Daniel Mosser
ENGL 5074 Sp 2009


Office Hours:
10-11:30 Tues., 3:30-4:30 Thurs.,
& by appt.
Shanks 229
(540) 231-7753

Class time:
2-3:15 TR




This course introduces students to the history and critical theory necessary to understand the broad import of digital technology for English Studies and to the knowledge and skills required to critique and produce digital documents. English Studies, like many fields in the humanities, have undergone a rapid transformation in recent years as the field has adjusted, and continues to adapt, to the impacts of digital technology. These changes range from the proliferation of quality online research sources and tools to reformations of basic sub-disciplines in the field (such as textual and editorial studies, linguistics, or composition instruction). Many of our basic modes of work have been substantially altered by the interrelated technologies broadly grouped under the label "digital." This course will also introduce some basic technology used in digital humanities by means of hands-on projects, such as textual editing in XML; graphic design using CSS style sheets; and entering and retrieving information with a database using form pages.


[Available from the Tech Bookstore / 118 S. Main St. / 552-6444]:

Peter Shillingsburg, From Gutenberg to Google (2006)

Tom Trinko, Kay Ethier, Alan Houser, XML Weekend Crash Course (2001)

Available on the web:

A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth, eds., A Companion to Digital Humanities (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004). [Print copy on Reserve]

Lou Burnard, Katerine O'Brien O'Keeffe, and John Unsworth, Electronic Textual Editing (2006)

Eugene Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think" (Atlantic Monthly, July 1945)

Digital Humanities Quarterly

Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web

Jerome McGann, "Imagining What You Don't Know: The Theoretical Goals of the Rosetti Archive" (1997)

Jerome McGann, "Literary Scholarship in the Digital Future" The Chronicle of Higher Education (Dec. 13, 2002)

John Unsworth,"What is Humanities Computing, and What is Not?" in Jahrbuch für Computerphilologie 4, Georg Braungart, Karl Eibl & Fotis Jannidis, eds. Paderborn: mentis 2002.

John Unsworth, "The Importance of Failure," in The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 3.2 (December, 1997).

John Unsworth, "The Emergence of Digital Scholarship: New Models for Librarians, Scholars, and Publishers," delivered as part of a The New Scholarship: Scholarship and Libraries in the 21st Century, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, November 9, 2002
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Yochai Benkler
Yokai Benkler "Open-source economics" (You Tube)
Center for Applied Technologies in the Humanities (CATH) Projects
Stephen Frye and the Making of the Gutenberg Bible (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)
The Hengwrt Digital Facsimile


Précis/Summary (two, 10 points each)


Digital Editing Project







Please silence all cell phones, pagers, and other class-disruptive devices and technologies before class begins. If you need adaptations or accommodations because of a disability (learning disability, attention deficit disorder, psychological, physical, etc.), if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.


: "An application for the close reading and scholarly analysis of deeply tagged literary texts. Copyright © 2004-2006 Northwestern University." (Stylometric tools)
The Canterbury Tales Project: Birmingham (UK): textual criticism, electronic publishing tools/models
WordNet: Princeton: "WordNet® is an online lexical reference system whose design is inspired by current psycholinguistic theories of human lexical memory. English nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are organized into synonym sets, each representing one underlying lexical concept. Different relations link the synonym sets."
Academic Commons: "a place to consider the changes in liberal education wrought by new technologies and networked information."
Oxford English Dictionary, New Edition, online (internal--VIVA--users only)
Google Scholar search engine
The Internet Archive Wayback Machine: Browse through 40 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago.
J. David Bolter, Writing space [electronic resource] : computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. (2000). Call no. Z52.4 .B65 2000eb (Internet)

Text Encoding Initiative
Extensible Markup Language (XML)
The HUMI Project (Keio University, Tokyo)
The New River: Digital Writing and Art, ed. Ed Falco
Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales, Ed Falco
Electronic Literature Organization
Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry 1579-1830, David Radcliffe
Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography, Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

