The World’s Wife
In our group’s evaluation of Duffy’s two volumes using Voyant, we found that applying Cirrus to the two collections yielded some interesting results, especially in highlighting certain thematic differences between the two poetry collections. In the Cirrus depiction of both volumes together, there were certain groups of words that were all related to each other. We noticed that there were several body parts among the most frequently mentioned words, as well as several different colors. Along these body parts were “eyes,” “hands,” “face,” “head,” and “lips,” all of which appeared in the Cirrus collective depiction of the two books. The picture also included colors such as, “blue,” “black,” “red,” “gold,” and “white” which also marks a frequent theme in Duffy’s writing.
However, when we divided the two volumes and examined the separate Cirrus feedback, we saw a clear correspondence between the words that appear most often in each volume, and that volume’s corresponding themes. The words that appeared in the Mean Time Cirrus portrayal were often related to the themes of nostalgia and memory. These included words like “dream,” “home,” “time,” and “away” all of which seem to allude to the somewhat mournful tone that is so prevalent in the poems. The word “away” we found to be especially revealing in that it not only hints at the nostalgic perspective of the collection but also at the often grieving tone that Duffy seems to associate with constant change and the passage of time.
On the other hand, we came to realize that most of the colors that appeared in the common Cirrus depiction were especially important in the World’s Wife Cirrus picture, and completely absent in the Mean Time picture. We decided that this again related back to Duffy’s original assessment of her two collections. When she likened The World’s Wife to “popular entertainment” referring to the volume’s accessibility. In creative writing, especially poetry, color descriptions are considered the most basic and easy to comprehend. Describing the color of something is a concrete attribute that is both easy for the author to convey, and easy for the reader to imagine. Thus, it is not the most complex form of physical description. However, in Mean Time, many of the words in the Cirrus picture refer to light and darkness, and other more abstract forms of imagery. Describing something as dynamic as light is a much more difficult concept for a writer than describing the color of something. This again relates to the more complex tone and language that is included in Mean Time as opposed to the simplicity and accessibility that is found in The World’s Wife. Thus, using Cirrus we were able to further investigate Duffy’s original evaluation of her two poetry collections, using the digital tool to elaborate on our own observations.
The revision process for “Moments of Grace” from the collection Mean Time was certainly more rigorous than that of “Eurydice” in The World’s Wife. The poem required over ten drafts and took a much longer time to complete than most of Duffy’s other work. In this case Duffy seemed to really scrutinize each word, putting a lot thought into the connotations of each word choice as well as the overall theme of the poem. The drafts definitely display this meticulous word selection as they are full of cross-outs and rewrites as Duffy searches for the right diction. One interesting aspect of the revision process for this poem is that even the title underwent several different drafts. The first entry for the poem consists of several different title choices, including “Calling In” which presumably relates to the line “The chimes of mothers calling in children/ at dusk” (11-12). I found this particularly interesting in that when I first read the poem, I had grazed over this line without thinking it was very important in the scheme of the poem. However, given that the entire poem was almost named in reference to this one line, I had to attribute more importance to it, and reread the poem with this in mind.
The fourth stanza of the poem underwent the most rewrites of any other. This also forced me to modify my reading of the final product in that it made me read the stanza with more emphasis, and look for some underlying themes. I was surprised that I had not picked up on it in earlier readings, but I realized that this stanza is characterized by linguistic terminology. The speaker states that “These days/ we are adjectives, nouns. In moments of grace we were verbs, the secret of poems, talented” (16-18). The last line of the stanza also refers the speaker’s search “for the doing words” (20), another literary reference. After rereading the stanza it is clear that Duffy is drawing a deliberate connection between literature and the “moments of grace” that she talks about. The stanza suggests that it is literary talent that really constitutes the happiness that characterize these moments.
