Digital Humanities: A Bridge between Researchers in Our College

This post was written by Mark Davies, HC Fellow, Department of Linguistics and English Language

The College of Humanities has faculty from across a wide range of disciplines, including literary studies, cultural studies, linguistics, and language pedagogy. In addition to the wide range of topics covered by faculty in these different fields, there are also noticeable differences in methodology. For example, in linguistics (my area of emphasis) there is an emphasis on empiricism (“just the facts, ma’am”), replicability (the ability for another researcher to carry out the same study to verify its results), and falsifiability (i.e. the claims aren’t worth much unless there is a way to definitively “prove” them wrong). At a wonderful Humanities Center colloquium that we had back in September, linguistics faculty from the college mentioned that in many respects, our methodology is more akin to that of the social sciences (and in some cases even the hard sciences) than it might be to literary or cultural studies. This is not to say that one methodology is in any sense “better” than another – they’re just very different.


But one area where faculty from throughout the college come together – perhaps more than any other – is Digital Humanities. Studies and projects in DH often deal with topics involving literature or cultural studies, but with a more technical and empirical approach than might otherwise be the case. I was recently looking at a list of some of the projects that the Office of Digital Humanities in our college has been involved with over the last 3-4 years, and was interested to see the wide range of projects (and faculty) that have benefitted from collaboration with the ODH staff:

  • Nineteenth-century French Studies Database (Cory Cropper)
  • The Machado de Assis Digital Corpus Project (Rex Nielson)
  • The Modernist Short Story Project (Jarica Watts)
  • Online Guide to Classical Mythology in Art (Roger Macfarlane)
  • The Cormac McCarthy Corpus Project (Phillip Snyder, Delys Snyder)
  • Early Swedish Film Network Topology (Christopher Oscarson)
  • Quechua Real Words (Janis Nuckolls)
  • The Victorian Short Fiction Project (Leslee Thorne-Murphy)
  • Fairy Tales (Jill Rudy)
  • the Global Public Humanities Survey (Matt Wickman)
  • BYU Corpora (Mark Davies)

And this is probably just a small sampling (sorry if I haven’t included your project here!). In addition, some of the best turnouts we’ve had at colloquia from the Humanities Center have dealt with the Digital Humanities. It seems like it’s a field that many are interested in, and it’s nice to see faculty crossing discipline boundaries to work together with each other in this field. It would be great to see even more collaboration in the future – lots of good synergy here.


Along these lines, in March 2018 we’ll be having a symposium organized by the Humanities Center, in which we’ll have the opportunity to hear from one of the top scholars in the field of Digital Humanities – Tony McEnery of Lancaster University (UK). In addition to being an important and extremely prolific scholar in the field of Digital Humanities, Tony has also been the director of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (the British equivalent of the US National Endowment for the Humanities), as well as the Research Director of the Economic and Social Research Council (the British equivalent of parts of the US National Science Foundation). In these capacities, he has fostered collaboration among researchers in many different fields – both across the wide spectrum of the humanities, as well as in the social sciences. I’m sure that anyone who is even vaguely interested in the Digital Humanities will find his presentation to be of great interest, and I hope that we’ll benefit from participating in this together this coming semester.


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