The Machine is Us/ing Us (web video)
Unicode Home Page
Letter (Character) Database


(Revised 2/24/09)

Tuesday, January 20

Introduction to Course

Thursday, January 22

Nuts & Bolts: a word processor is not a typewriter (using digital tools in everyday work); Laue, "How a Computer Works" (in Schreibman et al.); McGann, "Literary Scholarship in the Digital Future"; Tanselle, "Forward" (in Burnard)

Tuesday, January 27

Shillingsburg, Introduction, Ch. 1 & 2 ("Manuscript, Book, and Text in the Twenty-First Century"; "Complexity, Endurance, Accessibility, Beauty, Sophistication, and Scholarship"); Buzzetti and McGann, "Critical Editing in a Digital Horizon" (pp. 53-73 in Burnard)

Thursday, January 29

Robinson, "The Canterbury Tales and Other Medieval Texts" (pp. 74-91 in Burnard); Disciplinary Impact and Technological Obsolescence in Digital Medieval Studies (DLS)

Tuesday, February 3

Shillingsburg, Ch. 3 ("Script Act Theory")

Thursday, February 5

Meet in Special Collections; Practice and Preservation — Format Issues

Tuesday, February 10

Driscoll, "Levels of Transcription" (pp. 254-61 in Burnard) ); Case and Green, "Rights and Permissions in an Electronic Edition" (pp. 346-57 in Burnard); Character Encoding (DLS)

Thursday, February 12

XML tagging; XML Weekend Crash Course (pp. 5-52)

Tuesday, February 17

XML Weekend Crash Course (pp. 53-78; 153-77) ; Professor Carlos Evia

Thursday, February 19

"Knowledge will be multiplied": Digital Literary Studies and Early Modern Literature (DLS)

Tuesday, February 24

The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature (DLS); Begin Digital Editing Project

Thursday, February 26

Unsworth, "The Importance of Failure"

Tuesday, March 3

Digital Editing Project, cont. Bring your transcriptions to class so you can proof-read your partner's work

Thursday, March 5

Shillingsburg, Ch. 4 ("An Electronic Infrastructure for Script Acts") ; at least one précis is due by today.

March 7-15
Spring Break

Tuesday, March 17

Digital Editing Project, cont. (begin Astounding Stories)

Thursday, March 19

Digital Editing Project, cont. Your proofing of the OCR'd text should be finished by today. We will begin markup of both projects.

Tuesday, March 24

Digital Editing Project, cont.

Thursday, March 26

Shillingsburg, Chapter 6 ("The Dank Cellar of Electronic Texts"); Electronic Scholarly Editions (DLS)

Tuesday, March 31

McGann, "Imagining What You Don't Know: The Theoretical Goals of the Rosetti Archive"; Shillingsburg, Ch. 10

Thursday, April 2

A trip down memory lane: Mosser and Radcliffe review their careers as erswhile digital humanists. Digital Editing Project ends today (actually on March 27).

Tuesday, April 7

The Virtual Library (DLS)

Thursday, April 9

Prof. Ed Falco & New River editor Nick Kocz; Reading Digital Literature: Surface, Data, Interaction, and Expressive Processing; Digital Poetry: A Look at Generative, Visual, and Interconnected Possibilities in its First Four Decades

Tuesday, April 14


Thursday, April 16

No Class

Tuesday, April 21


Thursday, April 23

Presentations: Amanda Losch & Liz Prisley; Katherine Brumbaugh

Tuesday, April 28

Presentations: Derek Whisman; Michael Sutphin; Autumn Lauzon; Chris Carroll

Thursday, April 30

Presentations: Caleb Guard, Sarah Plummer, Sarah Grant, Jennifer Pavlak

Tuesday, May 5

Last day of class; Project due; Presentation: Melissa Smith; Meredith Vallee


The Future of the Book, Geoffrey Nunberg, ed.The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, Sven Birkets

A Companion to Digital Humanities, Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth, eds.


