What is “The Miscellanies Project”?

The Works of Jonathan Edwards have been rightly hailed as a singular monument to America’s Theologian — “no comparable digital resource for an American religious figure exists.” The next chapter in Edwardsean research will map the complex terrain of Edwards’ work. This is a task for deep visualization. Below are some benefits of visualizing Edwards’ writings:

  1. Visualizations reduce the cognitive load of the researcher—a greater amount of information can be communicated in a visualization more quickly than having to scan through thousands of lines of Edwards’ text. In other words, a picture can be worth ten thousands of words.
  2. Visualizations of Edwards’ writings are beautiful confluences of theology, technology, and art. The colors and connections guide the eye, and in a blink you can assess the content and greatly accelerate your research time, discovering connections which are otherwise greatly obscured.
  3. Visualizations reveal both context and details which combine to deepen understanding.

Wilson Kimnach’s conceptual diagram in volume 10 of WJE illustrates the intertextuality of Edwards’ notebooks and sermons, reflecting the formidable intellectual and spiritual effort Edwards famously exerted in his study for up to 13 hours a day. The complex and aesthetically profound nature of Edwards’ writings begs for a visual exegesis which is exhaustive, vibrant, and tactile—“The Visual Jonathan Edwards.”

This visual approach yields, for the first time, a distant or meta-reading of Edwards which displays shapes, contours, and conjunctions within his writings—yet with immediate reference to his text along with exact page locations in volumes 1–26 of the Yale edition of his works. A fully visualized WJE 1–26 consists of over 59,000 data points with over 2.2 million relationships.

There are a number of ways that “The Visual Jonathan Edwards” assists those studying Edwards.

  1. A single term (or array of terms) can be mapped out across his works.
  2. Keywords of select text can be mapped across Edwards’ corpus to assist in discovery of similar themes.
  3. Contrasting terms with their location, usage, and frequency can be determined, and
  4. Creative analyses can be conducted, like searching for animals or other illustrations along with the terms like “type,” “figure,” and “shadow” in order to discover the extent of specific typological references.

Beautifully detailed maps of Edwards’ writings can highly accelerate the research and writing process by revealing hotspots to specific questions or topics in the Edwards corpus. Instead of facing a seemingly impenetrable mountain of text, researchers, both students and seasoned scholars, can enhance their study of Edwards with visualizations which are both aesthetic and accurate.

“The Miscellanies Project” is a subset of “The Visual Jonathan Edwards” which enables scholars to conduct deep, comparative visual analyses of Edwards’ “Miscellanies” a–1360 as a whole.

The unique contribution of “The Miscellanies Project” is a wide range of theological, visual analyses which serve as maps to the weave of Edwards’ thought in his “Miscellanies.” These analyses reveal never before seen patterns and clusters with their exact locations in the “Miscellanies,” as well as volumes 1–26 of WJE.

Edwards scholars are currently contributing to The Miscellanies Reader which will be the print publication of the project. The Reader will be accompanied by a rich online exhibition on JESociety.org. Douglas A. Sweeney, Director of JECTEDS, will be writing the Foreword to The Miscellanies Reader.

“The Miscellanies Project’s” extensive library of visualizations will be made available to the Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary and visiting scholars.