Course Description

In “Archival Encounters” we will take an interdisciplinary and participatory approach to archival research, scholarly editing, and the praxis of recovery. Part seminar, part individualized research tutorial, part laboratory, part skills workshop, this course will be an admixture of traditional scholarly practices and emergent ones, fundamentally both analog and digital, and varyingly held at and outside the Graduate Center. The course aims to provide students an introduction to the knowledge and tools necessary to create new access (for both scholarly and public audiences) to archival materials held within collections around the New York City area. The end goal of the course is for each student (or possibly several small groups of collaborating students) to produce an “edition” of a currently neglected archival artifact (which might be anything from an eighteenth century serialized short story, to a transcription of a Medieval fragment, to an unpublished letter by an early twentieth century poet to her editor). In order to produce these editions, students will be exposed to both practical methodologies and theoretical debates concerning archival work and the politics of recovery, as well as receive training in textual editing, book history, text encoding and annotation, markup strategies, and basic web design.

The course will have four main units, including an introduction to current scholarly debates about the politics of textual recovery and archival work (readings may include work by Lisa Lowe, Jennifer Morgan, Britt Russert, and David Kazanjian), field visits to area collections (crafted in response to the interests of the enrolled students), training in textual editing and book history (readings may include Greetham’s Textual Scholarship, McGann’s Radiant Textuality, Hayles and Pressman’s Comparative Textual Media), and training in digital research methods, platforms, annotation and encoding, and design. While anchored in issues of recovery and public engagement, the course will also enable students to actively pursue their own individual research agendas and gain valuable experiences in collaborating both with external partners (in terms of their archival projects) and with GC colleagues in the construction of the class platform (on the CUNY Academic Commons) for the display of the projects. More importantly they will receive this training not simply from the instructors themselves, but from the curators and archivists working at the various New York City repositories and special collections with which we aim to partner (including such possibilities as the New York Public Library, The Morgan Library, The New-York Historical Society, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Library for the Performing Arts, the Herstory Archives, and the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives).

The course will provide PhD students the opportunity to advance (or experiment with) their own research agendas by pursuing further study in archival research, book history, and scholarly editing. For students in the MA in Digital Humanities program, projects could be expanded to form a digital capstone project–a requirement for completion of the degree.

Course Requirements: Active and engaged participation, a brief oral presentation, weekly reflections, a project outline, a brief mid-semester progress report, and the creation of the final textual edition.  NOTE: At least four class sessions will take place at local archives within a 25-minute public transportation radius.