecture and Gardens by Claudia Ross
This site is designed to help students understand architectural theory and practice in eighteenth-century structures and gardens in order to understand the novels of the period.

3. Undergraduates:

Book History sites, featuring books from our library’s Special Collection (W17): Dali Through the Looking Glass and Behind the Scenes, or, 30 Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House

Harriet on Campus, Children’s Literature (F14): A creative project that reimagines Harriet from Harriet the Spy as a Wayne  State student.

Sport’s Cookbook, Children’s Literature (F14): Another creative project imagining a food blog that Sport from Harriet the Spy might have kept.

The Pioneering Perspective: A Guide to Little House Life, Children’s Literature (F14): An educational resource for young people meant to accompany the popular Laura Ingalls Wilder book series.

Jane Austen: A Study in Film,  Jane Austen course (Winter 11): “>On this site you will find movie reviews on several adaptations of Jane Austen’s work along with some background information to help the viewer understand the world of Jane Austen”

Laughing with Jane Austen: A How To, Jane Austen course (Winter 11): “This website is for those who wish to indulge in Jane’s quick wit. It allows the reader to fully comprehend Jane’s remarkable satire and knack for creating humorous situation in 18th century society.”

Copyright, Copyleft, Copywrong,  History of the Book course (Fall 09): video examing the politics of copyright law


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