Spotlight: Editing Amelia Alderson Opie at Queen’s

Ever wonder what DH projects happen at Queen’s? The first of our “Spotlight” series features Dr. Shelley King’s and Dr. John Pierce’s projects on Amelia Alderson Opie. The Amelia Alderson Opie Archive was featured in IDIS220: Hacking the Humanities in the Summer of 2013. The 2014 DH Field School will address many of the same questions as the Opie Project: What is our role as editor within the context of new technologies? How do old forms present new challenges for editorial technologies? How does the accessibility of digital media change us as readers and users?


In their on-going work on prolific Romantic writer Amelia Alderson Opie, Dr. Shelley King and Dr. John Pierce from the Department of English at Queen’s University have understood online, accessible publication to be the backbone of their continually growing research. Novelist, poet, song-writer, essayist, and avid correspondent, Opie’s works span the full range of Romantic literary production. From their early online work on the Amelia Alderson Opie Archive, to their more recent, TEI-informed editorial study of Opie’s letters, Dr. King and Dr. Pierce have undertaken a publishing strategy committed to open intellectual dissemination, and a collaborative research methodology that has nurtured young scholars in the study of both the Romantic Period and contemporary academic technological practices.

Beginning with the Amelia Alderson Opie Archive, the online, SSHRC-funded project showcases Opie’s careful cognizance of the aesthetic and political implications of her immediate ideological and artistic environment. The site’s wide-ranging treatment of Opie’s biography, portraiture, and literary and musical work, along with scholarly treatments of her oeuvre catalogues the bulk and breadth of Opie’s work and impact on Romantic culture. Dr. King’s and Dr. Pierce’s earlier project, moreover, drew upon and developed the academic and technological skills of two former Queen’s graduate students: Dr. Andrea Terry, who completed her doctoral degree in Art History and went on to hold a post-doctoral position in the School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University, and the BISC’s very own Dr. Shannon Smith, who now teaches theories of usership and scholarly editing framed by contemporary technological processes.

Dr. King’s and Dr. Pierce’s current project, the Amelia Alderson Opie and Henry Perronet Briggs Correspondence, takes the letters exchanged between Opie and her cousin as a more focused case study. By combining the well-established traditional editorial practices for eighteenth century manuscripts with the Text Encoding Initiative’s (TEI) editorial guidelines for contemporary XML editing, the Opie-Briggs Correspondence situates itself within traditional and emergent editorial practice. In so doing, Dr. King’s and Dr. Pierce’s project may shed light upon Opie’s more intimate understanding of the same aesthetic and political implications of the culture which she, her family, and her friends navigated, and over which the Archive provides a bird’s-eye view. The Opie-Briggs Correspondence has produced further academic collaboration at Queen’s, developing the XML expertise of graduate students Emily Murphy and Maya Bielinski as they developed a TEI workshop for the young scholars working on the Correspondence. Sarah Hobbs and Angela Du, two Queen’s undergraduates in the Department of English, have gained hands-on experience with editorial practice and technological frameworks during their work on the Correspondence.

In these two major projects, Dr. King and Dr. Pierce have provided technological platforms for collaboration and development among Queen’s students, all in service of new scholarly insights into Amelia Alderson Opie’s contributions to Romantic culture.

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