Announcement DH Pedagogy Publication Tools

Introduction to Text Analysis: A Coursebook

[Crossposted on my personal blog.]

I am happy to share publicly the initial release of a project that I have been shopping around in various talks and presentations for a while now. This semester, I co-taught a course on “Scandal, Crime, and Spectacle in the 19th Century” with Professor Sarah Horowitz in the history department here at Washington and Lee University. The course counted as digital humanities credit for our students, who were given a quick and dirty introduction to text analysis over the course of the term. In preparing for the class, I knew that I wanted my teaching materials on text analysis to be publicly available for others to use and learn from. One option might be to blog aggressively during the semester, but I worried that I would let the project slide, particularly once teaching got underway. Early conversations with Professor Horowitz suggested, instead, that we take advantage of time that we both had over the summer and experiment. By assembling our lesson plans far in advance, we could collaboratively author them and share them in a format that would be legible for publication both to our students, colleagues, and a wider audience. I would learn from her, she from me, and the product would be a set of resources useful to others.

At a later date I will write more on the collaboration, particularly on how the co-writing process was a way for both of us to build our digital skill sets. For now, though, I want to share the results of our work – Introduction to Text Analysis: A Coursebook. The materials here served as the backbone to roughly a one-credit introduction in text analysis, but we aimed to make them as modular as possible so that they could be reworked into other contexts. By compartmentalizing text analysis concepts, tool discussions, and exercises that integrate both, we hopefully made it a little easier for an interested instructor to pull out pieces for their own needs. All our materials are on GitHub, so use them to your heart’s content. If you are a really ambitious instructor, you can take a look at our section on Adapting this Book for information on how to clone and spin up your own copy of the text materials. While the current platform complicates this process, as I’ll mention in a moment, I’m working to mitigate those issues. Most importantly to me, the book focuses on concepts and tools without actually introducing a programming language or (hopefully) getting too technical. While there were costs to these decisions, they were meant to make any part of the book accessible for complete newcomers, even if they haven’t read the preceding chapters. The book is really written with a student audience in mind, and we have the cute animal photos to prove it. Check out the Preface and Introduction to the book for more information about the thinking that went into it.

The work is, by necessity, schematic and incomplete. Rather than suggesting that this be the definitive book on the subject (how could anything ever be?), we want to suggest that we always benefit from iteration. More teaching materials always help. Any resource can be a good one – bad examples can be productive failures. So we encourage you to build upon these materials in your courses, workshops, or otherwise. We also welcome feedback on these resources. If you see something that you want to discuss, question, or contest, please drop us a line on our GitHub issues page. This work has already benefited from the kind feedback of others, either explicit or implicit, and we are happy to receive any suggestions that can improve the materials for others.

One last thing – this project was an experiment in open and collaborative publishing. In the process of writing the book, it became clear that the platform we used for producing it – GitBook – was becoming a problem. The platform was fantastic for spinning up a quick collaboration, and it really paid dividends in its ease of use for writers new to Markdown and version control. But the service is new and under heavy development. Ultimately, the code is out of our control, and I want something more stable and more fully in my hands for long-term sustainability. I am in the process of transferring the materials to a Jekyll installation that would run off GitHub pages. Rather than wait for this final, archive version of the site to be complete, it seemed better to release this current working version out into the world. I will update all the links here once I migrate things over. If the current hosting site is down, you can download a PDF copy of the most recent version of the book here.

Announcement DH Project Update Publication Research Projects

In Case You Missed the News

We’re caught up in the craziness of our four week spring term here at W&L, but we wanted to make sure you were caught up on some recent news from our DH community.

Ancient Graffiti Project wins NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant

Heralded as the “epitome of liberal arts,” the Ancient Graffiti Project was recently awarded $75,000 to continue work on their database for textual and figural graffiti. Learn more from the W&L press release or the Atlantic Monthly article. Congrats to Sara Sprenkle, Rebecca Benefiel, and the rest of their team!

Stephen P. McCormick wins Mednick Fellowship from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges

Stephen P. McCormick, Assistant Professor of French, has been awarded the 2016 Menick Fellowship by VFIC for his work on the Huon d’Auvergne project. Learn more about McCormick’s work on one of the last unpublished Franco-Italian Romance Epics from this article or dig into the digital edition yourself.

Joel Blecher publishes chapter on Digital Humanities pedagogy

Joel Blecher, Assistant Professor of Religion, won a DH Incentive Grant in fall of 2014 for incorporating data visualization into a History of Islamic Civilization course. You can now read about this experience in a new title from De Grutyer, The Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East Studies. Blecher’s chapter is titled, “Pedagogy and the Digital Humanities: Undergraduate Exploration into the Transmitters of Early Islamic Law” which you can read in print or electronic form through Leyburn Library.

Look forward to reports on our summer activities coming soon. We have teams going to DHSI, ILiADS, the Oberlin Digital Scholarship Conference, and more!


