Course Overview

Distant Reading is a one-term course in the Digital Humanities at Deerfield Academy.  The courses uses Wolfram Language to introduce students to new ways of engaging literature–all with the purpose of deepening skills in question formulation, problem decomposition, and argumentation.  The course takes its name from the book by Franco Moretti.

Course Description (Spring, 2017):

Distant Reading: An Introduction to Digital Humanities

“There are so many books. There is so little time,” said English professor Stephen Ramsay (and just about everyone).  How can we understand the great wealth of literature if our capacity to read is so limited by time?  Can we take a quantitative approach to studying literature?  How might visualizations of texts–like social network graphs of the characters in Hamlet, or geographic maps of character actions in Pride and Prejudice–complement our close reading?  In a digital age, we have new and different tools at our disposal to help us draw meaning from literature, and in this elective, we will experiment with some of these tools, looking at great works and at our own writing as well.  Taught by teachers in both the English and Computer Science departments, this workshop-style class is built around four projects, the final two of which will be devised by the students.  By the end of the spring we’ll have an understanding of some of the limits and opportunities of these new approaches, ultimately providing insight into both literature and ourselves.  The class does not require any previous exposure to computer science–only curiosity, a collaborative approach to problem solving, and a willingness to try new things.

The first iteration of this course was taught in the spring of 2017.  Two sections of the course ran that spring: one taught by Peter Nilsson and Khizar Hussain, and a second by Ben Bakker and Anna Gonzales.

The second iteration of this course was taught in the spring of 2018.  Again two sections ran.  Since Ben Bakker was on sabbatical, this time Anna Gonzales and Khizar Hussain taught one section, and Peter Nilsson taught the other.

Below is a talk by Peter Nilsson at SXSWedu that shares the origins of this course, summarizes pedagogical goals, and include some live-coding to offer a taste of the work:

Go to: Syllabus