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Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia

Hacking for Humanists

This is a course for English majors (and other students) that introduces the basics of computer programming, text analysis, text encoding, and statistics as experimental methodologies that promote new kinds of reading and interpretation. The aim is to move from "computation into criticism." We'll work, primarily, with a Shakespeare play, poetry by William Blake, and a Jane Austen novel. Students will find these works at the bookstore alongside a manual for Text Analysis with R. No prior familiarity with coding required; indeed, advanced computer science majors are discouraged from applying, as they will likely find the professor's halting and lame way with the algorithmic course content comic, at best. The term hacking, the humanist will note, has two senses at least.

Course Texts (Required Editions)

William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience (OUP). 0192810898
William Shakespeare,
Othello (Folger/Simon & Schuster). 0743477553
Jane Austen,
Emma (Oxford). 0199535523
Matthew Jockers,
Text Analysis with R for Students of Literature (Springer). 3319031635

Optional: Jared P. Lander, R for Everyone (Addison-Wesley). 0321888030 — Also available though the library as an e-text:

Assignments and Grade Breakdown

  1. Participation (10%). I take attendance and keep track of in-class participation.

  2. Homeworks (20%): Twelve short programming or programming-related assignments. Due most weeks by 5pm on Friday. To be turned in online through Collab.

  3. Presentation (5%): Starting in Week 3, individuals or pairs of students will present a close reading inspired by a manipulation, in R, of our current text. These are short, five- to seven-minute presentations. Using three slides, students should walk the class through their code, their result, and crown this exposition with an insight.

  4. Midterm (10%): Fill in the blanks; students to comment code and correct bugs also.

  5. Final Essay (35%): The major assignment is a research essay (12 to 20 pages) informed by text-analytic explorations of course texts or a text of the student’s choosing. Please consult with me on the topic, methods, and scope. I am open to students working with a text or texts from another class as long as the other

professor likewise approves. The StatLab in Brown Library has agreed to consult with students who take on a particularly difficult programming task. Schedule appointments with the experts through

VI. Comprehensive Final Exam (20%): In three parts: 1. Identifications from the course readings and question-types as seen on the midterm. 2. Open book, open- laptop short answers, 3. An open-book essay question.


Course Number: 
ENEC 3559
DH Certificate requirement : 
Brad Pasanek