Little Women

Emily Arcuri and Sarah Gorr

Bloomsburg University
400 East Second Street
Bloomsburg, PA 17815

December 6, 2010

Digital Humanities
Research Proposal

Little Women:
A Look Into the March Family through the Years

Preliminary Abstract

Our proposed project is to create a Digital Humanites website focusing on Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Little Women. We envision the site to be much more than simply a copy of the novel; instead, it will provide facsimiles and other interactive features to help our readers view Little Women more deeply. One important interactive element we hope to include is a page with several videos of different adaptations of the novel, such as movies, musicals, and plays. We also want to add a blog-like area for users to share their newfound insights and inquiries, after using the site. An essential part of the site will be a page with a step-by-step tutorial, guiding users through the main comparison page.

The comparison page is the primary focus of our site. This page will allow users to compare the original, handwritten novel with not only the transcribed version of the text,  but with play scripts, movie scripts, and different versions of the novel based on publisher and year.  It is our hope that users will be able to use this comparison page as a tool to view the changes the book has undergone through each adaptation. Users will be able to compare many different adaptations with this tool, which means there will be hundreds of different possibilities. Users will, idealistically, be able to compare different works each time they go to the site.

The envisioned site will also include a history of Alcott and her novel, as well as a list of approximately 208 published copies of Little Women. There will also be character descriptions, and brief summaries of each play, musical, and film. By providing a history of each form of the novel, we hope users will feel informed and we hope this information will serve as a guide for more in-depth research.

Table of Contents

Project Overview

Research Goal and Objectives

Project Deliverables

Project Stakeholders

Methodology

Working Bibliography

Figure A

Project Overview
The reasoning behind this project idea is a combination of many different thoughts. Both members of this proposal team have unique reasons and motivations for why this site should be created. Emily Arcuri is a sophomore English major at Bloomsburg University, and has been an avid reader her entire life. Her major is also focused in the Creative Writing area, so she enjoys learning about authors and their writing processes. A site that could show acute changes in an author’s work was a very exciting and interesting idea for her. She wants the world to have access to Louisa May Alcott’s handwritten text, and all published versions, so everyday people can gain an understanding of Alcott’s writing.

Sarah Gorr, on the other hand, wanted to create a project that appealed to students and interested users. Since she also attends Bloomsburg University, and is an education major, she wanted to make a tool that enabled students to form ideas, and research new information. She wanted a tool that could inspire students to take the initiative to learn outside the classroom, and gain interest in historical novels. Also, Sarah found one version of the movie to be entertaining, and wanted to find a way for others to view the movie, but in an intellectual setting. Therefore, she wanted interested users to have a site that provided both leisure, and scholarly tools.

Both of us gravitated towards the novel, Little Women, because of our shared interests, and the historical value of the novel and the author. Due to our recent Digital Humanities class, we wanted to get both of our respected audiences involved in the DH community, and further our own involvement in the community, as well. Since our site will have numerous different pages, we found that each page has a certain correlation with each of our desired audiences. Sarah influenced the ideas for the history and video pages because of her interest in the teaching and leisure areas. Emily’s desires affected the comparison screen, since it is aimed towards scholarly learning. We both realized how important collaboration and interactivity are to Digital Humanities, so we jointly envisioned the blog page for this purpose. After bringing our ideas together, we both refined our thoughts, and were able to create an exciting research prospect that we believe will attract all types of users.

.
Research Goals and Objectives
Our goal is for this site to be accessible and relatable to a myriad of users, including those slightly interested in the novel, students, and scholars. To cater to each type of user, the site can be used in a very in-depth manner, or it can be skimmed on the surface. The information users receive from the site simply depends on the amount of time and effort they put into using the site.

Our proposed site will be very helpful and interesting for those with any sort of interest in Little Women or Louisa May Alcott. These types of users can simply read a version of her book, watch an enjoyable movie, or learn about the fascinating history when visiting the site. We hope these features will entice the users to use the other provided tools to gain more knowledge on the subject. Interested users may also find the blog area, where they can share their ideas, very enjoyable. Optimistically, we want users to post their opinions on the novel or adaptations, and begin discussions with people around the world. This would hopefully be an exciting prospect for those interested in Little Women. Our main goal for these types of users is to provide them with a leisure tool that acts as a starting point, but will hopefully catapult them into further research and involvement with the site.

High school, undergraduate, and graduate students are also part of the site’s prime focus. These students should be able to use our site as more than a leisure tool. Hopefully, the history sections can help them with projects, while the comparison tool will allow them to formulate their own ideas that can be used for new research prospects. The comparison tool will be extremely important for these students because it provides them with a promising and unique research tool. They will be able to view texts side by side, and decipher how exactly they view the changes within each text. The students will be able to share their research ideas, and opinions in the blog area, as well. We want to make sure the blog section stays intellectual, so these users will be key to fulfilling this purpose. We hope that through the use of this site, many different types of students will become more involved in the Digital Humanities community.

