Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Lost in the City: A graduate-level literature course on Edward P. Jones

By Kenton Rambsy

Photography cred @jung_conscious (Samuel)

This semester, I’m teaching ENGL 5324, “Lost in the City,” a graduate-level course on Edward P. Jones’s short stories, which documents the writer’s consistent focus on Washington D.C. as a setting in 28 stories across two collections. The course sheds new light on the development of short fiction in the contemporary era as we use the concept “cultural geo-tagging” to analyze Jones’s extensive reliance upon specific streets, landmarks, and neighborhoods.

Our analyses will consist of drawing on quantitative datasets and joining on-going literary conversations related to space and place to examine why Jones’s short stories, focusing on predominately black neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., offer unique and enriching opportunities for analyzing, or more accurately, “geocoding” an African American author’s repeated treatments of the nation’s capital. We will consider the emerging discourse on spatial humanities and incorporate public census records to uncover literary patterns in Jones’s work, analyze the diverse representations of black characters, and map linguistic features in a select geographic region.

Below are various entries that clarify our data analytic approach as well as topics that arose from conversations in class. Ultimately, these collections of blog entries explain why Jones is such a fascinating figure to study in a hybrid African American literature and digital humanities course.

7 Questions Related to Cultural Geo-Tagging
Cultural Geo-Tagging—a digital approach
Making a Case for “Small Data” Humanities Projects

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