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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.

Digital Humanities courses

SHAKESPEARE: GLOBAL, LOCAL, DIGITAL
HUM 325-6-22 / ENGLISH 339-0-20
Professors Susie Phillips (English) and Wendy Wall (English and Humanities)

Taught Winter 2020.

Performance, Imitation, Interpretation, Adaptation. What happens when Shakespeare’s plays time travel, migrate across the globe, mutate into new forms, and reach audiences through new media? From Renaissance London to 21st century India, from apartheid South Africa to modern China, readers have remade Shakespeare’s plays to address their own local issues. In this class we will reflect on the adaptation and appropriation of Shakespeare in cultures of the world across various scales, from the local to the global, and through a range of media—from the latest digital platforms to traditional forms like print, theater, and film. Like Shakespeare’s plays, our conversations will take place in multiple venues and from multiple perspectives, from the traditional classroom to the digital media lab, from the rare books room of the Newberry Library to the stages of Chicago’s theaters. We will consider how Othello, Macbeth, and The Merchant of Venice have been continually reinvented across the globe in many media, exploring texts like Shishir Kurup’s Merchant on Venice, Toni Morrison’s Desdemona, Msomi’s uMabatha, Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, the teen film O, and scenes from films including Throne of Blood and Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti, Te (the Maori Merchant of Venice). Our exploration will culminate with students collaborating to build a digital curation of Shakespeare's works.

triangulo-atlantico-martins-200px.jpgHITCHHIKING THE ATLANTIC
HUM 325-4 / HISTORY 392 / PORT 396
Professor: Andrew Britt (Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, Kaplan Institute and History)

Taught Winter 2019.

“Hitchhiking the Atlantic” charts the history of the Atlantic World through the biographies of individuals on the move. Some of these travelers were world historical figures, while others were ordinary, common people nearly forgotten to history. All of them had cross-cultural encounters and made connections that fundamentally altered their own lives and shaped historical processes much larger than themselves. We will focus on Atlantic travelers who effected and reflected historical change relating to three themes: race and American slavery, (anti)colonialism, and industrial capitalism. These themes are not isolated to the past; they continue to unfold in the present, shaping societies across the globe in the twenty-first century. Students will gain an understanding of how disparate histories in Africa, the Americas, and Europe were (and remain) interconnected on multiple scales, from individual to empire. We will examine individuals’ journeys and experiences through autobiographical source material and situate figures in broader contexts through supplementary readings. The class will produce original biographies of Atlantic World travelers and use a digital mapping application to trace their movements. No prior experience with digital mapping is necessary, and students interested in learning programming basics in a supportive and structured environment are welcome.

bulldozed-200px.pngBULLDOZED: SÃO PAULO AND CHICAGO
HUM 325-4 / HISTORY 392 / PORT 396
Professor: Andrew Britt (Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, Kaplan Institute and History)

Taught Spring 2019.

What stories does rubble tell? This course examines the histories of São Paulo (Brazil) and Chicago (USA) through the demolitions that remade them over the twentieth century. Today among the most populous and ethnically-diverse global cities in the Americas, São Paulo and Chicago grew up as transportation gateways to the West and hubs of industry. The compelling shared and comparative histories of these two cities will serve as the basis for questions like: How do demolitions change places and the meanings attached to them? Why do authorities bulldoze certain structures and not others? Where do dislocated residents go? How have demolitions contributed to segregation, economic immobility, and racialized inequities across space and time? Course sections will follow the razing of singularly meaningful sites along with broad patterns of demolition related to housing and transportation projects (to take two examples). Source material will span from historical maps and city plans to samba and blues music that preserve razed spaces in popular memory. The course will include a collaborative research project. Students will use a digital mapping application to document, analyze, and visualize social and spatial change related to demolitions over time. No prior experience with mapping applications is required, and students interested in learning programming basics in a supportive and structured environment are welcome.The course will be taught in English, however Portuguese-language students will practice reading and communicating in Portuguese.

front view of The Field Museum in ChicagoANCIENT ROME IN CHICAGO
HUM 325-6 / CLASSICS 390-0
Professor: Francesca Tataranni (Classics; Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished University Professor of Instruction Award)
Winner of an Alumnae of Northwestern Curriculum Development Award

Taught Fall quarters 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 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 rigorous research methodologies, you’ll explore architecture, history, visual arts, and urban topography in this quintessential modern American city.

(Additional instructional support provided by Weinberg's MAD Studio and Northwestern University Libraries: Center for Scholarly Communication & Digital Curation)

spinning CDART, WRITING, TECHNOLOGY: NEW APPROACHES TO THE DIGITAL HUMANITIES
HUM 370-6 / ENGLISH 311-0
Professor: Danny Snelson (Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities and English)

Taught Spring quarters 2017 and 2016.

Click for the Chalk Saroyan Instagram site from Spring 2017: https://www.instagram.com/chalksaroyan/

Environmental Catastrophe image for Chicago Humanities Festival talkCULTURAL CRITICISM AND THE CONTEMPORARY MUSEUM
HUM 325-6 / HISTORY 393-0 / AMER_ST 310 / ART 372-0
Professor: Michael Kramer (History)

Taught Fall 2016.

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.

photo from Berkeley Folk Music FestivalDIGITIZING FOLK MUSIC HISTORY
HUM 325-4 / HISTORY 395

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

Taught Fall 2017, Winter 2017, and Winter 2016.

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. (Additional instructional support provided by the Weinberg's MAD Studio.)

 

stack of hot pink books falling overPRINT-ON-DEMAND POETRY: MAKING BOOKS AFTER THE INTERNET
HUM 325-6 / ENGLISH 311-0
Professor: Danny Snelson (Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities and English)

Taught Winter 2017 and Fall 2015.

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.

skull imprinted with map of the worldSHAKESPEARE'S CIRCUITS: GLOBAL, LOCAL, DIGITAL
HUM 325-6 / ENGLISH 339
Professors: Wendy Wall (Humanities and English; Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence) and Will West (Classics and English)

Taught Winter 2016.

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 Weinberg's MAD Studio and Northwestern University Libraries: Information and Learning Services)

graphic for Technologies of Language courseTECHNOLOGIES OF LANGUAGE
HUM 325-5
Jules Law (English; Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence)

Taught Winter 2017.

What if language were the true measuring stick of the world? What if the deep structure of the world itself were linguistic? What if syntax were the true nature of time? Grammar the underlying structure of logic? Our ideas of body and soul simply mirrors of the distinction between literal and metaphoric meaning? In this course we will survey some of the most important theories and philosophies of language from the last century, from Saussure to post-structuralism, with detours through Freud and Wittgenstein. At the heart of our inquiry will be the question of what it means to think of language as the technology that produces humans, and to think of the units of language as the units of the world. Finally, we will consider the most pressing issue facing language today: its digitization. How has the digitization of our cultural heritage changed the nature of the game? What is preserved and what is lost when an old book is “translated” to a digital archive? And are these problems and question continuous with ones that have always attended language, or are we confronting a profoundly new phenomenon here? For a final project in this class, students will each choose one book from the library’s Special Collections, and consider the technical and philosophic problems in converting that book in all its uniqueness and idiosyncrasies into a digital object (Additional instructional support provided by the Weinberg's MAD Studio and Northwestern University Libraries: Information and Learning Services) 

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