Finally, scholars will make use of the primary aspect of our site, which is the comparison page. Scholars will, in theory, use the comparison tool very deeply, and will analyze several different adaptations closely. They can look for specific elements in the texts, such as character changes, plot changes, different wordings, and different meanings. By using this tool, scholars can conceivably find new insights about the text and may come up with new views on how the novel has changed over the years. This may influence many different opinions regarding Little Women and Louisa May Alcott herself. We hope that scholars will also be very prominent in the blog section, because we value crowd-sourcing and feel everyone’s opinions and questions matter. Scholars may have more time to analyze texts, though, so we really want to hear their ideas.

In conclusion, the purpose of this site is to influence many types of people, provide new research possibilities, get individuals involved in the Digital Humanities community, and create a place for users to feel connected with others interested in this material. By creating the comparison page, history pages, blog page, and video pages, users will have limitless opportunities to form, share, and discuss all types of ideas.

Project Deliverables
We propose to deliver an actual research tool, specifically on the comparison page. To make this a useful tool, we were forced to consider all design options. We decided to make the comparison page divided into three separate boxes. In each box, users will have a list of choices they can click through, which include manuscripts, published works, plays, musicals, and films. The manuscript choice is broken down into a selection of either facsimile or transcription. Users can also choose published works, based on different publishers, and years the work was published. The plays, musicals, and films are all broken down into scripts by year. Users have all of these choices for each of the boxes, and will be allowed to select three options.

Once users decide which three versions of the novel they want to view, the text will show up in each respective box. Then, users will be able to scroll through each text and compare them side by side, allowing for in-depth comparison. By putting so many different options on the comparison screen, users can have a different experience each time they use the site. They can choose to compare a film with a text, a text with another text, a play with a play, etc. This will allow users to pick and choose, making the site familiar and accessible. This will also allow users to determine how much or how little they want to put into researching.

As stated above, we propose to deliver a tool to cultivate each user’s unique research. The research gained from this site will be growing research, not completed research. We hope this tool will provide endless possibilities, and will never be a completely finished area of research. There will always be new discoveries found that we hope will be shared in the blog section, so the entire world can benefit. By providing this blog section, we hope to increase collaboration among our users, because we believe collaborating with others is an imperative step in the research process. It also keeps in spirit with Digital Humanities. A skeleton of this comparison page is shown in Figure A, and serves as a rough estimate of what the page will look like. Essentially, this page will hopefully serve as a complete archive of Little Women adaptations. This archive would have every published text, as well as each version of the plays, musicals, and films. We want this archive to be used as a tool to inspire new learning and research.

Project Stakeholders
We kept the site simple to navigate, and easy to use due to the variety of users we expect to have. Therefore, we took into consideration the design, content, and technical abilities of all users. When considering design, we knew it was necessary to keep the site clean, simple, and organized. We figured interested users would not enjoy a complicated site that was full of too much information that might overwhelm them and cause them to leave the site. Because of our focus on these interested users, and their passion for Little Women, we want to make sure each page provides clear, understable history, without being daunting. For our students, we decided the format of the site should be stimulating and user-friendly. We hope to divide the comparison page into three distinct boxes, and we want to provide clear instructions, so students can grasp the full concept of the site. Also, by making the comparison page simple and easy to use, students can feel safe, but also feel like they are learning material. By making this comparison page clear and simple, scholars will also be able to research quickly and effectively.

When thinking about content for the site, we kept our three respective audiences in mind. By providing pages for history on the author, novel, and characters, interested users can gain simple information on perhaps their favorite author. By also adding a page with videos of plays, musicals, and films, users can feel interested and excited. It is our hope, once again, that these interested users will enjoy the site for its leisurely qualities, but they will begin to explore the comparison page as well. We believe the history sections will be important for students, also, because they may help with projects and papers. But the content on the comparison screen will be beneficial to students, also. By providing so many different options, students will hopefully feel engaged and curious about all of the possibilities they have in comparing Alcott’s works. Scholars will definitely benefit from the options on the comparison page, as well, because it provides them with endless research possibilities and there will always be a place for new ideas. By including so many content options, and so many different history pages, we hope our content appeals to all of our stakeholders.

