So here’s a draft syllabus I’ve put together for a digital humanities course
I hope to propose to our General Education Committee will teach in the Spring of 2012. It’s likely that many DHers looking at this will spot familiar elements. I owe much of this to the DH syllabi collected by Lisa Spiro and available through the Digital Humanities Education Zotero group. In other words, I cribbed heavily from ya’ll, and I thank ‘ya. Please leave comments and suggestions: I have awhile before I’ll actually teach this, and want to offer the best course I can!
IDIS 288: Technologies of Text
Prof. Ryan Cordell
Mulva Library 302, The Writing Center
When you hear the word “technology,” you may think of your computer or iPhone. You probably don’t think of the alphabet, the book, or the printing press: but each of these inventions was a technological innovation that changed dramatically how we communicate and perhaps even how we think. Texts are at the heart of most disciplines in the humanities—literature, philosophy, history, religious studies—but this course will argue that technology and humanistic study are deeply intertwined. Literature in English, for instance, has always developed in tandem—and usually in direct response to—the development of new technologies—e.g. printed texts, newspaper publication, radio, film, television, the internet. Our primary objective in this course will be to develop ideas about the ways that modern innovations, including computers and the internet, continue to shape our understanding of texts (both classic and contemporary) and the human beings that write, read, and interpret them. In order to help us understand these recent changes, we will compare our own historical moment with previous periods of textual and technological upheavals in Western Culture. We’ll learn that many of the debates that seem unique to the twenty-first century—over privacy, intellectual property, and textual authority—are but new iterations of familiar battles in the tumultuous history of technology and literature. We will see how modern scholars are illuminating these debates in our textual past using the rapidly changing tools of our textual present: e.g. geographic information systems, data mining, textual analysis. Finally, we will gain new skills for working with texts as we develop digital projects using texts from the Center for Norbertine Studies’ special collections library.
- T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, facsimile edition, ed. Valerie Eliot (New York: Harvest, 1974).
- Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, and Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History (Verso, 2005).
- Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, ed., A Companion to Digital Humanities (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004). Available for free at http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companion/
- Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens, ed. A Companion to Digital Literary Studies (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2008). Available for free at http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/
- Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash (New York: Bantam Books, 2003)
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings, ed. Brooks Atkinson (Modern Library: 2000)
Overview of Assignments:
Social Media Engagement: Scholars in the field known as the “digital humanities” are, not surprisingly, active online. Many share their scholarship through blogs or social networking sites such as Twitter. On the course Moodle, you will find lists of notable blogs and Twitter feeds. You must choose at least two blogs and at least four Twitter feeds to follow during our course. You should bring the insights you glean from these sources (insights into digital humanities theory and methodology, insights into a historical period, insights into the technologies of text) into our course discussions, and you should reference specific posts when composing your class blog entries. Midway through the semester you will compose a short (3-4 page), informal paper in which you describe how your chosen social media feeds have influenced your thinking about our course discussions.
Course blog: Throughout the term, we will engage with the ideas of the course through public writing on a course blog. Blogs only work when sustained by an energetic (and perhaps even chaotic) community. You should both post your own written responses to our class and comment on the posts of your colleagues.
1.) Your written responses should reflect on our course readings, in-class discussions, the scholarly feeds that you follow, and your own experiences working on your course project. Posts should be the rough equivalent of a 1-page, single-spaced paper, and should demonstrate your understanding of course topics. When you discuss a particular course text, you should quote and cite that text appropriately. You should also use your posts to develop questions you would like to address in class. As the blog develops, you may also want to refer back to previous posts: your own or your classmates’.
2.) Your blog comments should directly engage with the content of your colleagues’ posts. These can be short and informal, but shouldn’t be flippant. What points do you find compelling? What further questions does the post raise for you? How did our class discussion change the way you thought about the post?
We’ll talk in more detail about the blog in class. In short, however: you should consider the blog a platform to engage in course-related ideas; it should not be treated as a diary or journal.
Blog posts are due each evening by 6pm. There are 15 weeks in the semester. You are responsible for writing 10 posts and at least 20 comments during the term. You should not wait to start writing posts and commenting; I assign only 10 posts to give you some flexibility during the semester.
Collaborative Evaluation Paper: Working with a partner, you will study in detail a major digital humanities project. A list of potential projects is available on the course Moodle. You will compose a 3-4 page evaluation of this project, analyzing both its virtues and its shortcomings. I will provide a detailed assignment sheet outlining my expectations for these assessments. You will post your evaluations on the course Moodle for your colleagues’ use, and you will develop short presentations (more details on the assignment sheet) about your chosen project that you will deliver during week/day 9 of the course.
Digital Project: Central to this course will be a digital project that you will develop using materials (e.g. letters, photographs, books) from the Center for Norbertine Studies’ archives. You will choose one of three types of projects:
- A TEI-encoded edition of a short text or set of texts
- An Omeka exhibit of a set of archival-quality images
- An interpretive geospatial exhibit
Whichever project type you choose, you will also write the equivalent of a 8 page paper that explains your process and the scholarly value of your work to a broader audience. This writing may be presented in a non-traditional format, as accompanying text to your finished project. We will begin developing these projects by the end of the first week, and will work steadily on them throughout the term. You will regularly present your progress on your project to the class during our humanities lab sessions.