Another interesting aspect of Duffy’s writing process in this case was the amount of thought she gave to the ordering of the poem. After she was satisfied with the word choice and overall diction of the poem, she set about considering if everything was structured in the most rewarding order. This is the only poem I saw in which order was such a crucial factor of the revision process. In some of the earlier drafts the order of the second and third stanzas is reversed. Also, the line “Now I smell you peeling an orange in the other room” (21), is originally the first line of the poem, although it later becomes the first line of the last stanza. Furthermore, the line “Passing, you kiss the back of my neck” (25) is originally the first line of the last stanza, but is eventually made the concluding line of the poem, and none of the other original lines from this stanza appear in the final version. All of these alterations in the line order are made in order to develop the progression of the poem. I think that moving the orange peeling line to the last stanza was a particularly good choice in that the anaphora of “Now” in the first two lines of that stanza really solidify the reader and the narrator in the present. It moves the reader from the speaker’s recollection of these “moments of grace” into the “now” as the speaker seems to be in the midst of one of these moments as she writes the poem. I thought this was a really strong shift in the poem’s emotional geography.
Going through the various drafts of Duffy’s poems was definitely interesting, especially when comparing the different writing techniques she used in her different books. I also thought that seeing how the poems developed draft by draft helped to progress my understanding of the final versions. I started to look at those stanzas that Duffy had rewritten several times, to see if perhaps they held particular importance to the poem as a whole in order to warrant such attention. Witnessing the revision process can often afford the reader new insights as to where the main themes of the poem really lie, and what it is that the author wants us to take away from the poem.
Duffy’s poem “Eurydice,” actually unfolded relatively quickly, especially in comparison to the laborious writing process of some of the other poems. In the initial notes for the poem, dated July 8th of 1996, Duffy lays out the general idea for the poem to reverse the myth it is based on. That is that Eurydice wants to be in the Underworld as it is the only true escape from her overbearing lover, who manages to follow her even there. When I initially read “Eurydice” I thought it was an interesting technique to direct the poem at an audience labeled, “Girls,” as the speaker constantly prefaces her sentences with this address. I wondered if this was Duffy’s plan right off the bat, or if this was something she had decided to add later on. After reading the drafts I found out that this was, in fact, always a part of the poem though I had thought it may have been an additive of the revision process. I also found it interesting to see what lines were taken out of the poem. Among these were “Who could complain?/ Him./ Who could show up on Death’s door/ demanding me back?/ He could,” which Duffy had written near the beginning of the poem. After reading the final version, I think it was a rewarding decision to cut these lines, and Duffy displayed good restraint in doing so. While the tone of the poem overall is certainly resentful, I think that these lines are overly sardonic, and would change the speaker’s voice from bitter to almost bratty. This, among other decisions Duffy made certainly benefited the poem as a whole.
But as I said, I was surprised by how quickly the poem developed as it took Duffy much fewer drafts than the poem I researched from her other collection, Mean Time. I was at first extremely impressed by this considering the array of word plays and complicated rhyme scheme at work in the poem. Duffy uses slant rhymes throughout the poem and also echoes certain sounds such as “Eternal Repose” and “writing poems” on lines fifteen and nineteen respectively. While I was shocked at first at how quickly Duffy was able to write the poem with these elements, I began to wonder if perhaps this word play is what allowed the poem to be written so quickly. This is to say that Duffy allowed the rhyme scheme to direct the poem and dictate the path it would take. Whereas the free verse poems in Mean Time rely solely on content to capture the reader, “Eurydice” and other poems in The World’s Wife use rhyme scheme and word play as a sort of gimmick, which can sometime be distracting from the actual themes of the poems. Thus, I came to think that perhaps Duffy was able to write this poem in so few drafts because she allowed the rhyme scheme to carry the poem as opposed to scrutinizing every word to make sure it conveyed the appropriate theme.
We’ve already acknowledge Carol Ann Duffy’s poems for their ability to give voice to the otherwise unheard women married to recognizable men of myth and history. She examines the famously impossible situations of these men from a new angle, often altering the way we may perceive a certain myth or biblical occurrence. Her poems certainly accomplish their objective to animate these women, attributing to them their own specific character, and in doing so expanding upon the one dimensional figure as they exist in the original texts. That is, if they are even present in the original text. In my last post, I commented on Duffy’s ability to elicit humor, by bringing outlandish mythological circumstances into the modern context. Example of this are when Mrs. Darwin comments on how a chimpanzee reminds her of her husband, or when Mrs. Aesop proclaims her sexual frustration as her husband continues to formulate his proverbs and craft his fables. But one element of “The World’s Wife” that I had overlooked until reading Taylor’s blog post last week, was the metaphorical value of many of the poems.
