Digital humanities fellowship opens new pathways for Dr. Heather Heckman-McKenna
Chels Fabian

As one of five scholars selected by Gale and the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) for the Gale-ASECS Non-Residential Fellowship program, Mizzou’s Heather Heckman-McKenna, Ph.D. '23, used digital humanities methods to advance her research in Eighteenth-Century studies. 

The fellowship provided Heckman-McKenna $2,500 from Gale and six months of access to the Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and lab and the Gale Digital Scholar Lab

Her project, Eighteenth-Century Sensibility and the Subversive Female Body, argues that bodily actions of sensibility such as sighing, trembling, and fainting were used by some women writers of the eighteenth century to create a disruptive effect.

Using ECCO and the Digital Scholar Lab, Heckman-McKenna was able to utilize text- and data-mining tools to get a more complete picture of how women authors wrote about the “sentimental body.”

“Having so many data points per text available for download allows me a wide range of productive inquiries and helps me look both broadly and at the minutiae of how bodily sensibility was written about,” says Heckman-McKenna. 

Heckman-McKenna hopes these tools will also help other scholars chart women’s agency over time and map new aspects of the pre-history of modern feminism. Over the next two years, Heckman-McKenna plans to make the database open-access after being peer-reviewed. 

ECCO, the world’s largest and most comprehensive online historical archive of its kind that supports advanced study of the eighteenth century, contains every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the UK between 1701 and 1800. For more information on Gale-ASECS Non-Residential Fellowships, visit their webpage.