Where did our concepts of human rights, property, and consent come from? This course will teach quantitative methods of literary history, using texts from the British Enlightenment as its primary case study. Beginning with Locke’sSecond Treatise of Government, each student will choose a pair of related keywords (e.g. property/possession, consent/submission, power/force, society/mankind, right/good) and study how those words were used by eighteenth-century writers, how their meaning changed over time, and how they moved through the Enlightenment’s communication networks.
Working through these examples, students will receive a comprehensive introduction to humanities computing using R, with an emphasis on lexical mapping and social network analysis. They will complete a final research paper that incorporates close readings of philosophical texts with statistical analyses of eighteenth-century discourse and print culture. Our readings will include some polemic and scholarship involving “digital humanities,” but the emphasis of the course will be on developing research and writing skills applicable across many fields, as well as the programming experience needed for employment on grant-funded digital projects and centers.
Students enrolled in ENGL620 are also required to enroll in the accompanying lab, a one-credit course (620P), in which we will cover the basic techniques of natural language processing and social-network analysis. Ideally, every student will complete all the computational work for their papers within the lab itself, under my supervision and with the support of their peers. No technical experience is required or expected: all necessary computer skills will be taught in the weekly lab.