Welcome to webdubois.org


Digital Humanities Projects
 — by Robert W. Williams

 The General Purpose of the Retextualizer Project


 Retextualizer is a browser-based application for digital humanities research that is designed to facili­tate new inter­pre­ta­tions of a text, spe­cif­i­cally by disassem­bling texts into mean­ing­ful com­po­nents (here sentences), and then reassem­bling the com­ponents into dif­ferent con­figura­tions, whether in reverse order or in random arrange­ments.


 Retextualizer rearranges the original essay by juxta­posing sentences​​perhaps jar­ringly​​that were not initially so posi­tioned; it thereby can pro­vide the con­di­tions for new insights into the text, its ideas, and its themes.


 Each Retextualizer web page repeats the project's general pur­pose, as well as the instruc­tions, which also can be read below. In addition, each project page will contain further information relevant to that specific essay.



 Retextualizing the Works of W.E.B. Du Bois


 "Souls of Black Folk" [SBFI](The Independent, 1904)


 "The Individual and Social Conscience" [IASC](1905)


 "Address to the Country" [ATTC](1906)


 "The Nature of Intellectual Freedom" [IFRE](1949)


 "Apologia", Suppression of the African Slave-Trade [SSTA](1954)

[This project was posted for the 15 May 2017 update.]

 "Postscript", The Ordeal of Mansart [PSOM](1957)



 The Project Goals of Retextualizer


Digital Humanities Research:


 Texts can be read in sequence as created and/or pre­sented, pub­licly or other­wise. With computers, we can digitally interact with such works. In their written forms as types­cripts or manu­scripts texts can be digitized and then can be (re-)ana­lyzed and (re-)inter­preted via computer software.


 The digital manipulation of texts includes deformance, as Jerome McGann and Lisa Samuels called it in "Deformance and Interpretation" [New Literary History, 30:1 (1999): 25-56; Accessible online]. Literary works have unstable meanings, McGann and Samuels argued, and dis­cussed several methods to use on literary texts, typically poems, including a reversal of the poem's lines.


 Such techniques of deformation have received support, such as:


 Cohen, Matt. 2006. "Trangenic Deformation: Literary Translation and the Digital Archive." Walt Whitman Archive [Website]. Online.


 Sample, Mark. 2012. "Notes towards a Deformed Humanities." Samplereality [Blog], (Posted May 2). Online.


 Criticisms of literary deformance have been put forward:


 Hoover, David L. 2005. "Hot-Air Textuality: Literature after Jerome McGann." TEXT Technology, 14:2. Online (PDF).


 Hoover, David L. 2007. "The End of the Irrelevant Text: Electronic Texts, Linguistics, and Literary Theory." Digital Humanities Quarterly, 1:2. Online.


Robert W. Williams's Research:


 The current Retex­tu­al­izer applica­tion builds on a previous version which had no copying, viewing, or sentence-numbering features. I initially coded the basic ran­domizing and display functions in May 1999 as a way to create and present ran­dom­ized versions of essays by Immanuel Kant and Walter Benjamin.


 Since that first version, digital humanities research has come to influ­ence my schol­ar­ship, most notably by means of computer applica­tions, such as conc­ordancers and col­lation soft­ware. Those digital tools help me to under­stand how Du Bois paired words and phrases within their con­texts, and also to illus­trate how he re-used and mod­i­fied text in dif­ferent works over time. The Retex­tu­al­izer project con­tinues this avenue of my research.