Note to reviewers: I have divided this schedule into 15 segments. In a typical semester, each number would represent a week. In an abbreviated semester (May or J-term), each number would represent a day. An abbreviated schedule may require trimming the reading on some days.
Discussion 1: What is Digital Humanities?
- Matthew Kirschenbaum, “What is Digital Humanities and What’s it Doing in English Departments?” (Moodle)
- All six article in the New York Times’ series, “Humanities 2.0”
- Bloomsburg University students’ “Digital Humanities Manifesto”
Lab 1: Introduction to course technologies
- Building a class bibliography using Zotero
- Following scholarship online using Google Reader and Twitter
- Writing collaboratively using Google Docs
- Blogging using WordPress
Discussion 2: Text is Technology
- Plato, from Phaedrus (Moodle)
- Matthew Kirschenbaum, “Technologies of Writing”
- Peter Stallybrass, from “Books and Scrolls: Navigating the Bible” (Moodle)
- Alan Liu, “Imagining the New Media Encounter” (DLS)
- Stephen Ramsay, “Writing as Programming as Writing”
- Visit to the Center for Norbertine Studies to investigate potential project texts
Discussion 3: Hypertext(s)
- Jerome McGann, “The Rationale of Hypertext” (Moodle)
- Anthony Grafton, “Future Reading”
- Betrand Gervais, “Is There a Text on This Screen? Reading in an Era of Hypertextuality” (DLS)
- William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience and other selections from the Blake Archive
- Representational markup vs. descriptive markup (a very basic introduction to HTML, CSS, and XML)
Discussion 4: Electronic Editions
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, from the National Era edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin
- Walt Whitman, selections from the Whitman Archive
- Martha Nell Smith, “Electronic Scholarly Editing” (CDH)
- Kenneth Price, “Electronic Scholarly Editions” (DLS)
- Scholarly markup: introducing TEI (the Text Encoding Initiative) using TEI By Example
Discussion 5: The Past and Future of Reading
- National Endowment for the Arts, To Read or Not to Read Executive Summary (Moodle)
- Leah Price, “You Are What You Read”
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden (chapters 1-8)
- TEI continued
Discussion 6: The Past and Future of Attention
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden (chapters 9-to end)
- Nicolas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”
- The Onion, “Nation Shudders at Large Block of Uninterrupted Text”
- Clay Shirky, “Does the Internet Make You Smarter?”
- Clay Shirky, “It’s Not Information Overload, It’s Filter Failure”
- Introduction to scholarly archives with Omeka
Discussion 7: Reprints and Copyright
- Edgar Allan Poe, poems and articles linked on Moodle
- Meredith McGill, from American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting (Moodle)
- Philip V. Allingham, “Nineteenth-Century British and American Copyright Law”
- Eric Faden, “A Fair(y) Use Tale”
- Omeka continued
Discussion 8: Distant Reading
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Celestial Railroad”
- Robert Darnton, “Google and Future of Books”
- Jean-Baptiste Michel et al, “Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books”
- Daniel J. Cohen, “From Babel to Knowledge: Data Mining Large Digital Collections”
Discussion 9: Graphs, Maps, and Trees?
- Henry Adams, “The Dynamo and the Virgin” (Moodle)
- Moretti; Graphs, Maps, and Trees
- Selections from Reading Graphs, Maps, and Trees (Moodle)
- The Computer History Museum, The Babbage Engine”
- Building timelines with the Simile Widgets
Discussion 10: Mapping Texts
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness from Blackwood’s Magazine
- Kittler, from Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Moodle)
- Institute for Enabling Geospatial Scholarship’s Spatial Humanities project
- David Rumsey’s Historical Map Collection
- Mapping texts using historical maps in Google Earth
Discussion 11: Digital Projects Omnibus
- Collaborative Evaluation Presentations
- All digital projects being presented during today’s discussion
- Open projects lab
Discussion 12: Modern Technologies; Modernist Texts
- T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, including Pound’s annotations
- Ezra Pound, selected Cantos
- Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (Moodle)
- Dirk Van Hulle, “Hypertext and Avante-texte in Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Literature” (DLS)
- Open projects lab
Discussion 13: Words in Cyberspace
- McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message” (Moodle)
- Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash (to chapter X)
- Johanna Drucker, “The Virtual Codex from Page Space to E-space” (DLS)
- Open projects lab
Discussion 14: “Born Digital” Literature
- Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash (to end)
- selections from the Electronic Literature Collection, volume 2
- Carolyn Guertin, “Handholding, Remixing, and Instant Replay: New Narratives in a Postnarrative World” (DLS)
- Open projects lab
- Class wrap-up; open discussion
- Open projects lab