Whitney Sperrazza’s HASTAC project is titled “Feeling Violation: Digital/Physical Approaches to Sexual Violence.” When I met with Whitney, she was not able to formulate a research question, but she is interested in finding out how digital tools and methods can be used to help readers “…gain new critical perspectives on literary representations of sexual violence and the writing and reading bodies interacting with those representations.” Her initial exploration of this area involved extracting words from Renaissance poetry that described sexually violent acts and then rendering those words as three-dimensional objects that could be touched by readers of the work. Recently, Whitney has begun looking at stage direction in Renaissance plays depicting sexual violence. She is interested in how the actors bodies are directed to respond to acts of violence. My understanding of the project is that it is an exploration the language of sexual violence and the human body’s response to that language.
Whitney identified her audience as other scholars interested in this type of work. I think that her project would be useful to playwrights and novelists who seek to accurately convey the feelings of violence in words and actions. It might also be of interest to art and dance therapy practitioners, psychologists, and anyone who studies the effects of language on the body.
Below are preliminary lists of subject areas and keywords to be used in the search for resources.
LC Subject Headings
Theater and Drama
Theater, Acting, Feminism and theater, Feminist theater, Sex in the theater, Violence in the theater, Women in the theater
Rape in art, Rape in literature, Rape trauma syndrome, Rape victims, Rape victims in literature, Sexual abuse victims, Sex crimes
Dance therapy, Authentic movement (dance therapy), Art therapy, music therapy
Laban Movement Analysis, language of sexual violence, dance therapy for rape victims, art therapy for rape victims, rape survivor stories, rape survivor poetry, haptic aesthetics
If one is seeking to understand the feeling of being sexually violated, it makes sense to ask those who have been violated. So, rather than going first to academic journals, I began with simple Internet searches for victim/survivor stories. This search resulted in first-hand accounts of rape in various formats including written narrative, poetry, art, and spoken word. In my opinion, these primary sources will be of the greatest use to Whitney.
As for secondary sources, I am looking at databases such as the “Gender Studies Database,” ‘PsychINFO,” and the “MLA International Bibliography.” Here I hope to identify resources about feminist views on sexual violence, therapy for victims of sexual violence, and the treatment of sexual violence in theater and literature.
Other DH Projects
I have found a few digital humanities projects that might serve as exemplars. Psychasthenia 2 is an interactive artwork that allows users to experience something physical. It is, however, something that must be visited in-person. North American Slave Narratives is a project that features first-hand accounts of African American slaves in the United States. Whitney may choose to feature sexual violence victim stories in a similar fashion. The Canterbury Earthquake Digital Archive is a good example of assembling a variety of materials to immerse the user in a particular experience.
I look forward to creating the LibGuide for this project. The challenge for me will be to provide Whitney with a lot of options without sending her in a hundred different directions.