Connecting the Experiences of Women in Victorian Literature

Project by Group 2- Logan Carpenter, Hayley Jones, John Serbalik, and Emily Tsoi

Blog Post Written By Emily Tsoi and Hayley Jones

Process and Challenges Faced in Creating the Project:

When we were first assigned this project, we initially ran into some trouble as there were many topics we were interested in, but could not decide on one. We first thought of creating a timeline about Wuthering Heights, but then realized we had nothing to connect it to as Wuthering Heights takes place in the early part of the Victorian period so it would be difficult to connect it to other works we have read. We then decided to go in a different direction by looking at London and how it was used as a human space across the texts. We quickly realized, however, that it would be difficult to make these connections as we were limited in the selection of texts containing London. We were stuck on where to go from there, but we were then shown what some of the other groups were working on and we were presented with the program, Kumu. We all instantly thought it was a great way to demonstrate connections across texts and were then inspired to look at some of the female characters we’ve encountered and how they all connect to various themes that we have looked at throughout the course.

When selecting characters we gravitated toward Catherine Earnshaw and Cathy Linton in Wuthering Heights, we initially had Nelly Dean on our list, but realized that it would be difficult to connect her to our themes as she is mostly narrating about other characters and there was not a whole lot of insight into how she personally experiences certain themes such as education. We also knew we wanted to include the female characters of Great Expectations, Estella, Miss Havisham, Biddy and Mrs. Joe as they all offer varying experiences across our chosen themes so we wanted to compare and contrast them with one another, but also with our other chosen characters. Finally, we also chose to include Judith Quixano from Reuben Sachs as she offered a different experience/perspective from the other chosen characters because she is Jewish, so we wanted to see how similar or how different she is from the other characters.

When choosing our themes we picked out what we saw as being most relevant in each of our texts according to what we had discussed in past class discussions of our literature. We picked Education, Social Class, Marriage/Love, Religion, and Defying Authority/Societal Norms. Now, as aforementioned we ran into some difficulties connecting every chosen character to each of our themes and so for some of the characters we did not make any connection to a theme, for example, it was difficult to connect Estella or Miss Havisham to Education as there is not really any mention of it in Great Expectations. In addition, we also ran into some difficulties making connections from one character to another through certain themes and so for a few of the characters, we did not make any through some of the themes. For example, it was difficult to make a direct connection from Judith to any other character through Education as she did not have access to education/books in the way that the Catherines or Biddy do.

In order to organize our thoughts we created a Google Doc as we thought it would be easiest to get all of our thoughts down first before inputting it into the Kumu. This would make it easier for us to edit/revise. We then met and inputted all of the information we found into the Kumu which shaped out to be a great medium to see these connections as we had originally thought.

The Project:

Here is the link to our actual project on Kumu: https://embed.kumu.io/82efad88ef00a33546b7e032862f83d7

Through our project you can visually see the various connections that we made between characters and themes in addition to connections made among characters.

How to Use the Project:

When you open our project, you will see there is a general map overview containing our explanation of our project along with any relevant source information. Further, you will see a legend in the bottom left of our map. There you will find what each color node (bubble) or edge (line that draws a connection between the nodes) represents. For example, the purple nodes represent a character and a red edge represents a connection between a character and theme (we could not figure out how to delete the bottom two items in the legend so pretend they are not there). We thought Kumu would be an excellent medium to present these connections as you can visually see these connections through the edges connecting to the nodes.

In order to navigate our project all you need to do is simply click on whichever node or edge you would like to look at and then read our thoughts in the window that will pop up on the left hand side of the screen where the map overview was.

Our connections between characters and the selected themes will present you with textual analysis of how that particular character connects to that theme while our connections between characters will present you with our explanation as to how the two characters connect through that particular theme.

Here is an in-depth look at how one might use the project:

If I wanted to look at Catherine Earnshaw, I would click on her node (circled in the image below). Once I have clicked on her node, a box will pop up with a brief character biography explaining who she is and what work of literature she derives from.

As you can see there are multiple edges (lines) connecting her to various other nodes. Let’s say I was curious about what the blue connection at the top says (in the image above, the red arrow is pointing to it). According to the legend in the lower left of the map, the blue line represents the “Characters Connection Through Education”. In order to view it, I would simply just click on it.

After clicking on it, this box on the left side of the screen would pop up with the explanation of the connection we made between Catherine Earnshaw and Cathy Linton through Education.

To view another connection, I would simply click on another edge/line and that connection would pop up on the left side of the screen. We really liked this medium of presenting connections because of its’ simplicity to navigate from connection to connection, something you would not easily get through a website platform that we were originally thinking about.

Overall Thoughts On Our Project:

Overall, this project helped us see that even though it seems like the literature we read this semester ranged over such a vast amount of time during the Victorian era (nearly one hundred years from the time Wuthering Heights takes place to the time Reuben Sachs was published), took place in different parts of England, and focused on women from varying backgrounds, the female characters we have studied are all connected in some way to the central themes we have been analyzing in class. By no means is any woman’s experience the same as another’s, but it helped us to see that no matter how different these women may seem, they share similar experiences with one another.

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