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Project Proposal: Reareading the Early Greek Epic

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    Taylor Dietrich

    CUNY Graduate Center – MALS 75500 Digital Praxis Seminar
    Professor Grant Wythoff
    February 12, 2016

    Rereading the Ancient Greek Epics
    A Public Exhibition of Generative Book Morphology

    Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
    driven time and again of course, once he had plundered
    the hallowed heights of Troy.

    -Robert Fagles

    Highly canonical texts, both The Iliad and The Odyssey are the oldest extant works in western literature. Mirroring the historical development of story-telling, both epics have evolved formally since their oral inception. Initially verbal, adopting the written form in the 8th century BC, the texts are history that morphed into mythology during it’s transformation from oral narrative to written artifact. Two thousand years later these epic works were shared primarily through the monograph, and are now digitally consumed. Archived, packaged, mixed-media, enhanced, streamed, and networked, these artifacts are moving from physical relic to born-digital artifact. Rereading the Early Greek Epics puts a wedge in this transformation.

    The fundamental intention behind this project is to utilize a public humanities platform to reinvigorate the study of highly canonical works through the application of digital tools, and in the process, generate new morphological potential for the post-digital turn “book” object. Through a combination of traditional materials, and the innovative use of new media and digital technologies for public programming, this project intends to introduce to a wide audience a new approach to reading the Early Greek epic that addresses the modern reader’s changing habits of engaging narrative through non-traditional means. By applying text analysis, information visualization, and exhibition design, simultaneously, this project hopes to reinvigorate public interest in foundational literary works.

    The predictive outcomes of this project are three fold:

    • To continue the “allographic” journey of the Early Greek epics by exposing their underlying algorithmic structures using innovative text analysis and visualization tools.
    • To examine potential iterations (both physical and digital) of the “book” artifact after the digital turn, using canonical works positioned at the genesis of story telling in the western tradition.
    • Adding measurable institutional value to the humanities by locating the digital humanities as a vehicle for public outreach and education.

    Rereading the Early Greek Epic is conceived of as generative, so exact form and dimensions of deliverables are not yet knowable. However, through a continuation of the morphological history of the ancient Greek epic, the project is designed as a public exhibition with large scale prints, print/digital hybrid artifacts, and experimental book forms that lays claim to a potentially innovative approach to reading the chosen narrative case studies. Some potential forms used in similar exhibitions are poster prints, mechanical infinite loop scrolls, book folds, projections of process iterations, 3d-printed prototypes, and exhibition catalogs. Additionally, the exhibition will be accompanied by an online counterpart that has a life before and after the public exhibition.

    List of Participants:
    • Public Outreach Coordinator
    • Project Manager/Exhibition Consultant
    • Developer with experience or interest in the Processing language, and data driven visualization tools
    • UX designer with interface design experience, and an interest in physical computing
    • Computational linguist with experience using natural language processing libraries and machine learning
    • (Potentially) Jeremy March, Classics Consultant (CUNY Graduate Center Digital Fellow)

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