BuildersPosted: September 7, 2011
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.