Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Technology

Bringing the Enlightenment to the Internet Age

Image is derived from the frontispiece of the Encyclopédie

Kirk Anderson had his students engage in a collaborative project to translate the famous 1751 Encyclopedia, or a systematic dictionary of the sciences, arts, and crafts, edited by Diderot and d'Alembert, into English. The Encyclopédie is "basically a printed version of the enlightenment", says Anderson, encompassing 17 volumes of text and 11 volumes of illustrations, 72,000 articles.

The translation project, coordinated by the University of Michigan, allows students (and others) to translate the Encyclopédie into English. "What I really like is that this monumental project [the writing of the Encyclopedia], has become a monumental project for 20th and 21st-century people as well."

Video: Hear Kirk talk about his project at a TNT from March 2009 (2 min)

The Wheaton archives just happens to own a copy of the Encyclopédie, so Kirk took his class to the original, where groups of two picked out an article each, and went about translating it. Once written and edited, the articles were submitted to the Michigan translation project website, where they have become part of the project.

One of the great benefits in the mixing of humanities and the digital domain has been the potential for massive collaboration in working towards a lofty goal -- which can bring an excitement and relevance to classroom activities.

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