What We Teach When We Teach DH is Published!

Book cover: What We Teach When We Teach DH, edited by Brian Croxall and Diane Jakacki

We are tremendously thrilled to announce that our edited volume, What We Teach When We Teach DH: Digital Humanities in the Classroom, has just been released in glorious print by the University of Minnesota Press. It’s the newest member of the Debates in the Digital Humanities series, which is edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein, and is now available at all the finest establishments.

This volume got its start at the banquet of the 2017 Digital Humanities Conference, where Brian asked Diane if she would like to work on a pedagogy-focused volume for the Debates series. Diane, having not yet recovered from chairing the conference, was too delirious to say no.

Over the next twelve months, we worked on a proposal for Matt and Lauren and prepared two related panels for the 2019 MLA Convention. The call for papers launched in January 2019. We received around 100 proposals, far more than could have ever fit in the book. The authors we invited to write full essays delivered their first versions late in 2019; we conducted an internal peer-to-peer review during the summer of 2020 using the second version of each chapter; and then authors continued revising, producing a third version in 2021, when the book was sent out for peer review. Revisions were of course made in response to the review, and the manuscript was accepted for publication in March 2022. Throughout the rest of the year, we worked with the editorial team at Minnesota to put the book into the proper style, and in the first half of 2023, the manuscript went through both copy editing and proofing. So, six years and four months after the initial idea, we are finally finished! That is, by the way, longer than either of us took to complete our PhD programs.

In addition to highlighting the time that a volume like this requires, it also hopefully shows the immense amount of work that scholars put into publications. We are profoundly grateful for our contributors—for their willingness to go through several rounds of revision, to read and comment on one another’s work, and to engage in meaningful conversations with us as editors as we continually pushed them to write their best teaching selves into their essays.

But we also owe debts of gratitude to people whose contributions were less visible. First, everyone who sent a proposal that we could not include helped us get a sense of the range of DH pedagogy around the world and subtly molded what the volume would become; we wish we had an unlimited page count so each of your essays could have been in there. Second, the editorial team at the University of Minnesota Press was encouraging throughout the entire process; our editor, Leah Pennywark was in particular a staunch ally. Third, Amy Earhart, who served as our peer reviewer (and disclosed her name as part of the process), offered an important outside perspective that resulted in chapters becoming all the stronger in their final form. Fourth, the copyediting team from Westchester Publishing Services—especially Melody Negron—caught all the comma splices and em-dashes that we could have never seen. Finally, Matt and Lauren were critical interlocutors for the whole process of publishing in the Debates series; their initial enthusiasm for the project meant that we were willing to give it a shot.

Our impetus for compiling this volume was to stage the equivalent of a conference session with a clear focus on pedagogy, allowing us to put a number of people together in one space to say provocative things in short amounts of time. What is more, just as in a conference session, our Platonic and published pedagogical symposium makes space for an audience, readers who might not be as steeply invested in the subject at hand but are hoping to learn. This book provides, we hope, a space for our authors to write about teaching DH as scholarship and, at the same time, a space for readers to imagine themselves teaching DH.

Because teaching is shaped not only by one’s disciplinary training but also by one’s students, surroundings, and institutional infrastructure, the organization of the volume reflects this as we focus, in turn, on teachers, students, classrooms, and collaborations. We therefore begin the volume with teachers, who until recently have had to first teach themselves and only thereafter could design courses, develop learning goals, and establish minors, majors, and graduate programs so that others, in turn, could learn. If each teacher works in a different context from all other teachers, the same is also true of those we teach. In the section on students, our contributors contemplate what it means to teach DH to different students who have different needs. In the third section, on classrooms, authors discuss in more concrete terms how they teach DH—ranging from general practices to philosophical approaches to individual assignments— and how this teaching leads them to reevaluate what DH means to them. The essays in the final section—on collaborations—address what to many is the most distinctive aspect of DH, as well as its pedagogy.

What you’ll find below is the table of contents along with our description of each chapter, which is taken from our introduction. We appreciate the press allowing us to quote from the book.

