Literary Evolution: How Technology Can (and Will) Enhance Literary Scholarship

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Southern New Hampshire University
The impact of computer technology on the creation of the written word is something apparent in the multitude of available e-books, blogs, and collaborative writing sites that populate the internet. Existing and emerging technologies are starting to change not only the format of what is written, but the content and context of modern literature as well. For the Literary scholar the opportunity to explore writings that would not have seen public release without the rise of electronic publishing is both exciting and terrifying. Contemporary and future scholars need to be cognizant of the role that software, format, and electracy played in the creation of a given text. This project examined the secondary skills necessary for the modern literary scholar to assess the increasingly populous textual landscape and make sense of the wealth of secondary and tertiary information available. Computer driven research methods like topic modeling and data mining were explored as they have been used by those in the humanities to study both current and historical works in new and exciting ways. In the case study for this project, Omar Robert Hamilton’s The City Always Wins was examined in the context of the secondary media that applies to the primary text. Because Hamilton’s novel is set during, and primarily focused on, the Arab Spring protests that took place in Cairo in 2011, this analysis incorporated information found in non-literary sources like YouTube videos, news articles, and social media artifacts of the period. By incorporating additional sources, this paper brought lite to how Hamilton’s novel reflects both the ever-present civil unrest in 2011 Egypt and the growing importance of digital literacy to the development of a well informed and ideologically aligned population.