Reading Modernist Cities

This is a collaboration I’m working on with Melissa Dinsman,Xiaojing Duan, Matthew Sisk (Notre Dame) and Liz Rodrigues (Temple U). Melissa wrote the abstract and FAQ (below) for our website.

About Reading Modernist Cities

Reading Modernist Cities (RMC) is a digitally augmented text platform that serves teachers and researchers of modern literature. The platform allows for three specific ways of interaction. At the most basic level, RMC acts as an enhancement of print and ebook versions of modernist texts. RMC texts are drawn from Project Gutenberg‘s public domain literary corpus. These texts have then been edited by content experts with culturally relevant images, sounds, films, and historical material. As an open source tool, RMC can also be used by researchers and instructors interested in augmenting their own modernist text. After requesting platform space from the RMC team, scholars will receive directions on how to engage with RMC and how to submit their augmented text for inclusion in the larger public facing collection of texts. Finally, through the use of TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), researchers can search the RMC’s collection of modernist texts for information about specific places, sounds, character movement, and historical events as they appear in metropolitan-set fiction.

RMC has five main goals:

  1. Enhance student understanding of texts through the inclusion of images, sounds, geography, and other historical information.
  2. Improve student understanding of modernist culture through the inclusion of the multimedia annotations listed above.
  3. Enable students to tackle significant questions of interpretation through either the reading of an already-created RMC text or by annotating a modernist text for the RMC platform.
  4. Support student collaboration when annotating a modernist text for RMC.
  5. Promote new research of space, culture, and sound of modernist literature through TEI markup and augmentation cataloguing.  

Project Contributors

Melissa Dinsman (Primary Investigator) Elizabeth Rodrigues (Content Expert)

Xiaojing Duan (Lead Platform Specialist) Matthew Sisk (GIS Specialist)

Carrie Johnston (Content Expert)

with a special thanks to the Hesburgh Libraries’ Center for Digital Scholarship.

Questions or requests for RMC space should be directed to Melissa Dinsman:


Why “modernist” cities?

RMC is a multimedia platform and as such seeks to augment texts immersed in the technological and media age. Modernism, as David Trotter points out, is the “First Media Age.” It is the age in which “literary texts began to fill up with communication by telephone, radio, and cinema screening, and with all sorts of behavior virtual interactions made possible” (Trotter 1). While Trotter focuses primarily on late-modernism to form his argument, one can see technology-based sound, transportation, mass media, and networks being essential to both the content and form of modernist texts going back to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). For this reason (and for reasons of corpus creation), RMC is exploring the idea that the “Media Age” is the age of modernism.

How do I navigate the site?

When you land on RMC’s homepage you will see several informational and navigation tags above a world map. From the navigation bar, you can learn more about RMC’s goals, choose a text to read, view the images used in the augmented texts (a sound gallery is in production), and visit the “frequently asked questions” page. The map below the navigation bar works similar to the “Texts” button. It allows you to enter a specific text, but based on location rather than author name or title. For example, if you wanted to see which New York-based texts have been augmented, you could click on the New York pin and chose “May Day.” By the end of spring 2016, multiple texts set in New York and London will be available.

Upon entering “May Day” you will see a map of 1919 Manhattan on the left-hand side and Fitzgerald’s story on the right-hand side. The story has specific passages highlighted in gray.

As you read the story, you can click on these passages and an augmentation box will pop up on the left-hand side. These boxes will contain key words, the quote, as well as any combination of image, sound, video, or editorial material.

The geographic location of the characters is also marked on the map so that as you read the story you can see how the characters are moving through the space of the narrative. Note: an unusual feature of OMEKA is that you must close out one annotation box before opening another. This will be corrected on the specially-built platform.

How can I use this platform in my courses?

This platform can be used in the classroom in two ways:

  1. If a text is available on RMC, students can use RMC’s version as an alternative to or an enhancement of a print version. By doing so, they will gain a cultural and historical understanding of the narrative’s time.
  2. Students and faculty can use the RMC platform to augment a modernist text that is not already found on RMC’s website. For this option, please read the “User Guide” as found on the homepage. (The User Guide is forthcoming in December.)

I am not a modernist. Can I still use the platform to augment a text?

Certainly! Because RMC is a free, open-source platform, anyone with an account can use the site. So if you would like you class to create and augmented Romeo and Juliet just follow the User Guide to get started. However, if you would like to augment a modernist text and have it featured on this site, please submit the finalized version to Melissa Dinsman (, who will then have it reviewed by the editorial board and experts in the content area.

I am interested in using this platform and still have questions, who should I contact?

Currently all questions can be directed to the project leader Melissa Dinsman at