Thursday, November 15, 2018

The absence of "black men writers" in dissertations

One of the most widely viewed entries on my blog is "Black men writers and creativity, 1995 - 2016." The popularity of the piece has to do with the fact in part that there are relatively few projects that focus on the phrase "black men writers." I was reminded of this idea as I did searches on ProQuest Dissertations recently.

A search for "black women writers" reveals that the phrase is mentioned in 2,806 dissertations from 1974 - 2018. However, the phrase "black men writers" only appears 11 times during that same time period. The phrase "black women poets" appears in 128 dissertations, and the phrase "black men poets" does not appear in any.

People regularly cover Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka, and so forth. So I know that black men writers are studied. Yet, the phrase "black men writers" is rarely used.

There's apparently not been as much of a concerted effort to theorize and write about the connectivity of "black men writers" like we do with "black women writers" as a concept and group. I get it too, by the way with the historical erasure and downplaying of creative contributions by black women writers. Still, the absence of the phrase "black men writers" caught my attention.

A Notebook on ProQuest Dissertations and Theses

ProQuest dissertations and black women writers, 2000 - 2018

bell hooks, Toni Morrison, Patricia Hill Collins, and Audre Lorde

As I continued doing searches for keywords on ProQuest Dissertations, I ran searches of dozen black women writers, including novelists, poets, and scholars. I was curious about how many times those figures were mentioned in dissertations from 2000 - 2018.

Of the many black women writers I produced queries for, here's a look at a ranking of mentions and the top 25.

I was intrigued that 7 scholars -- bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Hazel Carby, Kimberle Crenshaw, Barbara Christian, Trudier Harris, and Michelle Alexander -- made the list. I understand why bell hooks appears more than Toni Morrison, but somehow I had not initially thought of her when I considered mentions. Seeing that she was the most frequently referenced figure led me on the searches concerning those other scholars.

It's worth noting that ProQuest is only tracking mentions and not necessarily how much the writers are discussed. I imagine, for instance, that dissertation authors mention various writers only in passing, while devoting far more concentrated and expanded attention to others.

As subjects, black women writers coincides with the field of African American literary studies witnessing large growth during the late 1990s.

A Notebook on ProQuest Dissertations and Theses

A Notebook on ProQuest Dissertations and Theses

For the last couple of weeks, I've been doing searches on Proquest Dissertations &Theses Global -- an expansive database comprised of "abstracts and indexing for approximately 4 million dissertations and theses, with full text (PDFs) for more than 2 million of those works."

Here are a series of writings that I produced on my searches:
African American literary studies and ProQuest
ProQuest dissertations and black women writers, 2000 - 2018
The absence of "black men writers" in dissertations
Amiri Baraka, ProQuest, and dissertations 1960 - 2018

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

African American literary studies and ProQuest

What can we learn about African American literary studies -- where it's been and where it's headed -- by taking a look at what the field's newest scholars have produced, namely, their dissertations? That question has been driving my recent searches on ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global, an incredibly expansive database with more than 4 million documents.

For one, I noticed the growth of the field based on the increasing numbers of references to major African American writers and scholars in dissertations from 1960 - 2018. In addition, I observed increases in key terms such as "African American literature," "black literature," "Harlem Renaissance," "Black Arts Movement," and so forth.

What I've discovered is that the mid to late 1990s were critical growth periods for African American literary studies or, more broadly, for subjects pertaining to African American literature. ProQuest includes a graph that represents the frequency of citations in a given year. Note these charts on "African American literature" and "Toni Morrison," both from 1980 - 1999. Take a look:

Graphs on ProQuest of "African American literature" and "Toni Morrison" from 1980 - 1999

The growth moving toward the late 1990s stands out, but also the similar trajectories of "African American literature" and "Toni Morrison" are prevalent as well. The specific numbers, though, are different. There are 1,054 dissertations that mention "African American literature, while there are 2,137 dissertations that mention Toni Morrison between 1980 - 1999.

I suspect several factors account for the perceptible growth, including the expanded numbers of professors with training in African American literary studies working at universities. In addition, scholars outside the field were likely introducing and encouraging their students to write about African American literature more than had happened in the past.

