CBW began as an exhaustive, annotated bibliography amassed through original research by Professor Alison Booth and graduate students at the University of Virginia. The digitization of that bibliography has allowed for the creation of a relational database interconnecting data about the women and men featured in the biographical narratives, the biographers, editors, and publishers of the collections, and the books and narratives themselves. In addition, CBW has become a narrative analysis project: under Booth’s supervision, expert readers are examining digitized texts and performing stand-aside markup to uncover the narrative technique and structure of these stories. Recently, CBW has partnered with Social Networks and Archival Contexts (SNAC) to integrate and share person records. As part of this SNAC partnership, CBW’s latest venture is to develop a prototype tool for identifying, storing, and researching cohorts of women connected in what Booth calls “documentary social networks.”
What Is CBW?
- An annotated bibliography: find out about more than 1200 books that collect three or more short biographies of women; the exhaustive list covers 1830-1940, with a range of publications before and after those dates. http://womensbios.lib.virginia.edu
- Linked to a book: The annotated bibliography is linked to the study of this genre of books, in an agreement between the UVA Library and the University of Chicago Press: see Alison Booth' How to Make It as a Woman: Collective Biographical History from Victoria to the Present (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).
- A database of historical women: from the bibliography, we have built a database that leads the user to information about more than 8600 individuals linked to the texts, and that allows us to study the different types of personae and types of collections.
- An experiment in digital interpretation of narrative
- A pioneering study of biography and prosopography: narrative studies have focused on fiction (in print or visual media) far more than they have considered nonfiction. More critical studies have focused on autobiography than on biography.
What this project is...and is not:
It is: a feminist literary study
but it's not a study of women writers of poetry or fiction
CBW is a tool for studying the history of women of all occupations, insofar as their lives were narrated in print. Women writers are frequent subjects in published collections of biographies after 1750. Presenters were more often men than women.
It is: a study of narratives about real lives
but it's not a study of autobiographies or memoirs by women
It is: a textual project involving teams of editors in XML markup
but it's not an online edition of a canonical author or corpus
We document trends in telling these women's lives rather than striving for authoritative editions.