Stephen Railton receives NEH Start-Up Grant for Digital Yoknapatawpha

April 22, 2013

IATH Fellow and UVA English Professor Stephen Railton has been awarded a $59,084 NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant by the NEH Office of Digital Humanities for expansion of his Digital Yoknapatawpha project. The grant money will be used to extend the prototype, which was built by Prof. Railton and a national team of Faulkner scholars, in collaboration with IATH, the UVA Library's Digital Media Lab, and SHANTI.

The project centers on William Faulkner's 15 novels and 48 stories, written between 1926 and 1960 and set in the mythical Mississippi county of Yoknapatawpha. The prototype models a way to enter every character, location and event from the individual texts into a robust database and then to map that data into an atlas of interactive visual resources, so that users can better understand and study the acts of narrative re-creation Faulkner undertook, according to the demands of a particular story. As he transformed parts of its landscape, bringing new areas and inhabitants of it into prominence, Yoknapatawpha county reflected his continuously evolving social, historical, artistic, and moral preoccupations. The project ultimately aims to link the entire body of Yoknapatawpha fictions together and dynamically generate new, cumulative maps. These will enable scholars or students to study, for example, all black inhabitants and the roles they play in his texts, or Faulkner's representations of violence, or religion, or family.

The grant money will fund a two-day workshop for Faulkner scholars and the UVA project staff to discuss potential new scholarship generated by aggregating data from all the Yoknapatawpha fiction and to extend schema specifications to ensure that this potential can be fulfilled. It will also fund refining and expanding the current prototype's information structures, as well as developing the search and display functionalities that can enable comparative analyses and engagements with all Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha fiction.

The NEH's Digital Humanities Start-Up program is designed to to encourage innovations in the digital humanities and support the development of innovative projects that promise to benefit the humanities. A full list of current grant recipients is available here.