WWI Immigrant Poetry: A Digital Humanities Project

Lorie Vanchena, University of Kansas

Ashley Yoder, Undergraduate Research Assistant, University of Kansas; Drew Crist (BS May 2017), former Undergraduate Research Assistant

The WWI Immigrant Poetry Project creates a digital repository of poems that serve not only as commentary on World War I and the immigrant experience but also as representations of ethnic identity. Poetry written or published by German immigrants in the United States in response to the war sheds light on the complexity of German ethnic identity in the early 20th century. In 1910, Germans constituted the largest and most established ethnic group in the U.S. The outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 and the subsequent entry of the U.S. into the conflict had a significant impact on the German American community, however: anti-German sentiment made members of this ethnic group a target of often virulent nativism. Not surprisingly, we find poems that German immigrants wrote (in German and English) that constitute a range of attitudes toward the war, from support of the U.S. to strong identification with the European homeland.  

A community of undergraduates has been involved with every aspect of this project. These students have developed digital expertise, including encoding poems in XML, transforming XML files into HTML for our website, and adding JavaScript elements to HTML files. One student (a May 2017 graduate) created our schema, XSL, CSS, and the project website.

This recent graduate and a student currently working on the project will join me in presenting the WWI Immigrant Poetry Project. We will demonstrate the website and also discuss what our initial data analysis has revealed about WWI poetry and German ethnic identity.