I will be giving a talk with the title above this Friday, November 7, at 6:00 PM in the Draper Map Room, 14 University Place (next to the Deutsches Haus)
The talk is part of the lecture series, Interdisciplinarity in Today’s Academy, sponsored by the Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought.
In this talk, I want to take up three related issues in the recent history of the Digital Humanities. The first is the often-repeated lament that DH has had little influence on traditional humanities disciplines. The second is the argument of Jerome McGann’s /Radiant Textuality/, and more recently, Stephen Ramsay’s /Reading Machines/, that DH is too scientific and too empirical, and that it needs to be transformed into a set of tools that will help literary critics do what they already like to do. The third is a recent attack on DH by Stanley Fish, who argues that DH (and more specifically, distant reading) is a whimsical and insufficiently serious method that is “dictated by the capacity of the tool.” I will argue that the recent avalanche of interest in DH in literary studies and elsewhere is making the lament less valid. I will also argue, by doing some analysis of my own, that some of McGann’s approaches are insufficiently “radiant,” that Ramsay’s provocative intervention into Woolf’s /The Waves/ is deeply flawed (partly because it mistakes computationally tractable problems for intractable ones), and that Fish’s criticism badly misses the point by failing to see that the kind of criticism he wants to do is not only compatible with DH but more easily and more effectively done using DH methods.