Spring 2021 Undergraduate English Courses

359:315 Reading with Your Laptop


Reading With Your Laptop

Computers are changing how we read. If you have ever googled a word you didn’t know, or used the “find” function to locate a word in a digital file, then you are already reading with your laptop. Even more potent methods are emerging within literary analysis and allied fields. This course will introduce you to them.

Reading With Your Laptop is designed around a single, end-of-term individual project on a text or body of texts of your choice. For the first ten weeks, course readings will be fairly light. They will include one or two novels (like Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko or Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park), and perhaps a play or collection of poems. The light reading load will give us the time and space to learn the rudiments of R, and experiment as a group with a few emerging approaches of digital literary analysis.

During the last five weeks, you will set your own agenda. Now, you will design and implement an independent project, using tools you learned in the first part of the course. You will develop your research question, compile digital texts, clean your data, and write the code to produce an analysis. No prior experience with coding is required, or even expected. This course is designed for humanists, and will introduce you to the skills you need to produce original work in the digital humanities.

Prerequisites: This is an introductory course for upper-level students of literature, culture, and the arts. Aside from an active mind and a willingness to think differently, there are no other prerequisites. If you know how to use a keyboard when you arrive, you will be reading with your laptop by the end of the class. Actually, you will be doing some of this by the end of the second week.

Requirements: Aside from the end-of-term project, students will complete weekly challenges, which will allow you to demonstrate and apply your developing mastery of R to particular reading and interpretive tasks. You will also be responsible for two short projects, which discuss a digital method and an insight gleaned by deploying that method on a literary text.