About Alison Booth

I enjoy teaching courses in Victorian fiction, women writers, Gothic, narrative theory, auto/biography, travel, and other topics, uniting my research interests and willingness to adapt technology in the classroom with my insistence on critical and writing skills. In research, I have expanded my feminist and narratological studies of cultural and literary history in Britain and North America since 1830 into digital humanities and bibliography. A continuing theme in my books and articles has been the reception history of authors and the construction of collective biographical histories, or prosopographies; this theme informed my first book, on historical concepts of a common life and a female literary tradition in George Eliot and Virginia Woolf and it continues in my explorations of public representations of imagined community such as Mount Rushmore and of cultural tourism, museums, and biography. I have persistently worked across the boundaries of period (nineteenth to twentieth centuries), nationality (particularly transatlantic Anglophone), media and audience (word-image, novel and film, celebrity and popular culture). My work in narrative theory has focused on life writing and the prevalent form of collections of short biographies (prosopographies), concentrated in my bibliography of collective biographies of women and the related book, How to Make It as a Woman (2004). The annotated bibliography has been developed as an online site sponsored by the University of Virginia Library, and now forms part of the peer-reviewed NINES digital consortium. In 2010, with collaborators in Scholars' Lab, we launched a new version of "CBW." In 2010-2012, as Resident Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, we developed a schema (Biographical Elements and Structure Schema) for comparative analysis of versions of one person's life or short biographies in various types of collection, along with a database of the 8,000 women in the 12,000+ collections in the project. Meanwhile, I am nearing completion of a book, another exploration of reception, cultural tradition, and collective biographical representation. Entitled “Writers Revisited: Transatlantic Literary Tourism, House Museums, and Biography,” it focuses on the narratives and performances of visits to the writer's house as tourism and museums evolved along with Anglo-American canons in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Some Prosopographies Striving to Collaborate on Personae Records

SNAPDragon is Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies: Data and Relations in Greco-Roman Names.

They write of their project something that is surprisingly relevant to the experience of a contemporary prosopographer working with printed collections of biographies and a database of thousands of women.  How to integrate CBW’s persons with the name authorities and records that might exist in many repositories and souces such as Wikipedia?  Here’s the SNAP site’s statement:

“The general problem approached by the SNAP:DRGN project is exemplified by the inconsistency of and irregular overlap between the many huge databases of persons, names, and other personal data on the Internet. (These databases are familiar and ubiquitous, from lists of actors and creators in the Internet Movie Database or historical figures in Wikipedia, to private individuals via all sorts of social networking sites.) How does a researcher or analyst determine whether two records refer to the same person or are related in some other way, and whether other related information refers to both people equally? For this project we shall directly address these issues on a much smaller scale: there are very many historical prosopographies and onomastica (databases of persons and names), even within the relatively tight domain of Greco-Roman antiquity, and many of the same questions of identity and provenance apply. These databases can be worked on without the concerns raised by modern social network accounts: there are not the ethical and privacy concerns of working with living people; the scale, while still massive, is more tractable; there is much more academic coherence within the data, which, diverse as it is, is produced by a discipline with well-established working practices.”

The ethics and privacy issues are really worth pondering.

Questions: how to get traditional scholars to accept DH?

At the North American Victorian Studies Association conference, I was talking 
to a junior Victorianist who says she has members of her
dissertation committee who are hostile to DH. What are the scholarly
standards, what’s the payoff? Are there different challenges in
different areas to persuade traditional scholars that digital research
is more than shiny packaging? Any suggestions about how to link the
more customary and the technological methodologies and gain from the
different kinds of questions you can ask in projects of different
scale or with new tools?