For educators

The Harry Watkins diary can be used in the classroom in a multitude of ways. On this page, we are recording some of the ways we have integrated the project (both the product and process) into the classroom at various institutions with the hope that this will inspire others to do so as well.

Guest Lecture, Digital Humanities and Theatre, NYU, April 2014 As part of a class introducing theatre majors to digital humanities, Dr. Stubbs and two of her LaGuardia students (Medeli Tavarez and Alex Ruziyev) were invited to introduce students at NYU to the Harry Watkins Diary in order to demonstrate one application of XML in theatre scholarship. After being introduced to Harry, his diary, and the project, we explained how XML was enabling us to make the diary more accessible and user-friendly. Using a page from the diary in which Watkins critiques Lester Wallack's performance of Richard III, students were able to apply a set of tags to a pre-transcribed portion of text (with help from LaGuardia students) and transform it using the "Sandbox" feature developed by Scott Dexter. Through the appearance of symbols and colors in the transformed text, students were able to see how the tags were "translated" when published.

This hands on experience led to greater understanding of XML than simply discussing it in abstract terms, and was followed by discussions of what kinds of tags they could use in developing their final projects. We do not yet know if any of the students in the NYU class elected to mark up a text for their final projects (time will tell), but it was clear that they enjoyed and understood the process. Alex and Medeli similarly benefited from the experience, as they were able to share their knowledge of Harry and XML through presenting to the class and guiding students in the hands-on portion of the class.

Internship, LaGuardia Community College, Fall II 2014 (January-February) During this internship, eight students in three Liberal Arts majors (Journalism, Writing and Literature, and Liberal Arts: Social Sciences and Humanities) worked on volume 7 of the diary (1851). In the course of the semester, they learned about critical editing, transcription, and proofreading, and then developed original projects in response to what they had learned. After the first class, the majority of students in the class did not understand what they could gain from the experience or thought the internship would be too hard and so considered dropping the class (a fact they shared at the end of the semester), yet by the end, they all could appreciate what skills they had developed and reflected on these in their various final projects, all of which are available below..

Gabriella wrote a blog post about her experiences reading script in a language other than her native one and layering XML on top of "Harry's language." Cathelyne reflected on how the process of transcribing tagging text led her to re-evaluate how she approaches a text, and to understand the tone of the author through attention to issues of format. A third blog post by Kelly examined how Harry felt about another actor (Booth, Sr), with Kelly questioning why he reacted the way he did and what the play performed would have been like.

Oliver's frustration with reading Harry's handwriting led him to create a guide to Harry's letters. This resource will help other students in the future and will become part of our resources when the edition goes live. Alex's desire to paint a more full picture of Harry's character resulted in a creatively imagined diary entry, interspersing the words of Harry's brief entries with those Alex imagined Watkins might have written had he been more thorough. This demonstrated the student's understanding of Harry's character and use of language in turn betraying how closely he had read and understood his entries. This will also be published in LaGuardia's creative writing magazine Literary LaGuardia. Another creative project drawing on Harry's character and language was Irma's poem, titled Operator, so-named because Harry's "repetitive words" felt to her as if he was "operating like machinery." Building on our hope that Harry Watkins: the Musical may one day be a reality, Trenton wrote a song titled "Let's Make Harry A Pleasant Day," in response to an episode in which Harry is replaced by a female actor at the last minute, leaving him without paid employment. Our incomplete knowledge of Harry's family coupled with a desire to find a descendant of his that might wish to know about the diary led Jonathan to research Harry's two marriages and five children, resulting in this family tree.

In all, these students demonstrated the value of the work they undertook in terms of skills and knowledge, were able to create artistic projects revealing their deep understanding of his character and motivations, and produced artifacts that will assist and enable future work with the diary.