Blog Post

01. Close-Reading as Collaboration: A Digital Reading of Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats

My first year of graduate school isn't exactly filled with happy memories. The all-nighters? The excessive reading? The early mornings at the coffee shop when it was just me and the local police? My life felt more and more like a shut-in (as opposed to a contributing member of society).

However, my fondest memory from grad school, to this day, is still my first-year academic collaboration with my friend and colleague, Pia. We were assigned to create a collaborative project in our Digital Humanities class. However, the example model we were shown was historical in nature: "Create an archive" and "Interview members of the community and create an ethnographic database." Coming from backgrounds in English and Women's Studies, Pia and I were not content on simply creating an archive. We wanted to somehow integrate our interests in literature with digital humanities and create a space for close-reading. We wanted a digital space that we could return to time and again and either renew our ideas or thoughts or even add content. We wanted a "living" digital product, so to speak.

That's when we created our Digital Close-Reading of Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats. We built an interactive blog, using a free wordpress site, focused solely on our collaborative interpretation of Ruth Ozeki's zany novel.

Ozeki's novel follows the story of a mixed-race woman working for an advertising agency that produces media for the transnational Beef exporting company, "BEEF-EX." The book explores issues of nationalism, race relations, oppression of women, reproduction, and more. Using a blog, Pia and I populated the site with spontaneous, but focused, readings of the narrative.

Because of the transnational nature of this book, Pia and I knew this would be a good candidate for our digital project. We were interested in posting maps, links, and other interactive educational pathways for our readers. We also wanted to learn from each other in real-time: how do we both affectively interpret this book, considering our different interests and subject positions? 

Although our site has collected some dust recently (we need to clean up some of the broken links, etc.),  Pia and I have gone on to use our work generated from this scholarly communication at conferences and in class lectures. We also might turn this into a digital article in the near future.


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