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Jerome J. McGann

John Stewart Bryan University Professor of English, University of Virginia

Jerome McGann
The grandson, son, and brother of printers, and also the first winner of the Richard W. Lyman Award for “advanced humanistic scholarship and teaching through the innovative use of information technology,” Jerome McGann’s career has exerted a shaping influence on the trajectory of contemporary literary studies from its home base in textual and critical scholarship to the new media. McGann has been a major voice in at least four areas of literary studies: literature of the Romantic era, the “New Historicism” in literary criticism, revisionary theory and practice of textual editing, and the digital humanities. McGann taught at the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, and the California Institute of Technology before becoming Commonwealth Professor and then the John Stewart Bryan Professor at the University of Virginia. Representative books from his extensive publications include: Fiery Dust: Byron’s Poetic Development (1969); Byron: The Complete Poetical Works (1980-93); The Romantic Ideology: A Critical Investigation (1983); A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (1983); The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory (1985); Textual Studies and Literary Interpretation (1985); Social Values and Poetic Acts (1987); The Textual Condition (1991); Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution in Literary Style (1996); and Radiant Textuality: Literature Since the World Wide Web (2001.) Radiant Textuality won the James Russell Lowell Award for the Most Distinguished Scholarly Book of the Year in 2002 from the Modern Language Association. McGann has been one of the main forces behind the University of Virginia’s initiatives in digital humanities and electronic publishing. At the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Hunanities (IATH), he created the Dante Gabriel Rossetti Archive—a hypertextual and multimedia archive, edition, and commentary on the work of Rossetti’s poetry and paintings that helped establish the paradigm for a new media approach to humanities texts based on the combination of rigorous text-encoding standards and adventurous use of hypertext principles. McGann’s current digital initiatives include the Ivanhoe project, which is creating a new critical and pedagogical approach to literature based on a role-playing computer “game” paradigm (co-created with Johanna Drucker); and the NINES (Networked Interface for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship) project, which is building an institutional structure of peer-reviewed online scholarship in the humanities complemented by a suite of advanced humanities digital tools. NINES was started when McGann received the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s $1.5 million Distinguished Achievement Award in the humanities.

Links: Home page | Dante Gabriel Rossetti Archive | NINES (Networked Interface for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship)

Research Sample:


Ivanhoe is an online playspace that facilitates collaborative interpretation. Ivanhoe calls attention to interpretation as active intervention in a textual field and promotes self-conscious reflection by returning various visual and textual transformations to the players. Ivanhoe is specially apt for use in small group situations (classroom, small research groups).

See also Juxta: a cross-platform collation and text comparison/analysis application that can work on prose or verse (marked or unmarked). This is a text comparison and collation tool for XML files and the image files that stand behind the XML transcriptions. It allows a scholar to locate for comparison equivalent textual passages, to display both the equivalent image files as well as the transcriptions. It also allows comparisons between comparable pictorial objects (e.g., versions of The Blessed Damozel) or comparable textual and pictorial objects (e.g, illustrations of passages in Bleak House). All such comparisons can also be annotated. The tool will also collate equivalent textual strings (both marked and unmarked) and output a schedule of the differences.

  jmcgann, 04.24.05

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