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DH Theory & History



Structured Data

Public Archives

Course Summary:

From the colonial period to the present day, the Popol Vuh, sometimes called the Maya book of creation, has been translated, edited, paraphrased, and glossed in more than 25 languages. WorldCat suggests that there are over 1,200 known editions of the work, published in verse, scholarly editions, and illustrated volumes. In addition to differences in form and genre, Spanish-language volumes offer very different interpretations of the K’iche’ source text. The opening line of Adrián Recinos’s translation is, “Este es el principio de las antiguas historias de este lugar llamado Quiché,” while Emilio Abreu Gómez renders it as, “Entonces no había ni gente, ni animales, ni árboles, ni piedras, ni nada.” Readers’ interpretations of the text, and of Maya cultural and spiritual traditions conveyed in translation, thus depend upon the editions they consult, and these editions vary widely.

In this class, we will design a thematic research collection of the Popol Vuh, housed at the Newberry Library and digitally hosted by the Ohio State University Library. By encoding the manuscript with tools that show the graphic and narrative complexity of the Popol Vuh, this project will allow readers to engage deeply with questions of historical, spiritual, and cultural translation. Such tools will ideally include images (glyphs, vases, figures from codices), maps, and alternative translations. Primary readings include translations and editions of the Popol Vuh; secondary sources will address key topics in Classic and Post-Classic Maya Studies (archaeology, art history, linguistics), as well as critical paradigms in DH scholarship (evaluation, methodology, pedagogy).

On seminar days (Tuesdays, led by professor Bigelow), we will analyze primary and secondary readings and identify features we want to encode in our digital critical edition. On studio days (Thursdays, led by professor Alvarado), we will learn how to encode textual variants and graphic forms using Drupal software. We will work in small teams (2-3 people) to encode a section of the manuscript (about 6 folios per person). In this way, we’ll build skills in literary/translation analysis and DH research, thinking critically about the problems that DH platforms do and do not resolve in Latin American, Mesoamerican, and Indigenous Studies.

This course is offered in the spring of 2017 so that students can present work at the 2018 DH conference in Mexico City, the first time that the conference will be held in Latin America.

Original Instructor: Rafael Alvarado, Original Instructor: Allison Bigelow
Taught at University of Virginia in Fall 2017
discipline: Spanish Italian and Portuguese, Digital Humanities
Course Summary:

In this course we explore the Internet, and related networks of people and devices, as an historically unique global media ecology in which new forms of social organization and cultural practice have emerged since its beginnings in the late 1960s. Using anthropological understandings of community, nation, and public sphere as our starting point, we explore the history of the Internet as both a product and producer of the beliefs and practices of specific communities, from engineers employed by the US military to hippie communes to Persian bloggers to the Anonymous movement. Along the way, we explore how the Internet has created a space for new forms of social action and political imagination which both challenge and reproduce established institutions such as the nation state, the newspaper, and the corporation. In addition, we explore how the Internet itself, as an assemblage of technologies and technical practices, has changed from a network for the communication of messages to a politically contested sphere of exchange in which social data has become a form of territory.


Attendance is strongly encouraged but not required -- I will not be taking roll. You will be responsible for all content that is covered during lecture. Note that not all lecture content will be found in the readings. Instructions for the following assignments will be forthcoming and posted on the course site.

Tentative list of assessments:

  • Digital Assignment 1 (10%) -- Personal Profile

  • Digital Assignment 2 (15%) -- On-line Community

  • Mid-term Exam (15%) -- Take-home

  • Digital Assignment 3 (35%) -- Project

  • Final Exam (25%) -- Take-home

    Due dates are listed on the Schedule.
    All exams will be delivered via Collab's Test & Quizzes tool.


