Freaks, Monsters, & Prodigies: an Image Database for Literary Studies

Death's DanceBy way of boingboing, as usual, I discovered an unbelievable example of how image repositories and the study of literature are made for one another. John Anzalone, professor of French at Skidmore College, in collaboration with the Tom Hickerson and Katherine Regan (from Special Collections in the Cornell University Library) have created an unbelievable resource of over 300 images dealing with the fantastic in literature. While the subject matter is unbelievably cool to begin with, I am even more fascinated by the ways these folks are thinking through the connections between literature, art, and technology in truly exciting and persistent ways for everyone interested in such resources – scholars or otherwise. Below is a quote from the about page which gives an overview of the project and its rationale:

Sponsored by Cornell University’s Institute for Digital Collections (CIDC) this image-bank provides a visual resource for the study of the Fantastic or of the supernatural in fiction and in art. While the site emerges from a comparative literature course on the topic at Skidmore College, it is also intended to open the door to consideration of some of the constant structures and patterns of fantastic literature, and the problems they raise. In this sense, the materials presented here may find a use among students in a variety of disciplines.

To explore the collection follow this link.

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6 Responses to Freaks, Monsters, & Prodigies: an Image Database for Literary Studies

  1. jimgroom says:

    Note to self -find out what software Cornell University’s Special Collections used to design this site …
    Update: Just spoke with CU’s Special Collections and it was a custom design using PHP running off an apache web server …

  2. Gardner says:

    This is amazing.

    What does “custom design using PHP” mean? Is there a MySQL db there somewhere? Inquiring minds want to know….

  3. Jim says:


    They are using PHP scripts to call images from a MySQL database in a LAMP environemnt. I was talking with Robert Hughes (the student who designed EMMA from the Computer Science program) this afternoon and he suggested that it would not be that much work to modify EMMA do something very similar -although on a controlled scale. Maybe we think of something like this as a controlled class/department academic archive where students deposit their research and then we aggregate them to the DAMS over time – this stuff would be very portable from something like EMMA to Fez, for example. How about that! Should we start ramping up the Biblical Images Archive for that Milton Seminar ( B.I.A.M.S.) om Coolness!!!

  4. Fred Johnson says:

    Off Topic: Thanks very much for your thoughtful response to my little panopticon post, Jim. I said a couple more things in comments . . .

  5. Gardner says:

    Sucker punch to the Miltonist: you’re on, my friend. 😉

  6. jimgroom says:


    Definitely not a sucker punch, just a litle bit of enthusiasm which is contagious around these parts! Looking forward to it …

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