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DH@UVA, U.Va.
Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia

Life Writing and Digital Humanities

Instructor: Alison Booth

This course combines theory and practice: the theories and practices of writing a life (one’s own or someone else’s); and the theories and practices of digital representations of lives. Assignments and discussion will introduce the field of digital humanities (or humanities scholarship that uses intensive computation). Focusing on clusters of texts from the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, we will sample different genres and modes of writing and reading. We will consider the many media in which narratives about human lives can be expressed, and experiment in using some of them. Projects will include contributions to Collective Biographies of Women as a biographical database (prosopography) and as an experiment in narrative analysis.

Required Texts

  • Alison Bechdel, Fun Home 978-0618871711
  • Alison Booth, How to Make It as a Woman 9780226065465
  • Hermione Lee, Biography 978-0199533541
  • Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts 978-1555977351
  • Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands 978-0195066722
  • Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography, 2nd ed. 978-0816669868.

Excerpts available as pdfs or online (specific excerpted readings will be noted):

  • Matthew Gold and Lauren Klein, eds., Debates in the Digital Humanities, 2012 and 2016 editions http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu: selected articles to be announced.
  • Harriet Martineau, “Florence Nightingale,” “Charlotte Brontë”
  • Martineau, from Autobiography
  • Gaskell, from The Life of Charlotte Brontë
  • Edmund Gosse, "The Custom of Biography" Part 1 and 2
  • Samuel Smiles, Self-Help, ch. 1
  • Virginia Woolf, "The New Biography"
  • A choice of one collective biography of women in http://cbw.iath.virginia.edu for which a text (hard copy or digital) is available.
  • A choice of one additional biography of a woman within that text. Note preferences for works within our sample corpora of books that include Sister Dora, Lola Montez, Queen Cleopatra, Caroline Herschel, Frances Trollope, or Charlotte Corday. Harriet Martineau is also a good choice.
  • Elbert Hubbard, Little Journeys to the Homes of Good Men and Great: See HathiTrust, OCLC, or your library.
  • Your choice of biographical subject: read that biography and another in the same collection of this multivolume series. For example, Little Journeys to the Homes of American Authors (New York: Putnam’s, 1896) https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t1tf0033s;view=1up
  • Or Little Journeys to the Homes of Famous Women (New York: Putnam’s, 1897) https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112002833140;view=1up;seq=15
Course Number: 
ENSP 5559
DH Certificate requirement : 
Elective