Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Black Book Project: What kinds of important research questions are we asking?

Based on our collection of some 2000 novels, most of which are neither widely read nor taught, we see the digital medium as a way to provide new levels of access, consolidate a large amount of data and invite new questions. What patterns exist among book titles, word count and chapter structure of the novels? What are the terms and examples do authors use to describe race and racial tension, and how does this shift over time? Which African American authors are inclined to use unique words and phrases? How many and which prominent historical figures make appearances in the novels? How much do the novelists represent variations of standard and African American vernacular English in their works? What physical environments and distinct regions are described in the novels, and what common words and phrases are used to describe those places? How do stylistic preferences differ from writer to writer? How do these questions alter current organizing premises/theories about black novels?

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