DH Lab: Crowdsourced American Lit I Class Annotation of Margaret Fuller’s “The Great Lawsuit”

[This assignment was inspired by two web projects: the New York Public Library’s crowdsourced transcription project “What’s on the Menu” and Brown Women Writer’s Project’s Collaborative Annotation Project.]


Margaret Fuller’s text, “The Great Lawsuit” is rich with references to cultural, historical and political figures and literary texts and characters. For the reader new to studying literature, this can make the text seem “boring” because impenetrable. At the same time, the average undergraduate student who isn’t passionate about literature may not find time to look up every reference in order to deepen his or her understanding of Fuller’s meanings. However, 28 average students might be willing to look up one, and together an entire class could combine their knowledge into a single “interpretively enhanced document” that includes both basic informational details about a given reference (such as those provided in a Norton Anthology footnote) and also an interpretive nudge that might help the classroom of reader’s contextual reading. This crowdsourced annotation draws upon the collective intelligence and work of 28 American Literature Survey students to create a nuanced and rich textual experience of “The Great Lawsuit.”


  • Develop close-reading skills by providing a brief interpretation of how the background information on Fuller’s literary reference informs a reading of Fuller’s rhetorical strategy and meaning
  • Develop web-based research skills to find useful and substantive information about a cultural, literary or historical reference and apply those skills in an interpretive literary context.
  • Develop skills in 21st century digital literacy skills by participating in a crowdsourcing activity that reflects an emerging need in the wake of a flood of raw literary data.
  • Develop student success skills in interdependence in a peer-reviewed learning environment
  • Develop writing skills: ability to communicate information and interpretations succinctly for a college audience of students and the instructor


NOTE: Students post the google doc here as a footnote and not in Moodle.


  1. First find your name below by scrolling beneath these instructions. Your name is assigned a number (somewhat randomly—based on last name alpha).
  2. Scroll down to the “explanatory note” assignment that corresponds to the number next to your name. This is your assigned “Close Reading Note” assignment.
  3. Log into Google Drive (using your gmail acct or your Blogger account.)
  4. Search the Google doc to find WHERE in Margaret Fuller’s text your assignment shows up. (for example, type in “Hercules” to see where Fuller mentions “Hercules.” If you re-read that section, you’ll know the direction of your mini-research.
  5. 5.      Use the web to find enough information about your assigned text to offer an explanatory note. Avoid .com sites. “.edu and .org” sites are often the most reliable. Wikipedia is a good starting place but may not be enough.
  6. Draft your note in Word and save your document so that you won’t lose it in translation!
  7. What is an explanatory note? An explanatory note gives not only information about the reference in Fuller’s text but also a brief interpretive explanation about the meaning created in Fuller’s text by including this reference.  You don’t need to stay within the usual 300-500-word CRN word count. The important thing to consider is: will this help my fellow student understand Fuller’s essay?
  8. Go to the shared Google doc.
  9. In the shared Google Doc, search and find the reference so you know where to insert your explanatory note. (Remember that for #1-4 you have one of the “background notes” and you should insert at the top of the document.)
  10. To insert a footnote, place your cursor where you want the note to go, click on “Insert” and scroll down to “Footnote.” Then cut and paste your note from Word into the note.
  11. When you are finished with your note, place your cursor back on the word that you annotated. Google Drive saves automatically.
  12. You now have participated in a crowdsourced annotation project.


This Close Reading Note follows the same grading criteria as all CRNs listed on the Moodle page.


  1. Annie
  2. Connor
  3. Laura
  4. Nicole
  5. Zachary
  6. Morgan
  7. Torin
  8. Jake
  9. Wilson
  10. Cole
  11. Michael
  12. Logan
  13. Jennifer
  14. Shannon
  15. Stuart
  16. Kelly
  17. Jill
  18. Makenzie
  19. Theodore
  20. Brendan C.
  21. Kristin R.
  22. Scott W.
  23. Erica
  24. Zoe
  25. Marcus
  26. Anthony
  27. Callista


  1. An introductory note on Transcendentalism
  2. An explanatory note on Margaret Fuller
  3. An explanatory note on the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments
  4. An explanatory note on Godey’s Lady’s Book Fashion Plates
  5. An explanatory note on George Sand
  6. An explanatory note on La Roche Mauprat
  7. An explanatory note on Mary Wollstonecraft
  8. An explanatory note on Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  9. An explanatory note on William Godwin
  10. An explanatory note on Alexander Pope’s poem, “Eloisa to Abelard” and brief background about its source in the 12th century lovers’ story.
  11. An explanatory note on William and Mary Howitt
  12. An explanatory note on Goethe’s play, Goetz von Berlichengen
  13. An explanatory note on Manzoni’s play Adelchi
  14. An explanatory note on Nikolas Ludwig, Count von Zinzerdorf
  15. An explanatory note on Pharisaism
  16. An explanatory note on the Muse
  17. An explanatory note on Minerva
  18. An explanatory note on Hercules
  19. An explanatory note on Syrens or Sirens
  20. An explanatory note on Newton
  21. An explanatory note on Rhea, Pallas and Jove
  22. An explanatory note on Robert Southey’s The Curse of Kehama
  23. An explanatory note on Ceres
  24. An explanatory note on Athena
  25. An explanatory note on Wilhelm Meister by Goethe
  26. An explanatory note on Queen Victoria
  27. An explanatory note on the naming of the state of Virginia


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