Questions on M. Kirschenbaum, “What is Digital Humanities, and What is it Doing in English Departments?”

  1. What is DH? How does Kirschenbaum go about seeking answers to this knotty question?
  2. Why do Twitter and DH go together like peanut butter and jelly? What does Kirschenbaum say about the relationship between the way discourse unfolds on Twitter and the way DH is organized as a field?
  3. What is DH doing in English departments? Do you find this argument convincing?
  4. How does Kirschenbaum end the essay? How does his own definition of DH compare to the others he examines early in the essay?

Questions on Alan Liu, “From Reading to Social Computing.”

  1. What are the main differences between what Liu calls Web 1.0, Web 1.5, and Web 2.0? Be sure to compare the diagrams.
  2. What does Liu mean by “the era of social computing”? What are some examples in your own reading/browsing that help reveal what “social computing” is and how it works?
  3. How does the new “social computing” model for reading/writing map onto post-1968 developments in literary and cultural theory? In what ways are the arguments in favor of radical democracy via deconstruction, New Historicism, cultural studies, et al. related to new ways of reading/writing/publishing on the web?
  4. In English classes, we have traditionally (for 100 years at least) invested our attention overwhelmingly on THE TEXT, meaning special kinds of writing that are deemed especially beautiful/innovative/profound/relevant/resistant. What is changing, both in the discipline and the technological ecology in which we practice it, to refocus our attention? Who or what are we supposed to be paying attention to, if not (say) Bartleby, the Scrivener? What are some ways that this course itself moves in the direction Liu alludes to?
  5. How does Liu answer the question, “Why should literary critics pay attention to technology”? What do you find surprising or un/convincing about this answer?
  6. How does the rise of social computing change the object of literary study? In other words, what do we read now, and how do we read it differently than before?
  7. What does Liu say about what happens to what we used to think of as simply reading literature in the era of social computing? What verbs start to displace “read” to describe what we can do with literature?
  8. How does Liu end the essay? What is the future challenge of scholars (and students) thinking about (say) the relationship between reading Melville seriously in a 300-level lit seminar and “liking” photos on Instagram?


I look forward to seeing/meeting you on Friday, bright and early. In the meantime, I wanted to give you a sneak peek of the syllabus. You are not responsible for preparing anything for Friday, but many of the readings for the course are available via link on the syllabus, so feel free to get your feet wet. And you can learn more about my teaching/scholarly interests here if you’re interested.

I’ll also note that you can pick up the only book for the course, a collection of three novellas by Herman Melville, at Shakespeare and Co. across the street from campus. Again, feel free to start reading ahead: we’ll work with Bartleby, the Scrivener first.

I’ve sent invitations to join the blog (i.e., become an “author” who can write posts) to those who have taken courses with me before and are thus in my site already. We’ll have a session in one of the ICIT rooms next week to make sure the rest of you get up and going.