Yes, Duffy is trying to give voice to silenced women throughout history and myth, but what would this mean if she did not extend it into modern commentary. Once you overlook the face values and techniques at work in the poem, you can recognize that many of them are in fact meant to illustrate actual contemporary relationships, not just offer sarcastic insights into mythological stories. In many of the poems, Duffy uses the myth or story being referenced as a framing technique to make a statement about real-life relationships that seem comparable to that of the legend. She uses the often impossible or supernatural scenarios of these various figures as a metaphor for actual issues that can often exist between husband and wife.
For example, “Mrs. Quasimodo” is loaded with societal implications as it illustrates a relationship between husband and wife in which all passion and attraction has faded. While the poem is grounded in the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” story, the conflict of a couple whose love has dissipated is a very real story. In this case, the poem first portrays Quasimodo in his wife in the throes of passion, depicting the intimacy between them as Quasimodo “swung an epithalamium for [Mrs. Quasimodo], embossed it on the fragrant air, long, sexy chimes” (35). But there is an abrupt shift in the poem as the passion and romance seems to fade away. Mrs. Quasimodo states that “Something had changed, or never been. Soon enough he started to find fault. Why did I this? How could I that?” (36). I find these lines especially potent because if read apart from the poem, they seem to characterize a very familiar kind of relationship, more embedded in reality that fairy tale. The dissolution of the love in the marriage has Mrs. Quasimodo questioning if it ever really exists. This is a very realistic detail that Duffy includes. The poem continues to portray Mrs. Quasimodo questioning her appearance as the reason behind Quasimodo’s sudden lack of interest. She asks, “Because it’s better, isn’t it, to be well formed. Better to be slim, be slight…and beautiful, with creamy skin, and tumbling auburn hair” (37). The sentiments expressed in this passage are also very real. Mrs. Quasimodo has become insecure about her appearance due to her husband’s lack of attention. In this case, the speaker is actually deformed, not merely overweight or somehow unattractive, and Duffy uses the reader’s knowledge of her deformity in order to introduce her commentary on societal perceptions of beauty. This poem is one of the most interesting examples of Duffy utilizing a fictitious story in order to integrate and develop her critique of actual society and real relationships.
Many of her poems do similar things, like “Medusa” which illustrates a once beautiful woman turned venomous by love that is not reciprocated, or in “Mrs. Icarus” which shows a woman embarrassed by the public humiliation of her husband. The list continues, but the important thing to recognize is that many of the poems and the book in general take on entirely new dimensions when you consider their allegorical connotations, and their possible applications to real relationships.
What Carol Ann Duffy is doing is obvious. As everyone has been pointing out in the blog posts she is offering the female perspective behind tragic male characters. Whether these men are extracted from mythology, literature, or history all of them are in one way or another tragic figures, guilty of some fatal and life-changing sin. In “Queen Herod,” Duffy takes on the perspective of Herod the Great’s wife, labeled “the great” despite the fact that he murdered his family and hundreds of others. She takes on the voice of Aesop’s wife as well, who is seemingly bored with her husband’s preoccupation with finding morals in the mundane and sexually frustrated. She even tackles the wife of Tiresias, the blind prophet of Thebes, as he endures the seven years in which he was transformed into a woman. But what I found most interesting are the two poems written from the perspective of women whose husbands were blinded by their own green. The myth of King Midas is a famous one. So potent is his love for gold that when he is offered one wish, he demands that everything he touch instantly turn to gold, only to realize he can no longer enjoy food, or touch his loved ones. His greed destroyed him. Similarly, Faust was a successful scholar from German folklore who became bored with his life, and so insatiable was his thirst for knowledge that he made a deal with the devil in which he exchanged his soul for infinite knowledge and worldly possessions. The two men are linked by the tragic flaw of greed which blinded them with immediate gratification only to bring them prolonged misery.
