Project 2

Spaces in Whitney’s “Will and Testament”

“Will and Testament” of Isabella Whitney is built on contradictions, paradoxes and juxtapositions. Upon first reading the poem, I heard her sarcastic and mocking tone, but once I arrived at line 169, “Now for the people in thee left”, I understood what and who she is mocking. In the poem she creates a focal point and an imagined line dividing the rich from the poor. Whitney maps out the different worlds of London from the merciless trade regulator to the child worker. Close reading the poem might have helped me reach my claim about these imagined divided spaces where mobility is allowed only to the rich and influential, but mapping the locations helped me visualize the reality of these spaces. I could calculate distances and see the proximity from one prison to the next or the variety and expansiveness of the liveries.  Moreover, only when mapping St. Paul’s and the prisons was I able to compose my idea. Mapping Whitney brought light to Whitney herself as a single, working class female in early modern London. Whitney writing about these spaces reveals her awareness and even familiarity with these spaces, but she does not claim any space her own. But she is aware she may be forced into the space for the less fortunate. Whitney uses the language of money and power to claim agency on her earnings. She is free to “leave” anything to anyone she wills, but she decides to give it to the poor prisoners who are both literally marginalized because the prisons are on the edges of the city on the city Wall, and figuratively marginalized because they are not included in the society because of their economic status.

MoEML was a tremendous help understanding the juxtaposition of Whitney’s chosen spaces. Although, I read the poem several times and landed on the line 169 and made me think of the opposite direction, I could not understand what was on the other side. The MoEMl has a feature where it will map out the locations in the poem. However, not all the points addressed in the poem are mapped. But, what MoEML does is it hyperlinks all places and locations in a text. For example, the livery companies are not mapped, but they were hyperlinked, so I was able to read and understand the function of the livery company and its impact on the lives and politics of Londoners. Taken this understanding, my curiosity about the ‘people on the left’, and the mapped locations of the prisons, I was able to make my claim. I was able to easily locate the liveries from the information and link provided by MoEML. The prison coordinates proved a little more difficult to locate because they were demolished, or the streets looked or were spelled differently on the MoEML map.  A more difficult task was location the Counter prison which was not mapped on MoEML. Despite these expected difficulties, I felt I understood digital humanities better while completing this project.

Digital humanities for me, as of this project (I expect I am only scratching the surface) is synonymous to an encyclopedia or dictionary, where one entry takes you to the next, which makes you question that entry that drives you to the following entry. It is never ending and helps one infiltrate the material more critically from multiple perspectives, perspectives never thought of, or make connections quite possible impossible without the resources.  I have come to see digital humanities as an extension of the critical research, not a tool to be used for research. (The tools are fun too.)

I use Google Maps habitually to navigate my way from one place to another, so using it to create my own map was new and empowering. The power to permeate the map and leave evidence of my research was intriguing and exciting, but the possibility of everything being instantly deleted was infuriating. I lost a few descriptions several times until I learned to type on a document and paste in the text box. Other than the auto-save and quick delete challenges, I found My Maps for Google manageable and useful. The most helpful feature, I would like to bring attention to it the location of images. Google Maps has several options to add an image to the location pin, one can upload from a file, copy url, or the best, search for an image from Google and select it to use instantly. I have not used other mapping software or tool, so I have nothing else to compare to Google Maps.

Mapping Whitney was more captivating than Distant Reading Whitney. With Voyant I found it difficult to remove myself from close reading, but with the map I was encouraged to connect these dot with my love for close reading. In the future, I would include analyze the information using a specific literary theory. As I was analyzing the spaces I thought of deconstruction and Marxist theory but did not include them because I needed more time to delve and connect. Time is crucial for this project. I underestimated the complexity of the material I found, so I cut my research short and forced myself to compact complex ideas for the sake of time. Professor Silva’s reply to my comment about women and families comes to mind when she said that it is not humanly possible for one person to collect all the data. Mapping Whitney showed me a sample of the divergent and intricate paths found and possible in digital humanities. In conclusion, DH is more than a tool; it is the ability to venture and infiltrate information and make it accessible and mailable to a researcher. Yet the question remains, how will DH help the masses?


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