Digital Humanities Courses

Digital mapping, video and audio recording, multimedia podcasting, online publishing and digital analysis: these are just some of the skills that students can acquire as they explore in-depth and intensive interdisciplinary humanities seminars.

For 2016-2017, the Kaplan Institute will offer these digital humanities courses:

FALL 2016

front view of The Field Museum in ChicagoAncient Rome in Chicago
HUM 325-6 / CLASSICS 390-0
Professor: Francesca Tataranni (Classics)
Winner of an Alumnae of Northwestern Curriculum Development Award

View the collaborative online map from this class that went live December 2015!

Ancient Rome is visible in Chicago — walk the city and learn to “read” the streets, buildings, and monuments that showcase Chicago’s engagement with the classical past! You’ll gain digital mapping and video editing skills as you collaborate on a virtual walking tour mapping Chicago’s ongoing dialogue with antiquity. With a combination of experiential learning and rigourous research methodologies, you’ll explore architecture, history, visual arts, and urban topography in this quintessential modern American city.

Environmental Catastrophe image for Chicago Humanities Festival talkCultural Criticism and the Contemporary Museum
HUM 325-6-21 / HISTORY 393-0-22 / American Studies 310 / ART 372-0-22
Professor: Michael Kramer (History)

What is the history of cultural and arts criticism in the United States? Where is it headed today? This course combines historical examination with fieldwork at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Students will read extensively in the history of cultural criticism while experimenting with new, digital modes of writing, and engage in discussion of readings, films, artworks, digital projects, performances and educational events.

Winter 2017

Print-on-Demand Poetry: Making Books After the Internet
Professor: Danny Snelson (Digital Humanities/English)

When the written word overtook the Homeric epic poem, poetry became less about communicating information and more about lyric expression. Recently, digital technologies have been seen to present this same challenge to the book—like poetry, it isn’t dead, but may have lost its claim as the primary source of information.

Yet due to digital Print-on-Demand (POD) platforms, it has never been easier for writers to publish (beyond Twitter and Facebook)! In this course, we will study the emergence of innovative forms of writing under the influence of digital networks, and experiment with POD in a series of collaborative and independent scholarly projects.

From Seth Siegelaub’s The Xerox Book (1968) to works of POD poetry published throughout the quarter, we’ll examine poetry alongside developments in print technologies through seminar conversations, online threads and publication workshops.

No previous experience with either poetry or publishing is required!
All students will publish books about poetry made on the internet.

Spring 2017

Art, Writing, Technology: New Approaches to the Digital Humanities
Professor: Danny Snelson (Digital Humanities/English)

In 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche used his typewriter to declare: “Our writing tools are also working on our thoughts.” How might we reconsider the history of art and literature in a time when our thoughts are being worked over by iPhones, YouTube, and Google? Can we rewrite this archive using tactics found in contemporary art and poetry? This class follows emerging trends in art and writing to construct new approaches to historical objects that are equally likely to appear on Soundcloud, in a PDF, through online videos, or even on Facebook. Studying the digital humanities alongside modes of contemporary art and letters, we’ll reimagine historical works through today’s emerging forms and formats. Through readings and class visits from artists and poets, we will explore works that translate established forms into a variety of new media formats. How might Twitter facilitate works of art? What does YouTube demand of poetry? Using a combination of seminar conversations and collaborative workshops, we’ll engage in a series of weekly experiments that attempt to reconfigure the history of art and literature through the filter of contemporary writing tools. No previous training in art, poetry, or new media is required.


For 2015-2016, the Kaplan Institute offered four brand-new digital humanities courses:

WINTER 2016

SHAKESPEARE'S CIRCUITS: GLOBAL, LOCAL, DIGITAL
HUM 325-6 and ENGLISH 339

Professors: Wendy Wall (Humanities and English) and Will West (Classics and English)

What can you do with Shakespeare’s plays? Perform them, behold them, read them, interpret them, imitate them, adapt them? Track them as they travel the globe and mutate into new forms?