As she does in all her poems, Duffy brings the tragic mythological scenarios into a modern context. She includes pieces of the actual myth that ground the reader in the fabled background, but then alters the details in order to fit into a more contemporary setting. In “Mrs Midas,” the narrator watches her husband pluck a pear from a tree outside their house, as it immediately glows “like a light bulb. On” (11). This detail is an allusion to the original myth, as Midas tests his golden touch on a pear in his orchard. From here, however, the poem moves into a modern context. Mrs. Midas has made her husband dinner, and as he comes in to eat with her everything he touches from doorknobs to blinds is changed into gleaming gold. He sits down in the chair “like a king on a burnished throne” (11), which is also a reference to the original myth in which Midas was a king. Mrs. Midas describes the look on her husband’s face as “strange, wild, vain” (11), alluding to the greed that has lead him to wish for this golden touch. He seems almost mad with his own power and continues to abuse it as he turns all the silverware on the table to gold. The voices of Duffy’s characters can often have tints of humor and sarcasm as well, in that they discuss the realistic side of completely implausible situations. Mrs. Midas, too, is unintentionally humorous in her descriptions of her husband as he is soon “spitting out the teeth of the rich” (11) after eating corn on the cob. Picturing the corn kernels as small golden teeth is applicable and puts the Midas situation in a contemporary context, translating it from myth to reality. This element continues to be in effect as Mrs. Midas describes the precautions she takes for her husband’s new ability. She “locked the cat in the cellar, moved the phone,” but didn’t mind the toilet being turned to gold. Again there is a tinge of dark humor in these lines as it depicts Mrs. Midas’ priorities as to what to get away from her husband, while she doesn’t mind having a gold toilet. In the end, Midas must leave home for his wife’s safety, and Mrs. Midas is one of the few narrator’s in Duffy’s poems that expresses positive feelings toward her husband. She gives up the house and its contents for him, and the poem ends with her both resentful and nostalgic. She is bitter not about her husband’s greed but about his lack of consideration for her. this grounds the poem again in a realistic sense. In the original myths, the male characters don’t seem to be thinking about anything but their own desires. They are vehicles that move the legends toward a moral or message. But these poems express the realistic translation of these myths, in which the male characters have families to consider and real lives that will be affected by their decisions. Despite her resentment for her husband, Mrs. Midas still thinks of him when the sun shines at certain angles or she sees a bowl of apples. Interestingly, it is the golden memories of his that have stuck with her, and not those memories they shared before he was granted to golden touch. But what she misses most is ironically “his warm hands on [her] skin, his touch.” This is an allusion to the Midas touch as it is now referred to, but also refers back to the days before Midas’ wish, when his hands were normal, warm hands that he touched his wife with, before everything he grazed against his skin was changed into the cold, lifeless metal; the object of his greed.
In a previous post I had described Alex Reid’s article “The Digital Humanities Divide,” as a refreshing point of view, which appealed to me because of its non-exclusive characterization of the digital humanities. To use terminology we have since been exposed to, Reid places equal emphasis on the “builders” and the “thinkers” of digital humanities, attributing to each a definite and essential place under the umbrella of the discipline. Especially important to me is that he recognized digital humanities is not exclusively composed of builders, and is immune to the very term “exclusive” in its acceptance of any and all who hope to engage with its questions. Mark Sample’s article offers a similarly refreshing view as he suggests what is important in digital humanities is the “sharing” aspect of it. I find his article to not only be well crafted, but also very insightful and his ideas as to what the goal of digital humanities should be are extremely potent.
