English department launches a new minor in digital humanities

What happens when digital technology meets literature? How can web-based text-analysis tools help us to understand Emily Dickinson’s poetry better? What role can online publishing play in preserving rare copies of Salman Rushdie’s novels?

Digital Humanities or DH is an academic minor launched in the English department this fall. Students minoring in DH will study literary culture using the latest digital tools for annotation, mapping and web-based publishing, said associate professor Heidi Kaufman. To earn the minor, students must pass six courses; some focus on the study of literature using digital tools while others give students an opportunity to build a digital project of their own.

Drawing from a range of disciplines and study areas, projects could include the creation of a digital edition of a text or a digital archive, similar to the Lyon archive. Students are also encouraged to experiment with digital tools to consider social justice issues in the context of  literature and technology, or to imagine humanities projects that can make a difference in the world beyond the classroom.

The minor reflects and responds to trends in higher education and scholarly research, according to Kaufman—but its value outside the classroom is equally important.

“The transformation of the printed word into digital formats changes how we read, what we write, where and how we find books and how we preserve our cultural heritage,” she said. “For many, however, the confluence of new media with earlier print forms reminds us daily of why we read in the first place, and how words, stories and books— print and digital alike—enable connections between people and ideas.”

—Matt Cooper