digital humanities

Lending Books on the Left and Right Banks: Borrowing Practices at the American Library in Paris and Shakespeare and Company

Gertrude Stein “was disappointed in me when I published Ulysses,” wrote Sylvia Beach in her 1959 memoir; “she even came with Alice to my bookshop to announce that they had transferred their membership to the American Library on the Right Bank.”[1] Stein’s move—from Shakespeare and Company to the American Library in Paris—has sustained the ongoing scholarly and popular representation of the two libraries as rivals, framing membership as an act of allegiance.

A Counterfactual Canon
Virginia Woolf’s Common Readers in Paris

On July 27, 1927, Vita Sackville-West wrote to Virginia Woolf, describing an unexpected encounter: "Today as I was driving down Oxford Street I saw a woman on a refuge, carrying [To the] Lighthouse. She was an unknown woman – up from the country, I should think, and just been to Mudie’s or the Times, – and as the policeman held me up with his white glove I saw your name staring at me, Virginia Woolf, against the moving red buses, in Vanessa’s paraph of lettering. Then as I stayed (with my foot pressing down the clutch"

Joint Property, Divided Correspondents: The T. S. Eliot-Emily Hale Letters

Almost as soon as they began corresponding in 1930, T. S. Eliot told Emily Hale that he treasured her letters—not just the words, but the paper itself: “I cannot bear to be separated from your letters at present, not so much for need to refer to the contents, some of which I repeat to myself often during the day and night, but for the touch of the paper and sight of the writing.”

Modernism, Cybernetics, and Systems Theory: Disciplinary Relevance in a STEM-focused World

In 1926, Gertrude Stein delivered the lecture “Composition as Explanation” to the Cambridge Literary Club at Oxford University (fig. 1).

Digital (Re)Visions: May Watkis and the Women Film Pioneers Project

This article is part of a special series on the Visualities blog exploring digital archives connected to modernism’s visual cultures. Over the next few months, contributors to the forum will introduce and model the uses of online resources spanning art, film, media, book history, print cultures, and more.

Spatial Dialectics: Pursuing Geospatial Imaginaries with Word Embedding Models and Mapping

The relationship between human beings and their environment is one of the key problematics explored in twentieth-century literature. As modernist studies has turned its attention to contexts beyond Britain, Europe and the United States, so questions around space, place and geography have been necessarily reconfigured to take account of the effects of imperialism and globalization, and to destabilize the Anglo- and Eurocentrism of prevailing critical perspectives on space within modernist writing. Roughly concomitant with the development of these geomodernist approaches, significant advances have been made within the field of spatial humanities by scholars who have sought ways to use powerful GIS software in pursuit of research questions specific to the humanities.[1] Some of the most interesting research in this area has sought to directly confront the difficulties of using software that requires quantitative input to account for the complexities of spatial imaginaries, understood here as an imbricating set of discursive constructs concerned with the elaboration of spatial meanings. While such discursive constructs can sometimes be anchored to locations in the material world with specific latitude and longitude coordinates, they are more likely to occupy an ambiguous position in relation to the exigencies of georeferencing, or even to float entirely free from such constraints. Unravelling the workings of spatial imaginaries within a corpus that combines both georeferenceable and non-georeferenceable entities thus engages one of the core debates animating work in the digital humanities: using technologies that often mandate binary distinctions and discrete categories to represent and interrogate a world of non-binary human experiences.

Reading the Modern Magazine in an Interdisciplinary Humanities Lab

This essay cluster begins with an ending. Specifically, it began with the ending of Patrick Collier’s “What Is Modern Periodical Studies?,” which concludes with a provocation to find a new way to read and study modern periodicals. In order to develop coherent methodological approaches to modern periodicals, Collier argues, we need to resist the urge to “decid[e] in advance where [a] periodical’s value lies.” Instead, he urges us to “start with only one assumption: that the periodical is valuable simply because it exists—because it once performed some desirable functions for some number of people—and set as our first conceptual task reaching some hypotheses on what those functions were.”[1] The seeming simplicity of this provocation—read without having deciding the value of what you’re reading in advance—belies its theoretical and methodological complexity. If modern periodicals are best known for the sheer size and heterogeneity of their archives, then an approach that provides no framing in advance, no specific path for navigating that archival scope, is daunting to say the least.

The Weak Powers of Digital Modernist Studies

Are digital methods weak or strong? How should we understand the conjunction of digital tools and methods with modernist studies? In some accounts of the rise of weak theories in literary studies, weak theory and digital methods like distant reading are taken as correlative terms, with associative logic and epistemological modesty common to both.[1] Yet a nearly opposite set of arguments is as familiar: digital literary methods are too “strong,” so goes the claim, because they conceal naïvely positivist notions of evidence and proof, reductively quantify cultural production, or advance a neoliberal agenda within the academy.[2] Digital methods appear both too weak and too strong for use on literary objects, particularly objects so delicately rebarbative as those of modernism.