In class today, we’ll introduce ourselves to each other (and to the spirit of the course) by reading two texts together and willfully not reading several more.
First, we’ll think briefly about two digitally-enabled texts. We’ll start by reading and discussing a story Teju Cole posted to Twitter on January 8. Cole has experimented with Twitter as a story-telling medium before–see, for example, his “Seven short stories about drones,” which adds a drone strike to condensed versions of famous works of fiction by authors including James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Herman Melville, Ralph Ellison, Franz Kafka, Chinua Achebe, and Albert Camus. This time, he had friends and acquaintances post sentences that add up to a cohesive story about a heart attack. Then, Cole retweeted their language to create his own–a string of retweets as a story.
Finally, we’ll undertake an activity that critics of the digital humanities sometimes mock as overly simplistic as we use Wordle or Taxgedo to quickly visualize texts that many of us haven’t read before. Word clouds aren’t exactly scientific (little in the humanities is or should be), but this will be an interesting exercise in considering how thinking of texts as a kind of data might begin to reshape the humanistic enterprise.
This Wordle of my dissertation might give you some insight into the kinds of literature I care about most.