Readings and Content

All of the readings (which includes videos and other web resources) for this course, with the exception of the text below, will be found online; they will be made available as links on the course schedule in Collab. The following book, available at Newcomb Hall, is also required:

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities


Original Instructor: Rafael Alvarado
Taught at University of Virginia in Fall 2017
discipline: Anthropology, Digital Humanities
Course Summary:

This course will introduce you to the theory and practice of database application design in the context of the digital liberal arts.  Beginning with the premise that the database is the defining symbolic form of the postmodern era, you will review critical and practical literature about databases, study examples of their use in projects from a variety of humanities disciplines, and engage in the actual design of a database application as a course project.  Topics to be covered will include data models, web-based database development using PHP and MySQL, interface design, data visualization, and the rold of databases in scholarship.  Students will write code, keep a journal on the course blog, and collaborate to produce a final product.

What you will learn:

  1. Basic programming skills in HTML, PHP, and SQL
  2. Knowledge of common data formats such as CSV and RSS and techniques for working with them.
  3. Design principles at the levels of data modeling and interface design.
  4. A theoretical framework within which to conceptualize the structure and function of database driven applications
  5. Familiarity with the data and design goals of Digital Humanities projects.
Original Instructor: Rafael Alvarado
Taught at University of Virginia in Fall 2017
discipline: Media Studies, Digital Humanities
Course Summary:

“We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race.”
— Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody

We live in a time of profound cultural change. One of the causes of this change is the transformation of our digital ecology from print and traditional broadcast media to networked digital media, characterized by the rise of database-mediated communication within a global sphere of information exchange. These changes in our media ecology are creating new forms of knowledge and alternative forms of social organization at a pace that is dazzling from an historical perspective. Businesses, governments, and grass roots communities are vigorously adapting to digital media, taking the lead in developing new ways of communicating and acting in the world. Our educational institutions, however, seem bound by habits of thought and structures of communication that resist changes introduced by the new media. Yet the academy is ideally positioned to create and embrace new forms of knowledge with the public interest in mind. In fact a sub-community of academics – dating back to the 1940s and now known as the digital humanities – has pursued exactly this mission, against a tide that seems only now to be turning. In this course, you are invited to join this community and explore the ways digital media are being embraced by scholars, artists, and scientists in the pursuit of knowledge and social change. We will explore the history and culture of the digital liberal arts from its birth in the years immediately following the invention of the first commercial computers through its various incarnations up to the present era of the late World Wide Web. Along the way we will examine specific examples of scholars using digital media to advance their research, and explore the aesthetic and epistemological significance of their work through readings-based discussions and hands-on work on a collaborative class project.


Attendance 10% Blogging 20% Mid-term 20% Final Projects 30% Final Exam 20%



Course Description


Classroom attendance. Attendance is required for all class sessions. Absences in excess of three days will result in loss of a letter grade. Please see the instructors if you anticipate missing more than three classes.

Classroom participation. Although classroom participation is not measured per se, I do expect you to participate by adding to the conversation and answering questions during seminar and actively collaborating with your peers during studio.

Reading before class. Reading is the fuel that drives course discussion. Whether you have done the reading will affect the quality of your contributions and class discussions as a whole. In this course, we have chosen readings (and the occasional video or podcast) that can be completed in the time allotted before class and with enough time to complete the blogging requirement described below. Of course, “reading” in this context means also viewing, listening to, and interacting with assigned new media content.

Timely completion of assignments. Late assignments will not be accepted without loss of a letter grade for each day late. If you anticipate conflicts with your work in other courses, please schedule a meeting with me and bring your other course syllabi so that we may determine if an accommodation is required. In general, it is a good idea to plan your semester in the first two weeks of class, using all of your course syllabi and a calendar to map at a work strategy. (Time management is one of the life skills you would do well to cultivate while in college; you will be abundantly repaid in life by any investment you make in this area.)


The course schedule may be found here.


Blogging Instructions

In this course you will blog extensively. Blogs will be used as a vehicle for your reflection on readings as well as goings on in the course. We use blogging in this course to accomplish an important goal — to connect your reading experience to your classroom experience by means of an on-going conversation that takes place virtually and in person. Your responses help us understand your response to the readings before class, knowledge which we incorporate into the seminar session. Afterward, your blogging allows you to capture and synthesize the thoughts generated during class.



Add a comment on the post for the week’s readings before 5 on Monday


Course Description

Blogging Instructions

  1. Read, view, or listen to each assigned resource. Assigned readings are given in the page associated with the day they are to be discussed. These pages are found under “Lessons” in the menu and are prefixed with the date of the class meeting.

