[Humanist] 27.363 great works of scholarship

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Sep 22 10:14:05 CEST 2013


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 363.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    AMELIA DEL ROSARIO SANZ CABRERIZO <amsanz at filol.ucm.es>  (170)
        Subject: Re:  27.358 great works of scholarship

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (50)
        Subject: resources as scholarship

  [3]   From:    "Jim O'Donnell" <cassiodorus at gmail.com>                   (13)
        Subject: DH again


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 20 Sep 2013 09:11:56 +0200
        From: AMELIA DEL ROSARIO SANZ CABRERIZO <amsanz at filol.ucm.es>
        Subject: Re:  27.358 great works of scholarship
        In-Reply-To: <20130920070258.3393330A9 at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Andrew,

Could you please give me more precisions  about "The Canterbury Tales
project has achieved its objective of revolutionising our understanding
early Chaucer manuscripts, but it did not achieve it in the way it stated
at the beginning of the project."?
This is a core question!
Thank you!

Amelia Sanz
Complutense University of Madrid

> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2013 09:16:51 +0000
>         From: "Prescott, Andrew" <andrew.prescott at kcl.ac.uk>
>         Subject: Re:  27.357 great works of scholarship?
>         In-Reply-To: <20130919080537.64CCB3088 at digitalhumanities.org>
>
> Dear Willard,
>
> I think we already have great works of scholarship in the Digital
> Humanities. I was closely involved in it, but the scholarly aspects of it
> were really the work of Kevin Kiernan, so I would unhesitatingly point to
> Electronic Beowulf as a great work of scholarship. I would also argue that
> the Calendar of Fine Rolls of Henry III and such prosoprographical works
> produced here in King's as the Prosoprography of Anglo-Saxo England are
> works of great scholarship. They are fundamental for the study of their
> respective subject areas, embody profound learning, and have changed the
> way in which we view our subject areas. They are of course in digital form,
> which mean that the way in which they have expressed their scholarship is
> different to what I was brought up with, but surely that it is to be
> expected.
>
> More complicated is where digital work has fed great scholarship. For
> example, The Canterbury Tales project has achieved its objective of
> revolutionising our understanding early Chaucer manuscripts, but it did not
> achieve it in the way it stated at the beginning of the project. The
> process of structured reading of the manuscripts involved in transcribing
> them encouraged a complete rethinking of their contents, and paved the way
> for Linne Mooney's identification of the Hengwrt scribe. The various
> published works of such members of the Canterbury Tales project team such
> as Estelle Stubbs, Simon Horobin, Orietta da Rold  and Michael Pidd
> represent collectively a major contribution not only to Chaucer studies but
> to our understanding of medieval English literature. It isn't a
> straightforward monograph publication, but a more complex process.
>
> Andrew
>
> Professor Andrew Prescott FRHistS
> Head of Department
> Department of Digital Humanities
> King's College London
> 26-29 Drury Lane
> London WC2B 5RL
> @ajprescott
> www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/depts/ddh
> digitalriffs.blogspot.com
> +44 (0)20 7848 2651


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 20 Sep 2013 09:09:13 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: resources as scholarship
        In-Reply-To: <20130920070258.3393330A9 at digitalhumanities.org>

In his reply to my deliberately provocative note on Jim O'Donnell's 
question of great works, Andrew Prescott cited a number of major 
resources that have been created in the last few years. I want now to 
bring into question whether, or more accurately, in what sense resources 
can be works of scholarship.

Textual editors will be among the very first to grab their swords and 
rush out into the field to challenge such a provocative call. Among the 
authorities they are likely to cite, or Goliaths they are likely to 
bring with them, will be, I'd suppose, Jerome McGann, who in Radiant 
Textuality describes the Kane-Donaldson Piers Plowman as a primary 
theoretical statement, i.e. something that communicates the work which 
went into it, which reveals enough of that work to be judged a "great 
work of scholarship". Looking at the edition, or any traditional printed 
edition, one can understand how the work could be judged. Everything, 
or enough, is laid bare.

I recall a mathematics dissertation at my undergraduate institution, 
Reed, the substance of which consisted of ca 1/2 page -- a few lines of 
equations ending with the word "behold!" Laconic, it's true, but 
everything was there to be read and understood.

In Memory Machines: The Evolution of Hypertext (read it tonight!), 
Belinda Barnet describes Vannevar Bush's analogue computing devices, 
principally the Differential Analyzer. Famously Bush preferred analogue 
devices because what they did was entirely open to view. One could learn 
the calculus directly from the machine that did it with gears and 
wheels. "Watching the Analyzer work did more than just teach people the 
calculus. It also taught people what might be possible for mechanical 
calculation -- for analogue computers" (p. 16). Watch and learn!

Digital machines, and the software written for them, are otherwise. 
Software is a kind of text (a very strange kind of text), but in a 
complex system you cannot know what it will do by reading the code. It's 
effectively a black box. Can a black box be a great work of scholarship? 
How can we *know* a complex resource for humanities scholarship, a black 
box containing numerous black boxes, is itself a great work of 
scholarship? From the testimony of many users? From their 
unsubstantiated opinions? How is the critical thought that went into it 
legible? How do we know what choices were made? 

In discussing Douglas Englebart's work, Barnett describes the great demo 
at which he finally was able to persuade the community of engineers and 
computer scientists that his ideas were worth the candle. (It's on 
YouTube, I think.) To replace the formula "publish or perish" with "demo 
or die" suggests a shift from one kind of intellectual culture to 
another. But in digital humanities we try to have both in one. Again, as 
Natalia Cecire said, the "plus" in "humanities plus computing" is where 
the really interesting problems lie.

Comments?

Yours,
WM
-- 
Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney


--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 20 Sep 2013 18:31:22 -0400
        From: "Jim O'Donnell" <cassiodorus at gmail.com>
        Subject: DH again
        In-Reply-To: <20130920070258.3393330A9 at digitalhumanities.org>

An offline suggestion from a wise head lists these projects as
answering my question ("where are the works arising from DH with high
cultural prestige?")

Here is the list you asked for:

http://www.corpusthomisticum.org/
http://dante.dartmouth.edu/
http://codexsinaiticus.org/en/codex/
http://cdli.ucla.edu/

I know and admire all of these, but just as the one asking questions
here, I will press the question again:  how do we so impress on senior
administrators the value of these and similar future projects that
they are inspired to commit resources?

Jim O'Donnell





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