• New Article Published in Literary Journalism Studies

    I’m excited to announce that my article “Nineteenth-century Women Writers and the Sentimental Roots of Literary Journalism” has been published in the Fall 2017 issue of Literary Journalism Studies. The abstract is below, and you can read the full article here.

    Tracing the origins of literary journalism in the nineteenth century can be a daunting task because, as Norman Sims writes, the trail of literary journalism “vanishes into a maze of local publications.” And yet it is widely accepted that the trail indeed begins there, in a time when distinctions between literature and journalism were not as clearly de ned as they are today. Eventually, however, forces such as the rise of the ideal of objectivity in journalism, the shift from sentimentalism to realism in literature, and the institutionalization of both fields ensured that the two would, by the end of the century, be wrenched apart. And yet, amidst this fracturing, the hybrid genre of literary journalism was simultaneously being born. Sims points to the journalistic sketch as the origin of literary journalism in the nineteenth century, and in so doing privileges realism in his creation story. But, as this study illustrates, the story goes back a bit further, into the height of sentimentalism and a time before literature and journalism became distinct genres. This inquiry revisits this origin story with a particular eye to the role that women, writing in the sentimental mode, played in the creation of literary journalism.

  • The Continuous Line: Visualizing the History of American Literary Journalism

    The following is an adapted version of a work-in-progress talk that I gave at The Twelfth International Conference for Literary Journalism Studies in Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 11, 2017. Video here.

    TL;DR: I built an online database of works of and about literary journalism, available at ljbib.jonathandfitzgerald.com.

    In thinking about how to frame this particular work in progress that I’m presenting here today, as well as the larger work that it is a part of (namely, my dissertation), I realized that they are both responses to particular challenges. Let me explain. When I began my study of literary journalism, I arrived first, as I’m sure many others did as well, at Norman Sims’ seminal book True Stories. In lieu of a master class on literary journalism, this book serves the purpose for many of us.

  • Computationally Classifying the Vignette Between Fiction and News

    The following is a companion to a paper that Ryan Cordell and I will be presenting at the upcoming ALA 2016 Symposium, The American Short Story: An Expansion of the Genre. Our paper is titled “Vignettes: Micro-Fictions in the Nineteenth Century Newspaper” and in it we discuss the vignette as an essential genre in antebellum American letters, both influential in the development of sentimental fiction and a precursor to the prose writing later styled “literary journalism.” In preparation for the presentation, I’ve been computationally classifying vignettes in an effort to affirm their hybrid status.

    We entered into this project with the notion of vignette as hybrid genre and much of my effort to classify genre within our corpus has been an attempt to bring to the surface some of these harder to classify genres. In an effort, then, to consider the hybrid nature of the vignette, I’ve been attempting to use computational classification methods to place it on a spectrum between news and fiction.

  • What Made the Front Page in the 19th Century?: Computationally Classifying Genre in 'Viral Texts'

    The following is a lightly revised version of the text of a talk I gave at the 2016 Keystone Digital Humanities Conference, held at the University of Pittsburgh. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to present and for the helpful feedback I received there.

    I’m happy to be with you today on behalf of the Viral Texts Project, a project of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks at Northeastern University. The Viral Texts Project was initiated by Professors Ryan Cordell and David Smith as a way to computationally discover reprinted texts in nineteenth century newspapers.

  • Don't Be a Tool

    When I began my work with the Viral Texts Project, I was tasked with coming up with a computational way to assign genres to our texts. It seems foolish to admit now, a year into the project, that back then I imagined a kind of “one-click” solution. I believed my own elevator pitch explanation of the work, that I could show a few examples of each genre to the computer, and then send it off on its way to find me the rest. It has not been that easy.

  • A “Stunning” Love Letter to Viral Texts: A “sublimely splendiferous” foray into nineteenth century newspapers

    On this day, 147 years ago, Volume 15, Number 10 of The Raftsman’s Journal was published in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. Among the stories featured on its front page were a short work of fiction called “The Dashford Tragedy”; a vignette titled “Who Ate Roger Williams”; a poem, “Marjorie’s Almanac”; and “A ‘stunning’ Love Letter,” described by the editor—hyperbolically, though not inaccurately—as “sublimely ‘spendiferous.’” More on the love letter in a moment.

  • Acting In and On Space and Place: A Reflection on Dr. Angel David Nieves’ Recent NULab Lecture

    “Black matters are spatial matters,” writes Katherine McKittrick in the introduction to her 2006 book Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle. McKittrick acknowledges that all people “produce, know, and negotiate space,” but “geographies in the diaspora are accentuated by racist paradigms of the past and their ongoing hierarchical patterns.” Her project, she writes, is not to provide “a corrective story” or to embark on any kind of discovery, but rather to “suggest that space and place give black lives meaning in a world that has, for the most part, incorrectly deemed black populations and their attendant geographies as ‘ungeographic’ and/or philosophically undeveloped.”

