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SPAN 7559 Latin American Digital Humanities

Rafael Alvarado
Allison Bigelow

From the colonial period to the present day, the Popol Vuh, sometimes called the Maya book of creation, has been translated, edited, paraphrased, and glossed in more than 25 languages. WorldCat suggests that there are over 1,200 known editions of the work, published in verse, scholarly editions, and illustrated volumes. In addition to differences in form and genre, Spanish-language volumes offer very different interpretations of the K’iche’ source text. The opening line of Adrián Recinos’s translation is, “Este es el principio de las antiguas historias de este lugar llamado Quiché,” while Emilio Abreu Gómez renders it as, “Entonces no había ni gente, ni animales, ni árboles, ni piedras, ni nada.” Readers’ interpretations of the text, and of Maya cultural and spiritual traditions conveyed in translation, thus depend upon the editions they consult, and these editions vary widely.

In this class, we will design a thematic research collection of the Popol Vuh, housed at the Newberry Library and digitally hosted by the Ohio State University Library. By encoding the manuscript with tools that show the graphic and narrative complexity of the Popol Vuh, this project will allow readers to engage deeply with questions of historical, spiritual, and cultural translation. Such tools will ideally include images (glyphs, vases, figures from codices), maps, and alternative translations. Primary readings include translations and editions of the Popol Vuh; secondary sources will address key topics in Classic and Post-Classic Maya Studies (archaeology, art history, linguistics), as well as critical paradigms in DH scholarship (evaluation, methodology, pedagogy).

On seminar days (Tuesdays, led by professor Bigelow), we will analyze primary and secondary readings and identify features we want to encode in our digital critical edition. On studio days (Thursdays, led by professor Alvarado), we will learn how to encode textual variants and graphic forms using Drupal software. We will work in small teams (2-3 people) to encode a section of the manuscript (about 6 folios per person). In this way, we’ll build skills in literary/translation analysis and DH research, thinking critically about the problems that DH platforms do and do not resolve in Latin American, Mesoamerican, and Indigenous Studies.

This course is offered in the spring of 2017 so that students can present work at the 2018 DH conference in Mexico City, the first time that the conference will be held in Latin America.

Course Number: 
SPAN 7559
DH Certificate requirement :