Foreword: Roberto Busa
Introduction: Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens and John Unsworth
Part I: History:
1. The History of Humanities Computing: Susan Hockey (University College London)
2. Archaeology: Nick Eiteljorg
3. Art History: Michael Greenhalgh (Australian National University)
4. Classics: Greg Crane
5. History: Will Thomas (University of Virginia)
6. Lexicography: Russ Wooldridge (University of Toronto)
7. Linguistics: Jan Hajic (Charles University)
8. Literary Studies: Thomas Rommel (International University Bremen)
9. Music: Ichiro Fujinaga (McGill University) & Susan Weiss (Johns Hopkins University)
10. New Media: Geoff Rockwell (McMaster University) and Andrew Mactavish (McMaster University)
11. Performing Arts: David Saltz, UGA
12. Philosophy and Religion: Charles Ess (Drury University)
Part II: Principles:
13. How Computers Work: Andrea Laue (University of Virginia)
14. Classification and its structures: Michael Sperberg McQueen
15. Databases: Steve Ramsay (University of Georgia)
16. What is Already Encoded by the Text: Jerry McGann (University of Virginia)
17. Text Encoding: Allen Renear
18. Perspectives and Communities: Perry Willett (Indiana University)
19. Models: Willard McCarty (King's College London)
Part III: Applications:
20. Analysis and Authorship Studies: Hugh Craig (University of Newcastle, NSW)
21. Preparation and Analysis of Linguistic Corpora: Nancy Ide (Vassar College)
22. Electronic Scholarly Editing: Martha Nell Smith (Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities)
23. Textual Analysis: John Burrows
24. Thematic Research Collections: Carole Palmer (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
25. Print Scholarship and Digital Resources: Claire Warwick (University College London)
26. Digital Media and the Analysis of Film: Bob Kolker
27. Cognitive Stylistics and the Literary Imagination: Ian Lancashire (University of Toronto)
28. Multivariant Narratives: Marie-Laure Ryan
29. Speculative Computing: Aesthetic Provocations in Humanities Computing: Johanna Drucker (University of Virginia) & Bethany Nowviskie (University of Virginia)
30. Robotic Poetics: Bill Winder (University of British Columbia)
Part IV: Production, Dissemination, Archiving:
31. Project Design: Daniel Pitti (University of Virginia)
32. Conversion of Primary Sources: Marilyn Deegan (Oxford University) & Simon Tanner (Kings College London)
33. Text Tools: John Bradley (Kings College London)
34. Interface, Aesthetics, and Usability: Matt Kirschenbaum (University of Maryland, College Park)
35. Electronic Publishing: Michael Jensen
36. Digital Libraries in the Humanities: Howard Besser (New York University)
37. Preservation: Abby Smith

The Digital Resource Evaluation Project:

Due Tues., March 24: The Digital Resource Evaluation project is intended to provide you with experience in evaluating the source(s), content(s), authority, and quality of a given web site or other digital resource. The resource you evaluate should at least purport to be something useful for humanities-based scholarship.The end product should consist of the name of the site you have chosen to evaluate, the site's URL, a statement of the criteria you used for your evaluation, and the results of the evaluation. Aim for a minimum of 750 words, a maximum of 1000 (3-4 pages).Newman Library has compiled a set of materials to help with this. Remember: anyone can put essentially anything on the web. If you know nothing about a given subject, what criteria can you use to determine if the site is useful, authoritative, and reputable? A more focused and possibly more relevant set of criteria is provided in Shillingsburg, pp. 92-3.For this project: explore the Web (using, e.g., www.scholar.google.com) to find a site that interests you. (Since "digital" includes platforms other than the web, you may also, of course, evaluate a CD publication, but in order for me to evaluate your evaluation, I will need to be able to access your item.) Your evaluation need not be a positive one, but it should be thorough and it should employ clearly-stated criteria. The basis of the criteria you develop should be the usefulness and reliability of the site for a class such as this or your own research activities.Some sample criteria/questions:

