Digital Critical Editions (Topics in the Digital Humanities)

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This entire paradigm runs counter to the rationale behind literary studies, a field dedicated to the interpretation and explication of meaning. Literary critics explain and interpret how meaning is made. They analyze texts in ways that illuminate the ideologies texts contain and thereby enable critique of them. Recent innovations in the field of literary studies provide avenues towards answering this question in meaningful ways. In particular, the work of two literary scholars influence the essays contained in this collection.

Digital Humanities Student Association

Franco Moretti and Jerome McGann present very different interpretative methodologies and are rarely described in the same sentence, but these two scholars thoroughly inform how authors in this issue think through the relationship between the literary and the digital humanities. They each show how the literary matters in our increasingly data-driven, digital culture by showing how literature possesses and provides data for interpretation. Even the most traditional forums for literary scholarly discourse seem to be exploring the relationship between the literary and the digital humanities. Are there new models of interpretation?

Will literary studies and hence literary criticism need to take new forms? Will the move from a print-based to an electronic-based culture have repercussions for the concept of literature and hence for criticism? It has been argued that the DH is about hands-on production of digital objects archives, tools, images, etc. This stance positions the DH in opposition to traditional models of literary scholarship, specifically to the practices of an individual reading, thinking, and writing to produce a textual or discursive product.

The tension between traditional literary practices of interpretation and those of the DH motivates discussion about the present and future shape of the humanities. This is not an isolated decision on the part of upper-management for the governing organization of literary studies. The necessity is evidenced by the fact that in the midst of a financial crisis that resulted in a dearth of new positions in higher education, the MLA job market list included well over thirty positions for professors with a research specialty in the Digital Humanities not including fellowships and non-tenured jobs with this emphasis.

Humanities + Digital Tools: Text Technologies

This robust number reflects the fact that Digital Humanities is one of the few areas within literary studies to see job growth in the midst of an economic downturn. Scholars within institutions of higher education are not the only ones considering the relationship between the literary and the digital. Stanley Fish has also used his op-ed space in The New York Times to chime into the discourse about the recent influx of the digital humanities to literary studies. Instead, the DH identifies an emergent perspective for seeing how traditional literary scholarship provides the means for asking and pursuing interpretative questions, both about digital culture but also about other, older, and non-digital objects of study.

It is not that the digital humanities can save literary studies but that, when viewed through a digital humanities perspective, literary studies does not need saving. The impetus behind this special issue is an unabashed attempt to stake a claim for the importance of the humanities in our digital culture and, more specifically, a reminder about the crucial significance of literary studies. We took as our starting point a belief that the digital humanities and literary studies are intersecting and co-dependent.

By the time our submission deadline approached, we realized that we were far from alone in this conclusion.


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We received an outstanding number of high-quality submissions: 45 abstracts submitted by scholars from 12 countries working across diverse disciplines — from English to legal studies, communication to psychology, education to computing, art history to information science. The essays herein explore points of intersection between the literary and the digital humanities from diverse perspectives. Some update close reading; others probe the boundaries of what counts as literary data.

They make use of diverse humanities computing tools — mark-up, tagging, data-mining, and other forms of coding — and show how such tools can serve interpretive ends. Through a perspective informed by the digital, these writers analyze individual literary texts as well as the digital tools involved in reading them. A few of our contributors pursue ways of merging traditional literary scholarship and digital research. In her analysis of the ancient aesthetic concept of ekphrasis, Cecilia Lindhe demonstrates how digital humanities work builds upon traditional hermeneutics. She argues for the tactile nature of ekphrasis in the digital age and uses case studies from digital art and electronic literature to argue for a multi-modal understanding of this ancient term.

Like Cordell, Ed Finn also pursues a middle ground between distant and close reading as well as between traditional literary criticism and emergent practices made possible by digital technologies. Finn uses online book reviews and recommendations culled from sites such as Amazon and LibraryThing as research data to propose a strategy for examining the larger networks involved in canon formation and the production of literary value. This same middle ground — the meeting places where readers find, read, and respond to texts — is another subject of interest for the writers in this issue. Wu considers the introduction, promotion, and evolution of the Kindle.

Whitney Trettien brings traditional bibliographical scholarship to her analysis of another form of digital remediation of print texts: print-on-demand. She shows how these traces, visible both on the surfaces of page and screen, are significant in the ways they signify.

Projects | EADH - The European Association for Digital Humanities

Kirschenbaum reminds us that the archive is not just its content but also its metadata. The material fact that digital texts are, at their core, composed of code and executed via sets of instructions processed by the digital machine inspires another point of intersection in this issue: a focus on code. Close reading computer code is a central and concrete way that digital humanities and literary studies intersect. Three essays in this issue illuminate this intersection by engaging and explicating the textual contexts and poetics of programming code.

Their essay models this argument in its form. The essay models a method of experimenting with the forms used to encode discourse about the literary. It pushes criticism about the digital and about the digital humanities to move beyond describing the specificities of materiality in order to engage with it in the form and function of a critical essay. Marino calls it , Mark Sample reads the paratextual comments in the programming code of such massively popular and commercially successful games as SimCity and JFK Reloaded.

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He does so in order to show how these texts include algorithms for producing gameplay and also encode social, cultural, and even capitalist histories. Mark Marino reads the code of a very different type of digital object and in a very different way. Marino makes this argument while pursuing the political critique of his object of study, demonstrating that the study of code is not the study of rarified abstraction but, on the contrary, the consideration of a viable platform for enacting social change.

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Classics, “Digital Classics” and Issues for Data Curation

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