DEFCon Speaker Series: Drs. Elisa Beshero-Bondar & Shirley Moody-Turner, 3/30 — 3:30pm Eastern
DEFCon Speaker Series: Drs. Elisa Beshero-Bondar & Shirley Moody-Turner, 3/30 — 3:30pm Eastern

DEFCon Speaker Series: Drs. Elisa Beshero-Bondar & Shirley Moody-Turner, 3/30 — 3:30pm Eastern

The DEFCon Speaker Series continues on Wednesday, March 30th at 3:30pm Eastern/12:30pm Pacific with a talk by Drs. Elisa Beshero-Bondar and Shirley Moody-Turner, who have undertaken inspiring work introducing undergraduate students to creating digital scholarly editions on the work of educator and Black feminist through foremother Anna Julia Cooper.

Black DH and a Challenge in Document Data Modeling: Anna Julia Cooper’s Responses to the Survey of Negro College Graduates

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In this presentation, we explore ways to engage students with manuscripts and complex textual documents in order to give them a chance to be decision-makers about digital representation. We will speak about how we came to collaborate around Anna Julia Cooper and the different communities of practice our collaboration has included. From demystifying scholarly editing for undergraduates, to expanding the idea of what and who counts as a textual scholar, to engaging undergraduates and graduate students with digital tools, we share a pedagogical and scholarly practice that seeks to build communities within and beyond the classroom. 

We share an example drawn from a 2020 collaboration addressing an interesting and particularly challenging document drawn from Cooper’s archive. In the 1930s, Dr. Cooper, educator and foremother of Black feminist thought, responded to a Survey of Negro College Graduates. Cooper’s response to one question about her “racial philosophy” exceeded the limits of the form and was later published as an essay, removed from its original context. In Fall 2020, Alice Rong led undergraduates in PSU Behrend’s Text Encoding class to prepare a digital scholarly edition of the entire document. In preparing the experimental project assignment, Dr. Beshero-Bondar was guided by Dr. Moody-Turner, who collaborated with Dr. Lopez Matthews at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center on the digitization of Cooper’s collection at Howard University. The project we worked on in Fall 2020 represents a new approach to modeling documents that enmesh print with handwriting in a back-and-forth dialogue. The process of engaging with these documents involved the professors providing expectations, resources, standards, and guidelines and inviting the students to make scholarly decisions when confronting specific problems for representation and annotation. Our collaboration highlights the importance of digital scholarly editing for Black digital humanities research that involves undergraduates with faculty scholars in making resources meaningful, legible, and findable.

Bios: Dr. Elisa Beshero-Bondar is professor of Digital Humanities and program chair of Digital Media, Arts, and Technology at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. She has been involved in digital scholarly editing for the past decade, and has served on the TEI Technical Council since 2016. Back in 2011, she published a book, Women, Epic, and Transition in British Romanticism (University of Delaware Press, 2011) that paved the way for her digital work in the next decade, including her launch of the Digital Mitford project to produce a TEI-based digital scholarly edition of the works and letters of 19th-century author Mary Russell Mitford. Lately she coordinates re-mediation, automated collation, and the TEI conversion pipeline for the Frankenstein Variorum project, comparing five versions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Her recent publications address work in progress on these projects as well as theory and practice with markup technologies in digital scholarly editing and pedagogy. Her development site at hosts a wide range of digital projects for research and teaching in collaboration with colleagues and led by her students.

Dr. Shirley Moody-Turner is associate professor and award-winning teacher of English and African American Studies at Penn State University. She is the founding co-director, with P. Gabrielle Foreman, of the Center for Black Digital Research/#DigBlk where she works with teams of faculty, staff, librarians, post-doctoral fellows, student leaders, and community members to bring to digital life the lost, overlooked, and buried histories of 19th and early 20th century Black organizing. She is the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Digital Project, a cross-institutional partnership that worked with the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center to digitize the Anna Julia Cooper Papers and with Douglass Day 2020 to produce a community-based, crowd-sourced transcription of the collection. She is author and editor of several published and forthcoming books including Black Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation,the co-edited collection, Contemporary African American Literature: The Living Canon, African American Literature in Transition 1900-1910, and the forthcoming, Penguin Portable Anna Julia Cooper (Penguin Classics). She is currently at work on an interpretive biography reframing Cooper’s “courageous revolt” as part of the long history Black women’s organizing.