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Digital Humanities Tackle Story of Capt. Cook


Digital Humanities Task Force

Schreiner University’s Digital Humanities Task Force seeks to show how philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language studies are home to some of the most exciting advances in teaching and scholarship on university campuses today.

“Captain Cook and the Monumental Myth”—the task force’s first presentation featuring work employing those advances--will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, in the Scarle-Philips Room of the Logan Library.  Following a reception, there will be the program and a time for questions and answers.

The free program will show how digital research—of historic materials now available through the Internet—have made it possible to more accurately discern what really happened to  Capt. James Cook when the English explorer was killed on Hawaii in 1779. Speakers will be Dr. Roopika Risam of Salem University, and Dr. Lydia Kualapai, professor of English at Schreiner University.

Dr. Risam is the author of “Postcolonial Digital Humanities,” a book forthcoming with Northwestern University Press, and a co-edited volume, “Intersectionality in Digital Humanities,” which is under contract with Arc Humanities Press.

Dr. Kualapai’s Ph.D. dissertation, "Cast in Print: The Nineteenth-Century Hawaiian Imaginary," includes research about Hawaiian’s reaction to the explorer’s landing in their home islands. “Native Hawaiians first enter the Western imagination in 1779 as the ‘murdering savages’ who killed the ‘Great Navigator’,” says Kualapai.

The story supported by authorities of the time was that the Hawaiians first thought Capt. Cook was the incarnation of the god Lono, and warmly welcomed him and his men. It said that when they came to the conclusion that he wasn’t a god, they killed him.

“Digital humanities raised artifacts suppressed by those in control at the time,” says Kualapai. “For example, we can now look at the journals of Cook’s sailors and marines—kept despite orders not to record the trip--and get a more accurate picture of what happened to Capt. Cook and the Hawaiians.”

The result of such investigation has been a “counter discourse” in which brutal actions by the British, not the Hawaiians, are revealed as the cause of the fateful encounter which led to Cook’s death.

The Digital Humanities Task Force was formed in the fall of 2016 to facilitate projects such as Cast in Print: Captain Cook and the Monumental Myth. This team, comprised of Schreiner University faculty and staff, represents the diverse blend of technical and academic backgrounds that make Digital Humanities so inherently collaborative. Thanks to the DHTF members whose creativity, hard work and diligence made this project possible: Cecila Barlow, Lydia Kualapai, William Woods, Kat Walker, and Jennifer Stayton.

For more information about the Digital Humanities event, contact Dr. Kualapai by email at dhtf@schreiner.edu or phone 830-792-7413.

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