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Literature and the Digital Humanities

Literature and Digital Humanities

What is the relevance of digital humanities to literature? 

Literature has played a key role in the development of the digital humanities. With scholarship and pedagogy being so easily available to the public through open access publishing, open access resources, digital archives and other initiatives, digital humanities plays a pivotal role in the study and teaching of literature. Many of the digital humanities projects have their origin in English Departments. These include but are not limited to data analysis, data mining, databases, visualization, and text archiving. Recurring words or patterns or themes in novels can be studied through text analysis tools.Researchers can study changes in different editions of a work and can examine what was added or altered in each edition to raise questions about why those changes happened at the time. Some projects map locations to places referenced in books to recreate the region of that time. Web-based tools can use data from books to digitally map, graph and chart important historical events, places, and characters. 

In his article titled "What is Digital Humanities and What's It Doing in English Departments?" which appeared in the ADE Bulletin (2010), Mathew Kirschenbaum cites the following reasons why literature and and digital humanities are so closely connected:

1. It is easier for computers to manage text data more than images, audio, video, or other data forms. Data mining makes it easier for literary scholars to study texts and generate new information.

2. Computers and composition have been associated together for a long time.

3. It is easier to create electronic archives and electronic editions of texts.

4. Literary projects involving hypertext and other electronic forms are more diverse and vibrant.

5. English Departments are more open to cultural studies where computers and other digital resources are used heavily for analysis.

6. With the proliferation of e-book devices and the interest in e-reading, it is easy to perform data mining and "distance readings" of millions of books at a time.


Of Interest

MLA's Guidelines for Evaluating Work with Digital Media in the Modern Languages

Electronic Literature Organization