  • The InstaEssay Archive: Past, Present, and Future

    Note: I will be presenting a more formalized version of this work at the Keystone DH conference at Penn this summer, and the purpose of this post is to show a work in progress. Already in the hours since posting it, I've heard from some of the authors discussed here that there may be some problems with my data and/or analysis. Most glaringly, an unescaped character is breaking my Instagram scraper for the user @ruddyroye and thus his full body of work is not represented. I will be correcting this ASAP, and I'm grateful to Ruddy Roye for pointing this out. 

  • Re-Presenting Early Modern Pattern Poems as Material Objects

    The following is excerpted from a paper I gave at Making, Unmaking, and Remaking the Early Modern Era: 1500-1800, 14th Annual EMC Conference at UCSB in February. For this project, I used 3D printers and laser cutters to re-mediate Early Modern pattern poems as physical objects. For the TL;DR version, scroll down to the bottom to see pictures.

  • The Internet Will Not Save Us -- But Maybe it can Help Us Fix Peer-Review

    There was a time when I thought the internet could save us all. It was probably somewhere in the middle of the 2000s. There was a sense then, as Web 2.0 emerged, that the great democratization of data had finally arrived and that by nature of everything being open and shareable and social and free, many of the problems we’d been saddled with because of traditional media would suddenly disappear.

  • Instagram Essay Introduction

    In recent months, a number of writers and photographers have begun to utilize Instagram beyond its common use as an application that enables the creation, stylizing, and sharing of personal photographs to a particular group of friends and acquaintances, and rather as a journalistic tool. In particular, writers like Jeff Sharlet and photographers like Neil Shea have paired their photos with short narratives, constrained to 2200 characters by Instagram’s caption limit. The effect is similar to that of “Flash Fiction”—short, impactful self-contained stories—except that these stories are true and paired with a photograph of the subject.

  • Graphing with Gephi

    The following PDF is a visual representation of my Facebook network. I completed this just after class last week as my first experiment with Gephi in an effort, simply, to get some data into the software and see what I could do with it. But, creating this graph had an additional benefit of showing me, in a way that I was having trouble imagining, the ways in which being able to graph a network can make things that may have been hidden, visible.

  • Pragmatic Tinkering, or Against Truthiness

    On October 17, 2005, the world was reintroduced to Stephen Colbert, who had previously been a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” via his own show, “The Colbert Report.” But, that evening the world was also introduced to a word that would go on to be named “Word of the Year” by the American Dialect Society and Merriam-Webster, “truthiness.” Colbert used the term to highlight a distinction between “those who think with their heads and those who know with their hearts.”

  • The Myth of Maps

    Here’s a safe assumption: most people in the Western world believe in at least one pervasive, life-defining myth. This myth underlies our daily lives. Where we live and work, who we associate with, and how we define ourselves are shaped by this myth. I could very well be talking about religion, and certainly life in the United States is predicated on certain religious beliefs, but there are those who deny those beliefs and actively work against them. The myth I’m describing, dare I say, is even bigger than religion, and not as easily denied. I’m talking about the myth of maps.

  • Mapping the Birth of a New Genre

    I like maps. Is that too basic a way to start? Maybe, but it’s true. I’ve created my own maps in the past, using Google Maps — favorite restaurants in my neighborhood in Jersey City, the route I took and the stops I made while traveling by air through South Sudan, and a few small projects for freelance jobs. So I was excited to work with Neatline, which I understood to be Google Maps on steroids, or whatever performance enhancing drugs academics take.

  • Key Project Reflection: Mining the Paper

    When I began the process of selecting a “key project” to study for this assignment, I knew I wanted to look at a project that involved periodicals. I had a faint notion, based on my knowledge of the Viral Texts project and a few others, that periodicals were vast and mostly untapped resources of literature, but, until I began searching, I wasn’t clear how this might relate to my interest in literary journalism.

  • "Messing Around" with TEI

    If I’m honest, I probably went into the TEI practicum a little over confident. It’s coding. I know coding. When I finished my MA in 2005, I needed a job. My Master’s thesis was in creative writing — I wrote a collection of short stories, but try as I might, I couldn’t land any of them in a literary magazine. So, discouraged as I was, I wanted to find work unrelated to writing and academia. I wanted to do something easier.

  • Theory vs. Practice, or the Practice of Theory

    This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about the usefulness (or not?) of theory in two seemingly disparate fields, ecocriticism and the digital humanities. Though these fields are different in many ways, what they have in common is that they’re both fairly new (as far as academic disciplines go) and they are both embroiled in a debate over the role of theory versus practice. What is the role of theory? Do we need it? Or can we somehow skip past all the theorizing and get to work?

  • You Can't Go Home Again: Wandering the New Media Wilderness

    You may think you’re sitting at your computer (or staring at your phone) and browsing the internet, but you're actually wandering around in the wilderness. Think Moses and the Israelites in the desert post-Egypt, pre-Promised Land. Or, if you prefer a less Biblical analogy, think Odysseus making his 10-year journey back to Ithaca. That’s you. You're Odysseus every time you go online.