  2. Create a response to the Response Question provided at the end of the reading list by writing a blog post. See the Rubric below for the formal requirements of this post. You must create this post by 5:00 PM the Monday before seminar to receive full credit for your work.

  3. After studio on Thursday but before Friday at 5:00 PM, write a blog post on the course site describing something that you found interesting or confusing from the week, unless otherwise directed. These blog posts are called “synthetic responses” and are an essential part of my teaching process.


  1. The most important aspect of this assignment is to do it. Don’t be a perfectionist — if you have done the reading and attended class, your intuitions are bound to be of value. If they are not, this is one way to develop the muscle that converts the ideas in your head to the words in your mouth — this is what college is for. The point of blogging is not to produce perfect or even completely coherent ideas, but to get the process of talking, thinking, and writing going.

  2. Timeliness is essential. Obviously, for this process to work, your comments and blogs have to be submitted on time. The critical path is your reading — if you get into a schedule for your reading, the rest will follow.

  3. Length is variable. One or two sentences is too short; the ideal is the “fat paragraph” that develops a thought, somewhere between 150 to 300 words.

  4. Consistency matters. Like attendance and bowling, back-to-back participation is essential to a successful outcome.


Here is an example of a synthetic response from a previous course.
Here is an example of a synthetic response in another course, responding to the content of a seminar.


Original Instructor: Rafael Alvarado
Taught at University of Virginia in Fall 2017
discipline: Media Studies, Digital Humanities
Course Summary:

The goal of this course is to get hands-on practice doing linguistic analysis based entirely on data collected from a native speaker of a language. [NOTE: “entirely” means that you should not look up already-published grammars and dictionaries or search the web for descriptions of the language we are working on. For the purposes of this course, we will act as if no grammar or dictionary yet exists.]  We will work collaboratively on the same language for the whole semester. Data collection will begin with phonetic transcription of individual words, with the goal of learning to hear the phonetic detail of an unfamiliar language, and the first assignment will be an analysis of the phonemes of the language, including rules for allophonic variation where relevant. After working out the phonemic system, we will move to analysis of grammar (word structure and phrase/sentence structure), starting with phrases and sentences and going on to a short text. Fulfills the Language Structure requirement for Linguistics majors and graduate students.

Original Instructor: Lise Dobrin, Original Instructor: Ellen Contini-Morava
Taught at University of Virginia in Fall 2017
discipline: Anthropology, Digital Humanities, Linguistics
Course Summary:

Have you ever wondered how daily life was in ancient times? How did houses look like, smell, taste and even sound like in the past? How did ancient people throw house parties and run businesses from home? Why did they bury people and objects under house floors?

These are some of the key questions we will explore in the Household archaeology class. Household Archaeology is a relative new sub-field of archaeology that moves away from the monumental and highly visible public spaces of antiquity and focuses on the architecture, spatial patterning, daily activities, behaviors and experiences of the ancient house. Household archaeology allow us to move from excavated walls to people and discover the fascinating stories of individuals that made and used the object we finds in archaeological contexts. Our main goal in the course is to explore how ancient houses can help us better ancient societies. In doing so, we will investigate key sites in the eastern Mediterranean ranging from the Neolithic to the Early Modern period, that have enabled archaeologists to explore this new field and introduce us to archaeological assemblages found in ancient houses.

Acquiring new skills and knowledge about:

The field of archaeology

• Train in basic archaeological principals that will allow us to understand how archaeological data is formed, collected and analyzed

• Critically evaluate how contemporary values and experiences impact our understanding of the past.

• Discover how household archaeology has developed through time

Ancient houses:

• Understand ancient households as non-static entities and explore the factors that contribute to their development and changes

• Investigate the diverse economic, social, religious and political roles of ancient households

• Develop appropriate methodologies to reconstruct ancient houses’ life histories that allow multiple readings of the data and encompass different perspectives to include all members of society.

