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Ryan Cordell (Assistant Professor, Northeastern University), took home the $1,000 award for his article published in Digital Humanities Quarterly 7.1 (2013), “ ‘Taken Possession of’: The Reprinting and Reauthorship of Hawthorne’s ‘Celestial Railroad’ in the Antebellum Religious Press.”

The prize, awarded to the best article on American periodicals published in a peer-reviewed journal during 2013 by a pre-tenure or independent scholar, was presented on Friday, May 23, 2014, at the American Literature Association conference.

Ryan is a regular blogger for the Chronicle of Higher Education who is well known for his work in digital humanities. The committee praised his article, commenting that the essay was valued not only for its use of periodicals as sources, but its contribution of a new model of how to read periodicals. The abstract of the article is just a teaser; read the full essay for Ryan’s fresh perspective on using digital collation to mine periodical archives.

“In this article, Cordell demonstrates the transformative possibilities of large-scale digital archives for literary history and bibliography. Focusing on the recently-uncovered reprinting history of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, 'The Celestial Railroad', in the nineteenth-century press, the article demonstrates the central, shaping influence of religious readers and editors on Hawthorne’s early career.

"Cordell shows how the best traditional bibliography of Hawthorne’s works could be dramatically altered after only a few weeks’ work in digital archives of newspapers, magazines, and books, and using relatively simple search tools. Such tools not only expanded the number of known witnesses of the text, but also uncovered numerous paratexts: introductions to the story, articles reviewing or referring to the story, sermons derived from the story, etc.

"This 'social text' of 'The Celestial Railroad,' Cordell argues, lay buried amidst millions of pages that accumulated in the nineteenth century and required modern tools to be uncovered. The article also discusses how digital interpretive tools can help make better sense of such enlarged bibliographies. By comparing multiple printings of 'The Celestial Railroad' using the Juxta Collation tool from NINES, Cordell argues that textual fluidity can tell modern readers much about how texts were understood by their original publishers and readers. The many changes to and discussions of 'The Celestial Railroad,' for instance, indicate that the tale was popular for its perceived anti-denominational message, but nonetheless deployed as a weapon in denominational debates.”

Congratulations to Ryan!

11 Aug 2014

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