However, what I find most interesting about Sample’s article is his willingness to sidestep and overlook the controversies that can so easily overshadow the actual intent of the digital humanities. Sample realizes that such divides as “do vs. think, practice vs. theory, or hack vs. yack” have taken a central focus in the digital humanities forum, but he views these rifts within the discipline as arbitrary and even counter productive. We have argued in class as to what constitutes a true digital humanist and where the lines should be drawn. We have also discussed whether or not these distinctions are even necessary and, by extension, whether or not the controversy surrounding these distinctions is necessary. I myself have posted comments on posts suggesting that this one central “Who’s in and who’s out” controversy is essential to digital humanities in that it attracts more attention to the field and sparks the interest in those vying for inclusion. However, after reading Sample’s article I find myself questioning whether this is truly the case. It is clear that Sample does not want to spend anytime in his article discussing the controversy itself, but rather he wants to move forward by predicting the potential offshoots and applications of digital humanities. In presenting such an all-encompassing scope of possibilities that lay ahead for all of the fields of DH, Sample trivializes the divisions between them. It took reading Sample’s article for me to realize that these rifts are NOT the important part, it is the overarching growth of the field that is important, its limitless potential for expansion, not its subjective fragmentation. One sentence from the article that I found particularly interesting was when Sample began to list some of the “less predictable” outcomes of the MLA’s creation of a new Office of Scholarly Communication, in which he states, “I can imagine scholarly wikis produced as companion pieces to printed books. I can imagine digital-only MLA books taking advantage of the native capabilities of e-readers, incorporating videos, songs, dynamic maps. I can image MLA Singles, one-off pieces of downloadable scholarship following the Kindle Singles model. I can imagine mobile publishing, using smartphones and GPS. I can imagine a 5,000-tweet conference backchannel edited into the official proceedings of the conference backchannel.” All of these are thought-provoking and insightful predictions that represent the various divergent paths the digital humanities can take. Given this endless potential, these far-reaching possibilities, each and every subdivision and school of thought within the tent of digital humanities can have its place. There is no real need to dissect it into its most generic and marketable components but instead we should allow them to evolve, melding together and separating wherever they may. Sample’s article awoke within me some new-found intrigue in the future of digital humanities, and made me realize that the internal bickering within the discipline may just as well be replaced with an excitement for its potential.
I think one aspect of Afternoon that the class is yet to really acknowledge is that we are not all reading the same story. Professor Croxall grazed over this quickly in class and I had tried to interject during our discussion, but because of the story’s format, we are being introduced to different pages at different times, and this constitutes a different reading experience as a whole. While we may agree that there are two men talking over a cup of coffee at one point, because the fragments of this conversation may come in a different order for me, I perceive the scene and the story as a whole in a different way. Even the slightest alterations to the order of the story is significant because it is often order as much as content that shapes the connections a reader will make in his/her reading. Thus, if I were to get a page at one point in the story, it could come to mean something completely different had that page come later in the reading, in the midst of a different scene. This is especially true in that so many of the screens consist or short and versatile exchanges that rely on their context for meaning.
It is because of this that there was so much controversy when we tried to describe what has happened in the story. Whereas some of the students had been able to feel out relatively concrete plot lines, following the conversations and pinning down the characters, others could only describe their story in blurs and fragments. I know I couldn’t even answer the question of what had happened in the story, since all I could really pick out from my first reading session was someone who wanted to make a poet rich (which very much appealed to me), some technological jargon, with some sexual encounters thrown in here and there. I had said that the story kind of threw me and I had struggled to get into it, and on this I have somewhat changed my mind. I think this is due to the fact that in my second reading session the story line was much more concrete and I was able to discern some actual conversations and characters much more so than in my first go around. One thing that really stuck out to me in this session was the effectiveness of the looping. In my first read I viewed the looping as a glitch in the system, often skipping pages I knew I had already com across. But this time around it occurred to me that the looping is much more intentional than this and should be read the way one reads repetition in poetry or in a novel. Because the slides mean different things at different points in the story, it is important to read each the repetition as an element of craft used in order to emphasize certain lines. I know for me a slide I came upon twice was one that only said <Are you sleeping with her?> and it took me a second to realize I had already seen it because the new context gave the line an entirely different meaning. After my second reading session, I have come to appreciate Afternoon a lot more, as well as the format it is presented in. Though I am still partial to the traditional start-to-finish novel, I do find this style an impressive employment of digital technology in order to enhance one’s reading, even if at times it can come off as somewhat incomprehensible.
