Dr Christopher Ohge, Senior Lecturer in Digital Approaches to Literature at the Institute of English Studies and the Digital Humanities Research Hub, has been awarded a 12-month NEH-Mellon Fellowship to complete a digital scholarly edition of Mary Anne Rawson’s anti-slavery anthology The Bow in the Cloud (1834).
The Bow in the Cloud is a 400-page anthology of original poems and prose pieces by a mixture of well-known and non-professional writers in Great Britain. It is also one of the most comprehensive collections of male and female British anti-slavery activists of the period.
However, the printed anthology is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a wealth of unpublished manuscript material related to the anthology, including correspondence between Rawson and other anti-slavery activists; unused poems and prose submissions; visual material; and letters from writers who declined to contribute––including from William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, and Thomas Moore. In total, there are over 600 items of unpublished archive material.
A print edition could never capture the richness of these materials and the relationships between them. Instead, Dr Ohge’s digital edition will unfold this multi-dimensional archive and provide unique insights into the creation of this important anthology.
Through a combination of textual editing, social network analysis, and the sociology of anti-slavery gift book publishing, Dr Ohge’s digital edition will reveal a “people’s history” of the making of The Bow in the Cloud.
The project will also produce new insights into an under-studied period of transatlantic abolitionism (c. 1826 to 1834). Research of this period has tended to focus on the burgeoning American abolitionist literature, even though its rhetoric and publishing strategies owe much to British abolitionists in the 1820s–30s, especially the women leading anti-slavery societies like Rawson. The publication of this multimodal digital edition will help deepen understandings of transatlantic anti-slavery activity during this period.
The NEH fellowship scheme was highly competitive; just seven percent of the Fellowship proposals that were received were successful. Dr Ohge's project sits alongside a wide range of innovative projects that use emerging digital tools and technologies to further humanities research and increase the accessibility of public programs, cultural and archival materials, and educational resources for large audiences.
Dr Ohge said of the award, “I am delighted to have been awarded this fellowship, which will finally allow me to complete a complex project that I began early in my tenure at SAS, in 2018.
“The edition aims to provide a model for a new kind of digital scholarly edition that is focused on the reconstruction of a publishing event (a multi-author anthology).
“It is of course an honour and a privilege to be among so many other fantastic projects.”
Find out more about Dr Ohge’s work on The Bow in the Cloud.