The fall semester has ended and one of the best courses I took through this semester is ENG256 B offered by Dr. Najla Jarkas. This course made me learn to use Timeline JS, where the class was divided into groups and each one of them chose an author to talk about and make a timeline about his life and career. Our group decided to talk about Eric Blair Arthur, who is commonly known by his pen name George Orwell. We chose Orwell since each member of the group has read a least one of his books. Orwell was a man of politics where he addressed the major political movements during his time, which are imperialism and communism.
The main goal of our project was to identify whether George Orwell was a political critique or a novelist in his style of writings. In addition to that, we wanted to determine why Orwell was so fascinated by politics and why he hated communism in such a way. We read four of his most remarkable books namely, Down and Out in Paris and London, Homage to Catalonia, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. After that we formed an idea about those books such as the warning of a future world where the state machine exerts complete control over social life.
Now that we have done our research, Dr. Najla started teaching us about tools that will help us in facilitating our project.Timeline JS is a brilliant tool, it helped us incorporate the information gathered and the digital tools within a timeline that helps us see the progress of events and helped us answer the raised questions in our proposal in a systematic and dynamic way.Those tools are: Voyant tools, Topotext, Google my maps and Z-axis. Each tool helped us in a way in the formation of the final timeline. We started by Voyant tools, which is a tool that shows the most words that were used in each of the four novels we read. I think this tool was the most important one where it showed us that the 3 words: men, time and POUM where the most used by Orwell in his novel Homage to Catalonia. It showed how Orwell was affected by the Spanish civil war where all his writings where about men of the civil war, different times and locations of the civil war and POUM which was a Spanish communist political party that he belonged to during that time. The second tool that we used was Topotext that helped us in identifying the place where each historical event took place. The third tool was Google my mapsthat we applied for the first four chapters of Homage to Catalonia we studied the locations where Orwell moved. The locations were of great significant as Orwell moved through different cities of Spain and noticed the cruelty of the government with the citizens. The fourth and final tool used was Z-axis, which that showed that most of the events of Homage to Catalonia were focused in Barcelona where most of the tension between the communists and the government was.
By the end of our work I was able to gain more specific knowledge about one of the most influential authors of all time and made me able to sum up with a conclusion about the author opposed the rule of having a ruling class in the country and supported the poor people whom he was one of. Also, he believed in the ideas of communism and the idea of democracy but not to a totaliarism end.
Last but not least, ENG256B was definitely was one of the best courses throughout my four years of studying at AUB. It taught as I mentioned before tools that I didn’t know would exist and a larger scope at what digital humanities means. A big thanks to Dr. Najla who was very good at teaching us the whole parts of the course, for giving us the time needed to end our work, for regarding each blog and finally for the patience of sitting with us for 2.5 hours each Monday. I already recommended taking this course to some of my colleagues and they registered it.