As much as this may signify me missing the more practical points in Remediation, as I read it I could not help but think about all the different movies and that employ the idea of immediacy through virtual reality. It would be too obvious to bring up The Matrix in which we’re born into a plugged in virtual world without ever knowing hat everything around us is not, by technical definition, real. I will point out one thing though, and that is that because death in the matrix constitutes death in the real world, that suggests the connection between them is not only perceived but there is a more concrete association present as well. Another film that comes to mind is Vanilla Sky, in which the twist is that Tom Cruise’s character has actually volunteered and paid to be placed in a virtual reality, his memories of doing so subsequently erased so that her perceives the world around him as the “real” world. I find this case to be slightly more interesting than a world in which humans are harvested by machines and plugged into a digital dimension. The idea behind this is that if something so devastating happens in your life that you no longer care to live in the real world, then you can pay to have yourself installed into a digital program in which the world bends ever so slightly around your will. This, although obviously impossible in the modern day seems to be the end goal of immediacy. The point where the virtual world and the “real” world become seamlessly combined. The character only becomes aware of his feigned existence due to glitches in the program that tip him off to the fact that there’s something of with his world. Penelope Cruz’s start transforming into Cameron Diaz’s…it’s a whole big mess. But in this case, these glitches become the elements of hypermediacy, those things indicating that what the character is perceiving is in fact the product of a virtual reality. When he finally learns that this world is designed to bend around his desires, this too acts as a component of hypermediacy, showing him the fabricated nature of his world.
But what I think is most interesting about this explanation is that it applies to another movie, not quite as preoccupied with the ideal of virtual reality, namely The Truman Show. In this show, there is an entire caged in world in which everyone is aware that a television show is being filmed except for the star, played by Jim Carrey. The fact that he is unaware that he is being filmed, gives the show its element of realism. Although this is not an instance of virtual reality, its details eerily mirror those of Vanilla Sky. Truman’s entire world is scripted around him, everyone else aware of its fabrication while the show relies on his ignorance. In this case,the elements of immediacy lie in the efforts of all the other cast members to keep the truth from Truman and convince him that the world he live in is in fact the “real” unscripted world. But again, as the actors slip up evidence of hypermediacy start to edge their way into the picture, until Truman realizes that the entire world that he knows has been designed with him at the center. I think that this example brings up an interesting dialogue with Remediation in that while there is technically no virtual reality present, the ideas of immediacy and hypermediacy still apply.
Lastly, I just want to recognize that movies and television shows fundamentally rely on the concept of immediacy in order to get through to viewers. When a movie is able to make you cry or feel happy, these emotions are the product of that movie breaking through the medium through which it is portrayed and having an actual effect on your real emotions. There are thousands of people who live vicariously through their favorite television characters, associating them with feelings that exist just as plainly in the real world. Thus, it is those movies and television shows that are most effective at employing the laws of immediacy and breaking through the hypermediacy that are most successful in that they can invoke real world sentiments.
Katherine Hayles’ article “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine” offers an in depth outline of a problem that can scarcely be ignored from a humanities perspective as we trudge deeper into the digital era. While the specificity of Hayle’s analysis is crucial to the development of the article and conveys clear evidence of extensive research, the essence of the problem as she sees it comes in the very first page. As digital reading becomes more prevalent and print reading declines, so to has reading ability stagnated in students of all ages, including graduate study. She then presents the key question in terms of taking advantage of the transition into digital reading when she asks how we should “convert the increased digital reading into increased reading ability and how to build effective bridges between digital reading and the literacy traditionally associated with print.” I think in this instance Hayle’s does an effective job of laying out the issue that the humanities are currently facing, as we need to recognize that the shift toward digital reading and away from print reading is only going to continue.