All of our groups of users could have a variety of technical skills, so we thought it would be best to assume users only had basic skills, in order to accommodate everyone. We did not, however, want the site to seem unprofessional and immature. So we chose to make the comparison screen simple and clear, but full of information and intellectual capabilities as well. To make users feel comfortable with this page, which will be the most complicated part of the site, we propose to include a page with an interactive tutorial. We want this tutorial to have different options for different types of learners. To do this, we want to include a video for visual and audio learners, which will guide them through the steps of selecting options on the comparison page. We will also include a written list of steps that demonstrate how to use the site, for read-write learners. By providing this tutorial, which will hopefully be helpful for all users, we expect users to all be on the same technical level, in regards to the comparison page. For the other pages, we have a constant menu on the top, as a navigation bar. It is our hope that this will make the site easy to navigate, but professional at the same time.

In short, we expect a variety of stakeholders to visit our site, all with different technical and learning skills, as well as expectations for content. Each user will also have different reasons for visiting our site. We hope the design, content, and technical tutorial will help every user feel comfortable on our site. This newfound comfort will enable all types of stakeholders to form appropriate research, and participate fully in the site. We feel that each stakeholder has influenced the design of this site for the better.

Methodology
To create this website, we used many technological programs, and we hope to immerse users in technology, as well. For all audio and images on the site, we propose to make them JPEG files and MP3 files, since they are the most commonly used files. This will hopefully disable any type of problem, and will allow all computers to view the site without glitches. For the video page on the site, we want to embed only one video, while providing links to the rest. By embedding only one, we hope the site will run faster and will not lag. For the tutorial section, though, we will have another video embedded on the site, which will be the demonstration video. To make this video, we will use Windows Movie Maker, due to our technical skills and software available. With proper time and money, we would be willing to learn and use another professional type of software to create the video.

We also propose to use the Adobe Dreamweaver software to create the site, which uses TEI and unicode. We are going to use XML as the encoding language on our site, due to its advantages and widespread popularity. XML is also an international standard for encoding and exchanging data, which is important for our site. The humanities field primarily uses XML, and it allows for concentration on structure and content. XML also allows for scholarly interpretation of the material. Also, we propose to use the TEI standard of XML because it works on all computers, and is suitable for many discipline areas. It has the technicality for all computers, but has the functionality and simplicity for all types of users. These standards also allow us to view deletions, insertions, abbreviations, and other changes Alcott may have made in her original work. We feel that these are appropriate and highly important reasons for using XML and TEI standards in our site. Both XML and TEI coincide very similarly with our goals for making our audience feel comfortable on our site. The TEI standards allow users to view Alcott’s work as close to the original as possible.

The pictures and facsimiles are very important elements in our site, so their format must be appropriate. We will include images on almost every page. The history page will have pictures of Louisa May Alcott, as well as pictures of the book. We will include pictures on the character pages, snapshots from the most popular films, so users will get a feel for the movie before watching it. On the comparison page, the facsimiles of Alcott’s handwritten novel will be formatted as pictures. We think it is important that all pictures, including facsimiles, on the site will be in JPEG form. It is the most common way of formatting picture on the web, which will make it easier for every computer type and user.

Working Bibliography

I. Sites used in Proposal:

Arcuri, Emily, and Sarah Gorr. Little Women: A Look into the March Family through the Years. N.p., 15 Nov. 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.     <http://myweb.bloomu.edu/seg35169/home.html>.

“JPEG.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 29 November      2010. Web. 30 November 2010. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JPEG>.

Van den Branden, Ron, Melissa Terras, and Edward Vanhoutte. TEI by Example. Web. 30 November 2010. Web. 30 November 2010. <http://www.teibyexample.org>.

II. Text used on our Website:

Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. Signet Classic: New American Library, 2004 April. Print.

Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. Tor: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 1994 February. Print.

Gould, Elizabeth Lincoln. The “Little Women” Play. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1900.   University of Toronto Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.             <http://www.archive.org/stream/littlewomenplayt00gouluoft#page/n11/mode/2up>.
*Additional play scripts and musical scripts will be added on our site.

Little Women original handwritten manuscripts will eventually be implemented on our site.

III. Media used on our Website:

Little Women. Dir. Gillian Armstrong. Columbia Pictures, 1994. Film.

Little Women. Dir. Alexander Butler. G.B. Samuelson Productions, 1917. Film.

Little Women. Dir. George Cukor. RKO Radio Pictures, 1933. Film.

Little Women. Dir. Harley Knoles. William A. Brady Picture Plays, 1918. Film.

Little Women. Dir. Mervyn LeRoy. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), 1949. Film.

*Only one film will be embedded on our site, while the others will be links.

Figure A: This figure is a skeleton of what our proposed comparison screen would include. With the proper technical skills and software, it is our goal to make these links work, and look professional.

Leave a Reply