[Humanist] 28.720 philology and digital humanities

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Feb 11 08:00:20 CET 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 720.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2015 09:17:57 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: philology

Allow me to draw your attention via a review in the Bryn Mawr Classical
Review 2015.02.18 (http://www.bmcreview.org/2015/02/20150218.html) to the
book by James Turner, Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern
Humanities (Princeton NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2014. The link with
digital humanities if not already clear is provided by Jerome McGann,
"Philology in a new key", Critical Inquiry 39 (Winter 2013), which has found
its way into his very fine book, A New Republic of Letters: Memory and
Scholarship in the Age of Digital Reproduction (Harvard, 2014), under the
title "The inorganic organisation of memory", as Chapter 2.

Responses to Alan Liu's "Where is the cultural criticism in the digital
humanities" are to be found. An abundance of good work on the Early Modern
period has shown that our humanities and sciences came out of a great change
that among other things involved the printing press. The best histories we
might call (after G.E.R. Lloyd's characterisation of other cultural
phenomena) multidimensional, showing technology's complex entanglements
rather than a straightforward causative force. This to my mind makes an
adequate response challenging enough to be worthy of our best minds and our
energetic -- but always intelligent -- advocacy. What makes digital
humanities so compelling (to me at least) is that this responding and
advocacy don't go it alone but are intermixed in the best situations with
hands-on experience of tools and laboratory methods. The spirit of the Early
Modern revolutionaries is with us in this: to quote Ludovico Vives,
"Peasants and artisans know nature better than so many philosophers". A
tricky statement, of course. He himself was a philosopher, writing about a
new kind that involved something other than disputation with reference to
established authority. So also the motto of the Royal Society, "nullius in
verba", roughly, "take no one's word for it". The Royal Society got involved 
with a fair bit of silliness but helped to create the intellectual world we know. 
Let's hope that in growing up digital humanities neither abandons the socially
less prestigious hands-on nor turns its back on its inheritance of reasoning 
about the world.


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

More information about the Humanist mailing list