The summer of 2010 I worked in New York as an intern at Penguin publishing and that July was the first month in which Ebooks outsold print books. Needless to say this caused quite a bit of commotion around the office , and since that month, Ebooks have continued to outsell hard copies as Kindles and other Ereaders have only increased in popularity. I think a focus on converting the analytical skills that usually accompany print reading into the digital realm should be a main focus in scholarly study, especially though the scope of digital humanities. Hayles brings up another good point in objection to Mark Bauerlein’s article when she stipulates that he, like many other scholars is all to eager to highlight the “inantity of online chats, blogs, and facebook entries,” while ignoring the “depth, profundity, and brilliance of online discourse.” While this is certainly a valid assessment of the perception of digital reading, one could argue that Bauerlein fairly emphasizes the former based upon sheer volume. While the insightful discourse the Hayles references is certainly out there on the internet, it is shrouded, undermined, muffled, and all but engulfed by the interminable and endless dribble that seems to constitute the vast majority of digital dialogue. Though it is unfair to discredit the profound internet discourse simply because it is surrounded by garbage, I think we must simultaneously recognize that these are not the sources that most people are being exposed to. The accessibility and prevalence of petty arguments about the latest movies or some ranting pro-life extremist seem to overshadow the scholarly discourse that could be most beneficial if students could find it. In this regard, I think it should become a main focus of the emerging digital humanities discipline to uncover the digital sources with actual merit, and do what it can in order to highlight the valuable discourse that the digital era allows for.
In his article “The Digital Humanities Divide” Alex Reid brings up what our recent classes have brought to my attention as a key controversy in the digital humanities world. The last few class periods I had been teetering on the edge of asking if the second half of Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s breakdown of DH is in fact covered in the tent of digital humanities, or if it is considered a separate entity entirely. Namely, we have looked a lot into the side of DH that “use[s] computing technologies to investigate the kinds of questions that are traditional to the humanities,” and it is this type of study that our classes and readings have categorized as true digital humanities. Meanwhile, the other side of digital humanities, which I had originally recognized as an equally integral portion of the discipline has fallen by the wayside. That is that in terms of those who “ask traditional kinds of humanities-oriented questions about computing technologies,” it is clear that these scholars are considered slightly lower down on the digital humanities totem pole.
Professor Ramsay is clearly on the side of the debate suggesting people involved in the latter study are not in fact covered under the umbrella of “digital humanities” but are in fact participating in “new media studies.” We can see this in his original assertion (though it was later qualified) that a digital humanist must know how to code. Even after modifying his point of view, Professor Ramsay still places the majority of the emphasis on “building,” basically referring to digital construction which would again disqualify the latter half of Fitzpatrick’s distinction. I have a sneaking suspicion that Professor Croxall as well is under this impression (though he has not explicitly told us so) as he too seems to invest more digital humanistic stock in those who utilize new technology in order to elaborate on the study of humanities, as opposed to those who apply humanities questions to new technology.
Being completely new to the study of DH, it seems completely out of place for me to offer some assertion as to what studies digital humanities does and does not include, and who is and is not participating in them. That being said I did find Reid’s perspective to be extremely refreshing as I think he puts it well when he says that to exclude the “study of the powerful ways that digital technologies are changing the world,” would mean we are “collectively missing the mark by a wiiiiide margin.” Digital humanities in the strict sense does not, by any means underestimate the importance of digital technology. It instead focuses on using this technology to further develop the humanities and this is all well and good. But I think it is equally important, while we utilize the vast conveniences that new technologies afford us, to also recognize and reflect on the ways in which this technology has come to shape not only the study of humanities, but out society as a whole. Is such reflection not the lifeblood that drives the humanities in the first place? It is undeniable how much technology has altered the state of our society both academically and culturally, and to disqualify the contemplation of these changes from the term of “digital humanities” not only trivializes their importance, but also undermines the very concept of what the humanities are. When the humanities became digital did it all of a sudden forget where it came from and what its purpose was to begin with? As I said before, the humanities are about reflection, and if we forget this then I fear we are being sucked too deeply into the “digital” side of things, “and losing sight of the “humanities.” Perhaps I am being melodramatic but this is my humble opinion on the matter.