Shakespeare’s infinite variety—in diverse applications—has travelled everywhere: in Renaissance London and Germany, nineteenth and twentieth century India, South Africa before and after apartheid, Israel, modern China. In this class we will reflect on the unique position of Shakespeare in cultures of the world at every scale, from local to global, and through a range of media—from the digital to traditional forms like print, theater, or opera. Learning in this course will take place in the classroom, the computer lab, and spaces for experiencing Shakespeare around Chicago, from rare book rooms at the Newberry Library, to the Lyric Opera and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Students will discuss The Tempest, Othello, and The Merchant of Venice not only in Shakespeare’s time but across the globe in many eras and in many media (visual arts, film, print, and performing arts). Our study will culminate with students collaborating to create a digital interactive map of Shakespeare’s influences over time and across the globe.

(Additional instructional support provided by the WCAS Multimedia Learning Center and Northwestern University Libraries: Information and Learning Services)

DIGITIZING FOLK MUSIC HISTORY
HUM 325-4 and HISTORY 395

Professor: Michael Kramer (Visiting Assistant Professor in History)
Winner of an Alumnae of Northwestern Curriculum Development Award

The United States folk music revival is typically thought of as an anti-technological movement, however to study it through digital means suggests more connections between the history of the revival and contemporary digital issues than might first meet the eye (or ear!). In this research seminar, students examine the history of the US folk music revival through readings, audio listening, documentary films, seminar discussions, and, most of all, extensive digital analysis.

We probe what was at stake in the folk revival in relation to American culture and politics; questions of race, class, gender, age, and region; and the strange workings of music-making, memory, and power. As we do so, we ask how digital technologies might help us to interpret history more meaningfully; simultaneously, we explore how both the folk revival itself and the methods of historical study might be crucial to more effectively understanding our contemporary digital moment.

Among other digital resources, students will use the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection, which is housed in Northwestern's Special Collections Library and contains a rich trove of materials about the folk revival. No previous digital or musical training is required for the course. Students will create weekly digital mini-project experiments and a final multimedia interpretive digital history podcast.

Read more about this course in the Spring 2014 Weinberg Magazine article. Or visit Michael Kramer’s blog to read more about issues in digital history and the Berkeley Folk Music Festival project.

(Additional instructional support provided by the WCAS Multimedia Learning Center)

FALL 2015

PRINT-ON-DEMAND POETRY: MAKING BOOKS AFTER THE INTERNET
ENGLISH 311-0

Professor: Daniel Snelson (Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities)

When the written word overtook the Homeric epic poem, poetry became less about communicating information and more about lyric expression. Recently, digital technologies have been seen to present this same challenge to the book—like poetry, it isn’t dead, but may have lost its claim as the primary source of information.

Yet due to digital Print-on-Demand (POD) platforms, it has never been easier for writers to publish (beyond Twitter and Facebook)! In this course, we will study the emergence of innovative forms of writing under the influence of digital networks, and experiment with POD in a series of collaborative and independent scholarly projects.

From Seth Siegelaub’s The Xerox Book (1968) to works of POD poetry published throughout the quarter, we’ll examine poetry alongside developments in print technologies through seminar conversations, online threads and publication workshops.

No previous experience with either poetry or publishing is required!
All students will publish books about poetry made on the internet.

ANCIENT ROME IN CHICAGO
HUM 325-6 (Humanities in the Digital Age)
CLASSICS 390-0 (Topics in Greco-Roman Civilization)

Professor: Francesca Tataranni (Classics)
Winner of an Alumnae of Northwestern Curriculum Development Award

Click here to view the collaborative online map from this class that went live December 2015!

Although the ancient Romans never made it to the new world, their legacy in Chicago is reflected in architecture, the visual arts, and sites devoted to recreation, education, politics, and business.

This class will journey to Chicago’s financial district, political and commercial core, cultural institutions, hotels, theaters, parks, schools, cemeteries, and ethnic neighborhoods. By walking the city, students will learn to “read” the streets, buildings, and monuments that showcase Chicago’s engagement with the classical past. They will learn about cultural memory and its relation to urban topography and the built environment; US history, architecture and monumentality; and the ways in which Chicago—the quintessential modern American city—has used classical culture to assert its modernity.

Throughout their research, students will learn how to use digital tools and practices—such as video editing, data analysis, and digital mapping—to produce an innovative and collaborative virtual walking tour mapping Chicago’s ongoing dialogue with Roman antiquity.

(Additional instructional support provided by the WCAS Multimedia Learning Center and Northwestern University Libraries: Center for Scholarly Communication & Digital Curation)