Faculty Development Presentation

Useful Internet Sites and Tools for Humanists

I. Electronic Document Collections

Most on-line e-texts available today are suspect. Transcription mistakes are common and easily replicated as documents are copied from computer to computer. In response to this, the following document sites have taken great care in the preparation of their texts. Many of these sites also boast search and analysis tools that make the electronic versions more useful than their printed counterparts. Note that in a few cases I have listed document collections that are not available to us directly but ought to be.

University E-Text Centers

The University of Virginia Electronic Text Center has a variety of classic texts written in English, French, German and Latin. Their searchable side-by-side King James and RSV Bible is a highlight. They also have a good list of web-links to other e-text centers.

The American Verse Project at the University of Michigan allows logical and proximity word searches of American poetry written before 1920. They currently have over three dozen major volumes available and many more to come. (The search engine is fast; my search of "love" NEAR "death" produced 74 citations in less than a second)

The Bartleby Project at Columbia University has about three dozen major prose works, including classics by Whitman, Du Bois, and Dickinson. The real gem, in my humble opinion, is Strunk's Elements of Style, but I'm a young fogey.

The Victorian Women Writers Project at Indiana University is well along in its namesake effort. Unlike the other collections listed above IU has no word search engine for these texts yet, but give them time.

One of the pioneers in e-text development since the 1970s has been the Dartmouth Dante Project. Telnet to and then connect dante at the library prompt. The mainframe terminal interface might seem a little old-fashioned but the collection of Dante commentaries is extensive and their cross-referencing is thorough.

The Perseus Project at Tufts University has Greek and English versions of all major Greek texts from the fifth century B.C. Their complete Greek-English lexicon and total indexing for the texts will allow even those users who don't know Greek to stumble their way through the original language documents. You may find their Ancient Olympic Games exhibit to be amusing.

Document Collections Requiring a License

A few of these are available in Furman Library; most aren't, but should be.

The ARTFL Project is one of those interesting and annoying canonical projects that some people in France seem so intrigued with. The University of Chicago took the French version (AKA: Trésor de la Langue Française) and put their own spin on it. We can't get to the texts, but the search page gives some idea of the power that could be available to us.

The Chadwyck-Healey English Poetry Full Text Database is described by its boosters as " a database of the English poetic canon from Anglo-Saxon times to the end of the nineteenth century." This same company also has a complete African-American poetry index and some other projects. I'm told the databases are very expensive but that the company looks favorably upon a group license consortia of institutions (read Associated Colleges of the South--how about it, Ken and Doug?).

II. Word Analysis and Reference Tools

The electronic Oxford English Dictionary is available in the library. I am told that anyone who purchases the electronic version never uses the printed version again. Many colleges now make the e-OED available over their campus network. We should too, in my humble opinion.

WordNet's creators bill their program as "a lexical database for English." (Available for free download if you have a PC/Windows computer.) Wordnet is a lean and powerful combination of dictionary and thesaurus. It allows rapid classification of words into ranked categories (hand is a part of limb, is a part of animal, is a part of entity, etc.), coordinate terms, synonyms, and antonyms. It will also generate a sample usage of the word as extracted from the Brown Corpus of the English Language.

TACT, (Text Analysis Computing Tools) is a collection of free MS-DOS programs developed by the University of Toronto's Computing in the Humanities and Social Sciences" group. The DOS version is not very intuitive but could be figured out by students with help from an instructor. A demonstration of some TACT capabilities delivered over the web can be found at the TACTweb web site.

Lancaster University Center for Computer Corpus Research on Language has some useful part of speech tagging tools and other programs.

III. The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI-SGML)

What is the TEI?

The main purpose of the Text Encoding Initiative is to create a standard means of storing and transmitting electronic texts that is both computer and program independent. The TEI system also allows documents to be annotated in-line for scholarly and bibliographic purposes.

(Official description from the TEI home page:)
The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is an international project to develop guidelines for the preparation and interchange of electronic texts for scholarly research, and to satisfy a broad range of uses by the language industries more generally. The TEI is sponsored by the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH), the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), and the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing (ALLC). Major support for the project has come from the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Directorate XIII of the Commission of the European Communities (CEC/DG-XIII), the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Advantages of SGML over HTML

(From the SoftQuad Home Page)

TEI and SGML web pages:

What is SGML and How Does It Help? (A non-specialist's introduction)
A Gentle Introduction to SGML
U. Va. e-text center guide to TEI/SGML markup
TEI Home Page
TEI Applications Page Lists projects that have adopted the TEI standard.
SoftQuad Panarama Free Free Windows plug-in for Netscape; allows viewing of TEI and other SGML documents.
SGML on the Web A listing of SGML resources and applications.

VI. For Further Reference

The following links are not certified by the author but may prove useful anyway.

James O'Donnell, a philosopher at the University of Pennsylvania, has produced a useful hypertext essay on New Tools for Teaching that the computer provides to humanists. The MIT report on Education via Advanced Technologies also seems have some interesting ideas but I haven't read it as closely.

Any on-line humanities tour should also include a stop at the Voice of the Shuttle: Web Page for Humanities Research. See also The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. Its projects, especially the Valley of the Shadow Exhibit on the Civil War and the Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Rossetti have been highly acclaimed by humanities computing types. Finally, there is an extensive annotated web site of links to humanities sites at Griffith University in Australia.

Compiled by T. Lloyd Benson, 3 September 1996. Last updated 25 March 1997. Send comments and suggestions to