Monmouth College assistant professor Bridget Draxler has been named an NEH Fellow and is one of 16 academics currently attending a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar at the University of Missouri on Jane Austen and her contemporaries.
“Basically, the plan is to create a digital timeline on historical literature, using Austen’s ‘Northanger Abbey’ as a sample, but ultimately creating a curriculum guide for faculty to use as a template for students to do similar projects,” said Draxler, who directs Monmouth’s Communication Across the Curriculum program. “My goal is to help faculty use digital tools to help students organize and present archival research on historical literature.”
In her application essay, Draxler, who received her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa last year, opened with the line: “While I was working on my dissertation, Austen seemed inevitable.” She went on to discuss how she intended to write about “Northanger Abbey” as the finale to her project, but was sidetracked.
“I never wrote that last chapter,” she wrote. “I’d like to do it at the NEH summer seminar. However, since it will no longer be part of a dissertation, I plan to experiment with a new medium: a virtual, multimedia timeline using Prezi that would include moments in theater history intersecting with moments in Austen’s novel. I think that this timeline — creating a digital archive out of images from a real archive — can more fully take advantage of the tools and strategies taught in your workshop.”
This will not be Draxler’s first academic experience at the University of Missouri. As part of her graduate work at Iowa as a HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) Scholar, she was invited to present at the university’s recent symposium on “The Future of Archives in a Digital Age.”
“That experience gave me new ideas and insights for how archival research might look in the 21st century, and how these changes will transform research and teaching in the humanities,” she said.
Draxler said she is also looking forward to being immersed in a community of scholars, similar to her experience last summer at the Chawton House Library in England, researching collaboration and female community.
“Most of us spent time together, talking about our research over dinner, comparing the composition of fiction to its analysis, offering guidance, advice and encouragement to one another. These people became my mentors and my friends. … I am eager to learn from and with people who share my interests. For me, the best way to honor the bold, experimental, collaborative work of women writers in the long 18th century is to model that same boldness, experimentation and collaboration in my own research and teaching.”
In advance of the seminar, Draxler and her colleagues read Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” as well “Jane Austen in Context” and “‘New Directions in Austen Studies’: A Conference, a Publication and Some Thoughts on Bicentenaries.” They will also be asked to read more works by Austen and various books and articles throughout the seminar, which will conclude on July 20.