Library-Faculty Partnerships Enrich Undergraduate Teaching at Washington and Lee

[Originally published on the Digital Library Federation Contribute blog]

Washington and Lee University (W&L) is excited to be a part of the Digital Library Federation’s efforts, particularly as they pertain to promoting digital humanities on liberal arts campuses. The digital humanities initiative at W&L has grown out of longstanding attempts to connect faculty and staff working in related areas across the university. Our primary goal is to foster communication and training among librarians and faculty at all levels of technical skill in the service of encouraging new approaches to digital pedagogy and research methodology. These efforts grow out of two overlapping groups: the Digital Humanities Working Group, a collective of faculty and staff across the university interested in the intersection of information technology and humanities research and teaching, and the Digital Humanities Action Team, a joint initiative by W&L’s Information Technology Services (ITS) and the University Library that provides day-to-day guidance and training on integrating digital methodologies into faculty teaching and research. By partnering library faculty and staff with teaching faculty, we believe that we can develop undergraduate pedagogy in a way that benefits all participants. We bring digital humanities to bear on a liberal arts context by encouraging faculty research with undergraduate partners, by using digital tools in the classroom as opportunities to promote digital literacy, and by offering new occasions for collaborative teaching.

Undergraduates stand to learn a great deal from working on digital humanities projects, and these students offer enormous energy and resources to their adopted teams. The Huon d’Auvergne project, a digital edition being developed at W&L by Professor Stephen P. McCormick, library faculty, and inter-institutional collaborators, offers one such model for collaboration among faculty, students, and staff that collapses traditional pedagogical hierarchies. While students might begin to learn about the project in the classroom, after a semester course in textual encoding they are given the opportunity to work alongside their professor and digital humanities developers in an actual research setting. We encourage students to take ownership of their contributions to the project. Our students present at conferences, appear as co-authors on papers, and list project contributions on their CV. Through support from the office of the Dean of the College and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we stimulate such collaborations by offering competitive stipends to both the faculty and students involved. By further funding undergraduate research projects in digital humanities through a fellowship program, we provide training for students to explore their own interests with the same sort of support that we might offer humanities faculty.

We carry our support of digital projects and tools in the classroom beyond logistics and mechanics, using them as opportunities to educate students about more traditional information literacy topics. Many of our librarians involved in work with classroom instruction began their careers in cataloging or systems librarianship, but our digital humanities efforts have created a space in which they can translate these experiences into outward-facing pedagogy in metadata, intellectual property, and digital preservation. These teaching opportunities generate collaborations with subject and instruction librarians who already possess extensive training in curriculum design and information literacy instruction. When working with Omeka, for example, our Digital Scholarship Librarian provides students training in digitization, metadata conventions, and sustainability. While the digitization of original material often falls outside the scope of semester-long Omeka projects, she still takes the time to discuss copyright, attribution, and the ethical and legal use of digital materials. These courses often receive joint visits by our Access Services Librarian and Instructional Design Specialist who offer workshops in visual literacy. By dividing labor among related faculty in such a way we leverage expertise in information literacy from a variety of angles and combine them in a rich curriculum for students.

In our efforts to disperse technical knowledge beyond early adopters, we have been experimenting with different models of collaborative teaching. One such model, the “DH Studio,” involves pairing a traditional humanities course with a one-credit lab. The studio courses are taught by library faculty and give students dedicated time and expertise to learn and apply digital methodologies without sacrificing course content. We are also exploring more direct models of co-teaching in which course time and credits are extended to allow for “baked-in” digital methodology and course content. By partnering with French, journalism, and history professors, we have been able to offer courses in medieval French literature and textual encoding, multimedia storytelling and design, and text analysis approaches to histories of British scandal. Such hybrid courses offer students new avenues of study that educate the instructors as well. And by gearing digital assignments toward primary course objectives, we hope to show that digital humanities collaborations, far from detracting from disciplinary material, can actually challenge and enrich them. By working together, in the short term, digital humanities faculty gain disciplinary skills outside their normal area of expertise, and teaching faculty learn digital humanities skills and techniques in which they might not otherwise have training. In the long term, we aim for these same faculty members to develop the skill-sets necessary to teach these same courses and design new offerings without the same level of collaboration and support, allowing library faculty to further develop new courses themselves.

We see the library as the natural home for digital humanities initiatives on the liberal arts campus. The expertise of our faculty and staff in digital technologies and information literacy pedagogy, combined with our close relationships with ITS colleagues and concentration on the practical implications of digital scholarship, stands to enrich the undergraduate curriculum. We offer the library to our students as a space where they can meet faculty and staff as collaborators as well as educators.


Professor Sarah Horowitz publishes book dealing with Post-Revolutionary France

Professor of History, Sarah Horowitz, recently published a book through Penn State University Press.  The following description and more information is available on their blog at

In Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France, Sarah Horowitz brings together the political and cultural history of post-revolutionary France to illuminate how French society responded to and recovered from the upheaval of the French Revolution. The Revolution led to a heightened sense of distrust and divided the nation along ideological lines. In the wake of the Terror, many began to express concerns about the atomization of French society. Friendship, though, was regarded as one bond that could restore trust and cohesion. Friends relied on each other to serve as confidants; men and women described friendship as a site of both pleasure and connection. Because trust and cohesion were necessary to the functioning of post-revolutionary parliamentary life, politicians turned to friends and ideas about friendship to create this solidarity. Relying on detailed analyses of politicians’ social networks, new tools arising from the digital humanities, and examinations of behind-the-scenes political transactions, Horowitz makes clear the connection between politics and emotions in the early nineteenth century, and she reevaluates the role of women in political life by showing the ways in which the personal was the political in the post-revolutionary era.