A few months ago in this space, I wrote about choosing novels to teach in a graduate course I’m offering this fall. I was convinced that novels were necessary because it’s a course on digital text-analysis, among other topics in the digital humanities. And because my exemplary critics Stephen Ramsay and Matthew Jockers (required reading for the course) focus on 19th- and 20th-century novels in their work.
Now I’m refocusing on two text types that are (arguably) extra-novelistic, at least in form: Samuel Pepys’s Diary, a daily record of his life between 1660 and 1669; and an anthology of sonnets, those 14-line poems made famous by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and company.
I’m designing the graduate seminar I’ll teach in the Department of English this fall (2015) on the subject of ‘Algorithmic Criticism,’ a title I took from the subtitle of Stephen Ramsay’s 2011 book, Reading Machines. It’s an introduction to computational text-analysis for students of literature, from word frequency to topic modelling.
By the end of the course, students will be comfortable moving between close reading and distant reading, or what Matthew Jockers calls micro-, meso-, and macro-analysis. (Along with Ramsay’s book, Jockers’ 2013 study Macroanalysis and his 2014 guide to Text Analysis with R for Students of Literature will be required readings.)