Friday, April 24, 2015

The Hypertext Archive: Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature, launched 1992

Much of early digital humanities work was focused on the production of hypertext archives. George Landow, professor emeritus of Brown University, is perhaps the best known proponent of such an approach. His Victorian Web and his Cyberspace, Hypertext, & Critical Theory projects put in action his construction of hypertext, which he articulated in a series of 3 versions of his Johns Hopkins book Hypertext (1992, 1997, 2006).

Landow's interest in postcolonial studies led to the launch of the Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature: An Overview hypertext archive. Begun in the early 1990s in a class that Landow taught at Brown University, the project continued to grow over the next 20 years, during which time Landow was appointed Shaw Professor of English and Digital Culture in Computer Science at National University of Singapore and later served as founding Dean of the University Scholars Programme at National University of Singapore and Visiting Professor at the University Zimbabwe. In 2008 Professor Yew Leong of National University of Singapore took over the Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature project.

The materials were developed pre-internet in collaboration with Randall Bass  (his name should sound familiar--he was project director of the now defunct American Studies Crossroads Project that I will highlight in a future blog). Through the work of student Ho Lin, the project was launched in Storyspace in 1992. I have not been able to locate an archived copy of the site within Storyspace. If you are able to locate a copy or even images of the Storyspace site, please let me know. By 1996 Landow began to move the project to the internet (BBEdit!).

The site includes bibliographies, scholarly descriptions and interpretations, links to texts, links to courses, postcolonial theory overviews, and much, much more. When I taught my first Africana studies course in 1999, I used the site's Buchi Emecheta materials and found Landow's materials invaluable.

Landow's work is an important precursor to current projects such as GO:DH which push digital humanities scholars to continue to recenter and expand the types of materials with which we engage.

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