D’Esopo Brings Life to Forgotten Female Authors
English major Danna D’Esopo works with Professor Kirstyn Leuner to document the “largest private library of Anglophone women’s writing.”
By Ally O’Connor ’20
Putting her studies to good use, Danna D’Esopo ’20 (English) is applying classroom lessons to real-world research for The Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing. Initially intrigued by an assignment related to the Stainforth Library in Professor Kirstyn Leuner’s (English) “British Women’s Literature” course, D’Esopo wanted to find ways to get further involved in the project. After showing interest in Leuner’s work, she was invited to join as a research assistant, helping her “study and spread knowledge about the largest private library of Anglophone women’s writing collected by Francis Stainforth, who built his private library in the nineteenth century.”
D’Esopo’s work “bringing voices back to the women who wrote from the 1500s to 1800s has been both fascinating and rewarding,” she says. Over the past year, she has focused on two different projects.
In her first project, she shares that “I primarily focused on creating Person Authority Records in our database for the women featured in Stainforth’s library.” To accomplish this, D’Esopo searched databases, anthologies, and bibliographies to find names that are featured in Stainforth’s catalog. D’Esopo excitedly notes that over the course of this past year, she “created or edited 96 person records and found where over 20 of Stainforth’s books are currently located.”
In her second project, D’Esopo and Leuner shifted their focus to the cross references within the catalog. These occur when Stainforth refers to other entries in the catalogue, D’Esopo explains. Throughout this part of the project, she researched over 350 cross references, which entailed “finding the page and line number that each ‘cross reference’ entry was pointing to.”
In reflecting upon her work thus far, D’Esopo says that it is “really fun and interesting because I get to learn about the lives of women who otherwise may be forgotten.” Further, through this process, she has “also been able to see the many ways that women were involved in the publishing industry during the time and the ways in which the publishing industry itself has changed over time.”
Going forward, D’Esopo will be assisting Leuner by continuing to edit Person Data and preparing this large project for publication. In addition to the research experience, during her time in the role, D’Esopo was provided the opportunity to guest lecture in Leuner’s 18th Century British Women’s Literature course and to present her work at SCU’s 2019 Digital Humanities Spring Showcase.
When asked about working with D’Esopo, Leuner says that “I couldn’t ask for a better research assistant; I so enjoy working with Danna. She is an excellent student of literary and book history and is able to apply what she learns to her editorial tasks, which require knowledge of the field and a sharp eye for detail.”
After following the British literature track within her English major and working in several English-related positions, including as a Peer Educator in Professor Juan Velasco’s (English) “Life Writing” class and as Fiction Editor of the Santa Clara Review, D’Esopo is following her passions and applying her knowledge and insight to The Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing research. D’Esopo shares that although she is still undecided as to what career direction she would ultimately like to pursue, “whether I end up directing a digital project of my own someday or leading a group of people in the workplace, my work with Dr. Leuner has taught me many team management skills that will help me in whatever path I end up choosing.”