Hello! My name is Dr Katherine Bowers, but many people call me Katia. I’m an Associate Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. I’m a specialist in nineteenth-century Russian literature and my work focuses on genre, narrative, and form. You can find out more about my research on my website. I am also co-PI on the Digital Dostoevsky project (Dr Kate Holland is the PI).
I spend a lot of time thinking about Dostoevsky. For one, Dostoevsky has played a central role in my research for years as I have been working on my book, which is about the way the gothic manifests in nineteenth-century Russian realism (the book should be published in early 2022 – stay tuned!). And, of course, the most quintessentially gothic Russian realist writer is Dostoevsky. For two, Kate and I have also co-edited several Dostoevsky volumes together. A Dostoevskii Companion: Texts and Contexts came out in 2018 (we co-edited it with our colleague Dr Connor Doak) and Dostoevsky at 200: The Novel in Modernity came out this year, in 2021, to mark Dostoevsky’s bicentenary.
I’m also the Vice-President of the North American Dostoevsky Society. Since I’ve gotten involved with the North American Dostoevsky Society, I’ve done a lot of work I didn’t expect related to Dostoevsky. I edit the Society’s blog, Bloggers Karamazov, and I run its Twitter feed. One of the things I have been involved in over the last few years is tweeting Dostoevsky’s novels. We started with The Double (you can read about that event here), and then moved on to Crime and Punishment. For Crime and Punishment, a small group of scholars and I tweeted the entire novel from the perspective of Raskolnikov, its protagonist (you can read about that experience here).
Creating these Twitter feeds surprisingly turned out to involve more literary analysis than we had anticipated. The projects required incredibly close reading as we “mined” the text for tweets. Throughout it, we each came to a new understanding of the parts of the novel we had “mined” by doing this kind of analysis. For example, my experience of tweeting Part 6 and the epilogue of Crime and Punishment actually led me to write a research article about generic expectation in the epilogue. (You can read my blog post about tweeting this here and the research article that emerged from this analysis is here). This experience and the potential of digital reading/machine reading for literary analysis inspired Kate and me to imagine Digital Dostoevsky. You can read about the project in Kate’s intro blog post.
I’m the member of Team Dostoevsky who has done some coding before, although not in a long time (I was doing computer science at university before I became a Russian major – but it’s been awhile). I also have some Digital Humanities experience through the Data-Sitters Club, a feminist collective I’m a member of that is writing a colloquial guide to computational text analysis using the Baby-Sitters Club series as our corpus. If you are new to digital humanities text analysis, the Data-Sitters Club website is a great place to get started with this kind of work!
Since the Digital Dostoevsky project began, Team Dostoevsky has made a lot of progress in learning how to do digital humanities text analysis. We cleaned our corpus, taught ourselves TEI and XML (click here to find out more about this methodology), and started tagging The Double. We’ve done two weeks (two different coding workshops) in the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria (virtual this year because of the pandemic). And Kate and I have begun working on an additional project through the National Endowment for the Humanities and Princeton University called New Languages for NLP, which will also make use of our Dostoevsky corpus.
So far, tagging The Double using TEI and XML has already begun to generate research questions and we haven’t even gotten to the point of running visualizations or models on our XML file yet! As a genre and narrative nerd, I am excited to see where this project goes and I hope you keep reading our blog if you are too! We will definitely be posting all the interesting things here.