Introduction to Digital Humanities


Course Description:

It seems clear to many of us that humanities research and pedagogy are becoming intimately entwined with the digital. As Lauren Klein and Matthew Gold write in the introduction to 2016 edition of Debates in the Digital Humanities, “the digital humanities, as a field, has arrived.” This course will serve as an introductory overview of the digital humanities (DH), its methods, theories, pedagogies, and practices. We will begin by looking at the various ways in which scholars are defining, or struggling to define the term “Digital Humanities.” We will look at the history of humanities computing, highlighting some of the institutional and intellectual challenges it has encountered along the way, and we will place special emphasis on examining the ongoing debates in this emerging field (e.g. How might theory relate to DH? What is the changing nature of peer review and scholarly publishing? What social concerns are raised in the practice of DH?). Finally, throughout the course we will consider the role of DH in the classroom and will look at some of the ways its emergence is changing how teachers teach, students learn, and classrooms are run. Students who are educators will leave this course with an array of tools and approaches that can be used in the classroom.

Students from all humanities disciplines will be able to pursue their particular interests as they relate to DH. They will gain a working knowledge of a vast array of existing DH projects, and they will begin to work with a number of existing digital tools that can be used to conduct humanities research, including text analysis and visualization tools, text encoding and archiving tools, and digital mapping tools. No programming experience is necessary or expected for this course. However, students will leave with a new understanding of how code works and how to communicate, as humanists, with computer programmers. They might even write some of their own programs.

This course is going to run concurrently with a graduate-level course in computer science in which students will be learning to write programs that can be used in humanities research and pedagogy. Students in this class will have a unique opportunity to work, in collaboration with these computer scientists, on DH projects that reflect their own scholarly and pedagogical interests.


Weekly blog posts – You will respond here to the reading and/or projects to which you were exposed during the week. Two of your weekly posts will be longer and more thought-out, the equivalent of seminar papers.

Participation on Twitter – Digital humanists talk to each other a lot on Twitter. I will provide a list of people to follow, and we will enter into the conversations that are currently happening.

Experimentation with DH tools – You will get your hands dirty, so to speak.

Begin learning to code. If you’ve never written code before, well, now’s your chance! At the very least, you’ll get a chance to look under the proverbial hood of digital media and DH tools, and you will gain some understanding of how code works. On two separate occasions, you will have a guest instructor who will lead you through a few exercises that are designed to introduce you to the programming language Python.

Final Project – You will work in pairs or in small groups to develop a significant DH project. You will begin building it and will present it in the form of a NEH grant application.

Required Texts:

  • Burdick, Anne, et al. Digital_Humanities. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012.
  • Fitzpartick, Kathleen. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. New York: NYU Press, 2011.
  • Kirschenbaum, Matthew. Track Changes: A literary History of Word Processing. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2016.
  • Moretti, Franco. Maps, Graphs, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History. New York: Verso, 2005.
  • Some of these texts are available for free online. Links are provided below. All other texts are available online.


Schedule (Likely to Change – check back often):

Week 1, Jan 23 – What is Digital Humanities?

Burdick (et al) – Digital_Humanities Chapter 1 “Digital Humanities is Born…”
Kirschenbaum – “What is the Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?”
Fitzpatrick –  “The Humanities, Done Digitally”
Svensson –  “The Landscape of Digital Humanities”

In Class – Examine projects and discuss them

Week 2, Jan 30 – Debates in DH

Burdick (et al) – Digital_Humanities Chapter 2 “Humanities Knowledge Used to Have…”
Marino – “Why we Must Read the Code”
Ramsay –  “Who’s in and Who’s Out” & “On Building”
Kirschnebaum –  “Digital Humanities As/Is a Tactical Term”
Spiro –  “’This is Why We Fight’: Defining the Value of the Digital Humanities”
Svensson –  “Beyond the Big Tent”

Week 3, Feb 6 – History of Humanities Computing

Burdick (et al) – Digital_Humanities Chapter 3 “Digital Humanities Engages a World…”
Hockey –  “The History of Humanities Computing”
Laue –  “How the Computer Works”
Vannevar Bush –  “As we May Think” (1945)
Theodor Nelson –  “A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate (1965) PDF – nelson

Week 4 Feb 13– Introduction to Programming, Part 1 (Guest Lecture)

It’s okay. Don’t be afraid.

Week 5, Feb 20 – Text and Textuality

Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig –  “Becoming Digital: To Mark Up, or Not To Mark Up”
Julie Meloni –  “A Pleasant Little Chat About XML”
Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) –

Tool – oXygen (trial download)

Week 6, Feb 27 – Distant Reading – Reading Data

Moretti – Maps, Graphs, and Trees

Tool – Voyant Tools

Week 7, Mar 6 – Visualization

*The readings for this week are optional. We won’t spend much time talking about them.
Manovich – “What is Visualization” (download pdf from this site)
Ramsay – “In Praise of Pattern”ramsay-in-praise-of-pattern
Drucker  – “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display”

Tools – Gephi

Long Blog Post – Evaluating an Existing DH Project – DUE Sun 3/5 by Midnight

Week 8, Mar 20 – Introduction to Programming, Part 2 (Guest Lecture)

Week 9, Mar 27 – Thick Mapping and Geospatial Humanities

J.B. Harley –  “Deconstructing the Map”
Jo Guldi –  “What is the Spatial Turn?”
Presner –  “Introduction: HyperCities” (video) and “Digital Humanities 2.0”


David Rumsey Historical Map Collection –
Mapping the Republic of Letters –
NYPL Map Rectifier –
Historypin –
Hypercities –

Week 10, Apr 3 – New Models for Scholarly Publishing and Authorship

Kathleen Fitzpatrick –  Planned Obsolescence
Explore –  The Electronic Book Review
Explore –  Vectors
Explore –  Digital Humanities Quarterly

Week 11, Apr 10 – Digital Pedagogy

Morris –  “Decoding Digital Pedagogy, Pt. 1: Beyond the LMS”
Stommel –  “Decoding Digital Pedagogy, Pt. 2: (Un)Mapping the Terrain”
Morris  – “Is it Okay to Be a Luddite?”
Explore articles on Digital Pedagogy Lab

Long Blog Post 2 –Review of DH Projects in Your Field

Week 12, Apr 17 – DH, Race, and Gender

Gallon –  “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities”
Earhart and Taylor –  “Pedagogies of Race: Digital Humanities in the Age of Ferguson”
Hsu –  “Lessons on Public Humanities from the Civic Sphere”
Risam –  “Navigating the Global Digital Humanities: Insights from Black Feminism”
Terras and Nyhan – “Father Busa’s Female Punch Card Operatives”

Week 13, Apr24 – Co-Lab Week 1

Identifying a research problem
Establish project teams
NEH Grant Proposal Guidelines

Week 14, May 1 – Co-Lab Week 2

Week 15, May 8 – Co-Lab Week 3

Present final (in progress) projects