Visualizing the Victorian Sportswoman

Julia Fuller, English
Faculty Advisor: Matthew Gold
NML Awards: The New Media Lab Digital Dissertation Award (May 2016), The Joshua Brown Visual Culture Award (May 2019)

The Jenness-Miller
The Jenness-Miller Magazine, c. 1890

This project serves as a digital component of my dissertation on the Sportswoman and athleticized female bodies in Victorian literature and culture. Using Omeka, I am constructing a gallery of images extracted from nineteenth-century periodicals. I apply the historicist modes of inquiry from my traditional dissertation to read the visual iconography of the Sportswoman, investigating how the construction of this figure both aligns with and transgresses mainstream models for Victorian femininity. The project functions as a presentation space for generating critical conversations around the images and as a tool for teaching that fosters critical thinking about representations of women. The gallery offers access to a wide collection of images and includes a tool to make annotations directly on the images so that the text flows with the visuals. I use the power of the computer to interrogate images by blowing them up or isolating certain areas of the visual field. The gallery will also be dynamically curated, meaning that items in the collection are shuffled and variously organized to stage relationships between the visual representations in the images. The project considers the larger issue of contextualization, specifically how scholars talk about images in their original context and the possibilities opened up by engaging with the images out of context.

A long-term plan is to make the project interactive and collaborative so that others can contribute to the gallery. By developing it in an open media platform, my goal is to allow researchers in the scholarly community, as well as students who are engaging with the gallery as a tool for learning, to contribute their own annotations and curations or to export my project design for their own use. As such, my project imagines and fosters alternative intellectual communities in a way that foregrounds, rather than sidenotes, visual cultures.