  1. Is the site comprised primarily of links to other web sites? If so, is there a sense that these links have been thoughtfully assembled, evaluated, and organized? Do the links work (i.e., are they current)?
    Does the site provide content? If so, what is the nature and quality of that content (original, synthesized, documented, or...)?
    Is the material authoritatively presented (is there evidence of the site author's credentials? has the material been proof-read for grammatical and mechanical problems?)
  2. How is this resource useful (or not) to humanistic scholarship and how effective is it at performing the purpose it aspires to? [back]


Each of you will provide an XML-tagged summary or précis for two of our readings (i.e., one of the assigned essays, chapters, etc.). The précis should be between two pages and one-third of the original. The précis methodology requires scrupulous neutrality towards the content and argument of the target piece of writing; however, in class you may provide us with your own reaction to and critique of the essay/article/chapter. You will discover that some of the materials do not readily present themselves as précis targets. Before you select your targets, please do at least take a look at them. If your selections are problematic, you may choose to opt for the summary format, but please make clear in your contribution which form you are adopting.Each précis should begin with a bibliographical citation of your article, chapter, etc., using MLA Style.If you have some particular interest in an approach to our texts, you are welcome to propose an alternative and supply a copy to be placed on reserve. Please note that you must complete at least one of these before Spring Break. We will provide you with a template for marking up your document. [back]


XML Project:

We'll work together on a class project to learn the basics of XML, the markup language that has become the standard for sharing humanities texts on the web. There will be two parts to this. First we'll code your first précis in XML, learning how to write a DTD to check the formatting, and now to write a simple style sheet to add visual formatting. Then we will encode something to be determined as a larger class project.



This can take any of several formats and might even be collaborative (as is the nature of digital humanities):

  1. If you have the skills, you might construct a database or digital edition.

    You might carry out a more extensive version of the Digital Resource Evaluation, examining both a print and digital version of the same resource and detailing the pros and cons of both.

    You might use this opportunity to map out a thesis or independent study project: what would the constituents of a database or hypertext edition look like and why. What formats/platforms would best enable you to realize this. This kind of project would be, most likely, graphic as well as expository: before going to the trouble to make a database, for example, it is important to invest a great deal of time "up front" just drawing out the kinds fields and relationships you are aiming for. This project, then, would be a kind of "Rationale for …" undertaking: the theorizing that precedes the building.

    You might produce an extended annotated bibliography of materials that comment in some way on "digital humanities."

  2. You might explore what all this means pedagogically: how can we use our students' lifetimes of "growing up digital" to advantage? how must we compensate for their "analogue deficits"? can you imagine a syllabus that foregrounds all of this?

Partly to make sure you get going early enough and partly to help you polish your oral and performance skills, I am asking each of you to give a 15-minute presentation of your project. Doing this as a "work-in-progress" will allow you to get feedback in advance of the final draft. There are two different skills involved here: think of the material version--the "paper"--as publication, the presentation as a conference-type performance. You will be strictly held to fifteen minutes of class time for the presentation. As a basic rule of thumb, 10 pages of double-spaced text takes at least twenty minutes to read--too much for the time allotted. Another rule of thumb is that simply reading a paper out loud is deadly. Handouts, audio/visual aids, participatory exercises generally enhance a presentation and help to relax the presenter by diverting attention.If you adopt the "traditional" essay form, aim for about 15 pages for the final draft. Examples of projects students have selected include: a Powerpoint presentation of a plan for a digital short story ("story-boarded"); an analysis of the effects of grammar-checkers on student writing; a study of programs in digital humanities; a study of the revival of "serialization" as a consequence of Web publication; a rationale (introduction) for a Master's Thesis database. [back]