A Notebook on ProQuest Dissertations and Theses

Haley Reading Group: “The DIY Scientist, the Olympian, and the Mutated Gene”

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2017)]

David Epstein’s article “The DIY Scientist, the Olympian, and the Mutated Gene” follows the story of a woman working to diagnose and very rare disease. Epstein works with a housewife named Jill Viles, the famous Olympian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, and his knowledge the uncover the truth about a mutant gene shared between families.

Epstein writes that Viles extended her Dad’s life by researching several medical books and demanding that doctors re-examine him, proving that they did have a rare disease (210). This point demonstrates that with enough courage, knowledge, and determination Viles uncovered more on the disease than any other person in the world.

After reading this article, what’s a new or reinforced idea you have about either persistence or DIY science?

Haley Reading Group: Sarah Schweitzer’s “Chasing Bayla”

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2015)]

Cynthia A. Campbell

Sarah Schweitzer’s article “Chasing Bayla” focuses on the dangers of right whales in their encounters with humans and unsafe fishing practices. Schweitzer highlights scientist Dr. Michael Moore’s quest for ethical treatment of endangered and injured right whales. Ultimately, the article speaks to the intersecting journey of Dr. Moore and Bayla.

Schweitzer’s discussion of Dr. Moore’s struggle to provide medical treatment for right whales was especially enlightening. At one point, Schweitzer notes that “he wanted to sedate a free-swimming whale…to remove ropes entangling it” (237). This point illustrates the desperation and urgency required to treat whales in their natural habitats using necessary extraordinary tactics.

What did you find most fascinating or interesting about the article? Why?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Amiri Baraka, ProQuest, and dissertations 1960 - 2018

The past week, I've been doing searches on Proquest Dissertations &Theses Global. It's a massive database that "offers abstracts and indexing for approximately 4 million dissertations and theses, with full text (PDFs) for more than 2 million of those works."

I've been thinking and writing about Amiri Baraka's works for years now, so he was one of the figures I decided to search for references to on ProQuest. How many people have referenced Baraka in their dissertations over the last 58 years--from 1960 when Baraka first emerged to 2018?

According to the search results, Baraka (formerly known as LeRoi Jones*) has been referenced a total of 2,946 times. I wanted to take a look at different phases of his career. I decided on three time frames.
From 1960 – 1976, Baraka was referenced 249 times in dissertations; his name appeared in 6 titles.
From 1977 – 1999, Baraka was referenced 605 times in dissertations (10 in title).
From 2000 – 2018, Baraka was referenced 2,092 times in dissertations (8 in title).  

It caught my attention that 71% of all Baraka mentions in dissertations occurred during the 21st century.

I've done searches on dozens of African American poets and noticed that only Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou are referenced more than Baraka.

"Black Arts Movement" and Baraka were mentioned 37 times in dissertations from 1960 - 1976 then 191 times from 1977 - 1999, and 896 times from 2000 - 2018 -- a signal that Baraka is frequently linked to that movement. However, Black Arts Movement is referenced only a total of 1,660 times, which suggests that Baraka is also cited well outside that specific context.

* I searched for "LeRoi Jones" from 1960 - 1976, as Baraka was commonly referred to both during that time.

A Notebook on ProQuest Dissertations and Theses
A Notebook on the work of Amiri Baraka

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Digital Humanities Club: Week 6

On November 6, we moved to everyone working on audio mixes, using Audacity. We'll likely spend the rest of the semester experimenting with the software. Next semester, we'll work on mixed media projects, blending in what our audio and graphic design works. .

For now, we're looking forward to learning about and playing with audio mixing. The students have started off by just trying out different effects on a poem, while also adding instrumentals. We'll see where the experiments lead us.

I'm interested in whether the audio will occupy their interests the way experimenting with graphic design and comic book images did. The students seem to enjoy music quite a bit, but I'm not sure about the extents that we translate into interest in audio mixing. Perhaps part of what drew them to graphic design was because they were less familiar with that kind of work that with music. We'll see.
The East St. Louis Digital Humanities Club Fall 2018