New technologies in archaeology:

• Learn how to create 3D environments for archaeological data

• Evaluate how well new technologies can visualize and inform the interpretation of archaeological data

Contemporary life and self-awareness:

• Compare ancient houses and life conditions to your own experiences and house life

• Reflect on the ways this course can contribute to your life goals and professional development.

You should take this course because:

• We will learn together, gain new skills and create a community where everyone is respected, feels included and valued. The course is both for archaeology and non- archaeology majors who are creative and curious about the past and the use of new technologies in creating ancient 3D environment.

• We are all custodians of the past and of World Heritage. Learning about the past help us to protect it at a critical time for the survival of world monuments threatened by war, climate change and political agendas.

• Household archaeology is about daily life and ordinary people, like you and me, rather than about elites, kings and grand monuments. We all have a role to play in human history and deserve to be part of the historical narrative.

• This course is equally about the present, our lives and our relation to others. In leaning about how people lived in the past, we can better understand aspects of our own lives and behaviors and those of the people around us. If we want a better future, we should start with the past.

• Working in groups and being a good team member are key skills for success and well- being regardless of your career choices. Archaeology is a team sport so learn how to play before you go to the field!

Warning: After taking this course you will never think of houses in the same way, whether you are looking for a new house, visiting a friend’s house or walking in a new neighborhood. You will become more aware of all the clues that surround us daily and reveal information about people’s self-representation, background, behaviors and aspirations. Houses will never be the same in your eyes!

How you will be assessed:

(More detailed descriptions of each course assessments can be found on the Assignment Folder)

Participation /Leading discussion (10%): You are expected to fully attend and actively participate in all class activities and contribute to class discussions. Students are also expected to have done the assigned readings prior coming to class and have with them all required material (readings, laptops etc.) in class. At some point in the semester you will also lead at least one class discussion for twenty minutes based on the class readings.

Weekly Written Activities: 30%:

Your weekly written activities are small writing essays no more than 1000 words each. They include two different types of writing, Critical Thinking and Reflections. In the Activity Folder you will find a detailed week by week guide of each of these written assignments, their topics, deadlines etc.

Critical thinking (15%): Every other week you will turn in a small writing assignment usually up to 1000word. Written assignments involve writing a critical review of a reading, interpreting archaeological assemblages, investigating different readings for the same find.

Reflections (15%): Every other week you will turn in a small writing assignment reflecting on your own learning process by evaluating what you have learned during the week and how that knowledge contributes to the final project (3D reconstruction project), to your professionalization and understanding of the world around you.

Mock Excavation (10%): We will spend a day excavating household assemblages! The goal of the assessment is to simulate the environment of a real excavation. You will discover, record, collect, analyze, and interpret all archaeological data found in their trenches. You will also need to fill in an excavation notebooks, photograph, draw and measure artifacts and produce a final report. Participation in the excavation is mandatory so make sure to save the date, we dig on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7.

3D reconstruction project (50%: 30% for the 3D product, 20% for the written part):

The project has a digital (group assignment) and a written component (individual assignment). You will conduct research synthesizing and analyzing excavation finds to create a 3D reconstruction of an ancient house of your choice. The goals of the project are:

• analyze and interpret archaeological data and reconstruct the architecture, spatial organization and aspects of daily life in an ancient household

• .train students in new technologies (SketchUp, Unity, 3D printing) to visualize and disseminate archaeological data for a wider audience.


Original Instructor: Fotini Kondyli
Taught at University of Virginia in Fall 2017
discipline: Architectural History, Digital Humanities
Course Summary:

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 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 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);view=1up
  • Or Little Journeys to the Homes of Famous Women (New York: Putnam’s, 1897);view=1up;seq=15
Original Instructor: Alison Booth
Taught at University of Virginia in Fall 2017
discipline: English, Digital Humanities
Course Summary:
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:00pm - 3:15pm in Bryan Hall 328.

Some undergraduate course offerings can count toward your elective requirement, but that depends on the department and professor. If you'd like to take this course, contact the professor to see if they would allow you to take it and what they would require of your work in the course to ensure it counts at the graduate level.

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.


Original Instructor: Brad Pasanek
Taught at University of Virginia in Spring 2020
discipline: English, Digital Humanities