The Digital Humanities in Practice: NOT Reading English Novels, 1750 to 1830
In literature departments, much talk has turned toward new kinds of research opened up by digital tools: with the availability of full-text databases containing hundreds and sometimes thousands of novels, literary historians can ask questions they couldn’t when they were still dependent on the close reading of a relatively few well-known texts. Close reading is great, but there are times when we may wonder what other writers beside Jane Austen or Charles Dickens are doing: does the work of great writers do the same thing as that of lesser writers, only better? does it “change the game,” causing other people to write like the greats? or is the work of such individuals in fact exceptional, that is, not at all representative of what’s going on at the level of the literary “system”? and how do such systems evolve, exactly?
This Freshman Seminar will quickly introduce students to some issues in digital humanities before undertaking an actual project on the English novel from around 1750 to 1830. The nature of the project is quantitative: we won’t be reading novels, we’ll be tagging them for certain features and then making calculations. Since the project is not based on computerized text searches, no particular digital expertise is necessary. Students will need only a laptop with wifi to bring to the class, which will be run as a lab. Eventually, the work undertaken in this lab will be incorporated into Professor Paige’s next book, where seminar participants will be duly credited. Come be part of the new wave of humanities research at Berkeley!
Course taught in ENGLISH. Although this course is being offered in the French Department, the actual subject is English novels and no knowledge of French is demanded. Priority enrollment for Freshmen.
Professor Paige teaches mainly classes in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French literature and culture, with special interest in the history of the novel.