Builders

While reading Maps, no matter how hard I tried to think of something else, my mind kept reverting back to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. During my Faulkner class last semester, we often looked at Faulkner’s illustration of his fictional county and analyzed where different scenes in his stories took place. A speaker even came to class to explain how Yoknapatawpha related to an actual county in Mississippi, Lafayette County.

While I was reading Maps, however, I wondered how we could have learned more about the literature from the map of Faulkner’s “apocryphal county.” Sure, Faulkner spent the majority of his life in Mississippi and probably drew a lot of inspiration from its culture; but what could we have drawn from simply mapping the fictional events that take place in Faulkner’s novels and short stories?  A lot of the novels are connected by characters and setting. I think that we could learn even more about the stories themselves by focusing on the fictional aspect and ignoring the similarities to reality.

After reading “Who’s In and Who’s Out?” I wondered if Ramsay would consider either approach (focusing on fiction or reality) to be digital humanities. If a scholar took on the immense task of mapping different events throughout Yoknapatawpha County on the computer, but did not write a new program for it, would Ramsay still consider that building something? Was Dr. Croxall’s tour of Boston through the eyes of Miranda on google earth digital humanities? Technically, Dr. Croxall did not build anything new; he simply used tools already in place in order to come to a new conclusion about the story.

I think that Dr. Ramsay’s definition of digital humanities is too concrete. I do not think that in order to be a digital humanist you must know how to code programs. I would define a digital humanist as somebody who uses digital technology to learn something new about the humanities. Be it by using wordle or google earth, building a new program or coding text is not necessary to be a digital humanities scholar.


4 Comments on “Builders”

  1. Lisa Park says:

    From my interpretation of Ramsay (specifically “On Building,” which was linked at the bottom of “Who’s In and Who’s Out”), I think Dr. Croxall’s map of Boston would be considered DH. True, he didn’t make the program, but he CREATED a map, a reference for the rest of us. I realize this is a point of contention, however…

    • Reina Factor says:

      I really liked your linking Faulkner with the Moretti and Ramsey readings. I think you raise an interesting question, of how “new” something has to be for it to be considered being built. I do agree with Lisa, that making a map is in fact building, since a new product and interpretation of something, even if it is already established is being created. This might be something Ramsey could have addressed in greater detail.

  2. Brian Croxall says:

    I’m very glad that you’ve brought in Faulkner here. In another version of this class, I could have very well had us playing with one of his novels instead of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.

  3. Tim Webber says:

    Jessica, you really bring up some good points in your post. I totally agree with your disagreement with Ramsay. Applying a pre-existing program in a new context is certainly a valid form of DH. I also think that your Faulkner example brings up an interesting set of issues, since he created a fictional location that was heavily influenced by a fairly specific area.