Part I. Teachers

1. Born-Pedagogical DH: Learning While Teaching. Emily McGinn and Lauren Coats discuss “born-pedagogical” digital humanities; they urge readers to embrace the potential of learning DH through the teaching thereof rather than trying to acquire a perfect knowledge before bringing it into the classroom.

2. What Do We Want from the Standard Core Texts of the Digital Humanities Curriculum? Gabriel Hankins asks where or what the standard texts are that these DH new teachers should use, proposing values that such textbooks should embody to make the issues and concerns of DH legible to students

3. Teaching the Digital Humanities to a Broad Undergraduate Population. Alison Langmead and Annette Vee question what can be gained by integrating DH into general education requirements, providing an opportunity to examine the ethics and experience of living in a world shaped by digital computing.

4. Teaching Digital Humanities: Neoliberal Logic, Class, and Social Relevance. James O’Sullivan ponders whether teaching DH abets the dark side of the humanities in a postindustrial university or whether such pedagogy presents a socioeconomic opportunity for those living in the age of late capitalism.

5. Teaching from the Middle: Positioning the Non-Tenure Track Teacher in the Classroom. Jacob Heil ponders the liminal teaching space he occupies as one whose job designation and teaching affiliation are split between the library and academic affairs, and the impact that such a position has on his work in the classroom.

6. Why (in the World) Teach Digital Humanities at a Teaching-Intensive Institution? Rebecca Frost Davis and Katherine D. Harris reflect on what it takes to teach DH at teaching-intensive institutions and the work they have invested in getting their universities to understand the distinctiveness of teaching DH.

Part II. Students

7. Digital Humanities in General Education: Building Bridges among Student Expertise at an Access University. Kathi Inman Berens reflects on the changes she had to make to her DH curriculum and classroom praxis when she transitioned from a research-focused institution to an access university with an incredibly diverse student population.

8. (Hard and Soft) Skills to Pay the Bills: A Both/And Approach to Teaching DH to Undergraduates. Jonathan D. Fitzgerald discusses the need to balance the teaching of humanistic interpretation, a hallmark of his small liberal arts college, with the desire of students (and administrators!) to have a curriculum that focuses on concrete skills that can lead to employment.

9. Digital Humanities across the Curriculum, or How to Wear the Digital Halo. Scott Cohen describes how his liberal arts college responded to both fiscal and identity crises by focusing efforts on a student-driven, cross-disciplinary lab grounded in a DH ethos and by rallying around the praxis of DH pedagogy as a means to revitalize a liberal arts education. Having considered undergraduate students, the second half of this section focuses on graduate students.

10. Rethinking the PhD Exam for the Study of Digital Humanities. Asiel Sepúlveda and Claudia E. Zapata discuss their experience designing a PhD exam on digital humanities in an institution that largely lacked faculty with expertise in the subject; their attempts at self-pedagogy, a frequent enough practice in DH, had to be negotiated alongside the needs of their department and larger institution to evaluate them as scholars.

11. Pedagogy First: A Lab-Led Model for Preparing Graduate Students to Teach DH. Catherine DeRose, while knowing that self-pedagogy is common among DH practitioners, offers the insight that the field has progressed enough that graduate students should be taught more about DH pedagogy and proposes that this instruction take place within DH labs or centers as part of graduate professional development.

12. What’s the Value of a Graduate Digital Humanities Degree? Elizabeth Hopwood and Kyle Roberts contemplate the value of a master’s in digital humanities and, drawing on end-of-course evaluations and survey data, describe how their students parlay their DH master’s degree into a wide array of employment paths after completing their program.

Part III. Classrooms

13. Codework: The Pedagogy of DH Programming. Harvey Quamen proposes that one way to help students become comfortable with code is to workshop it like poetry, presenting opportunities to teach and discuss the grammar of machine languages and highlighting how code is designed to answer a specific question rather than existing for its own sake.

14. Community-Driven Projects, Intersectional Feminist Praxis, and the Undergraduate DH Classroom. Andie Silva also writes about adapting a course to help her students become comfortable; in this case, an intersectional, feminist approach to DH led to centering her students and their local experiences in a class that had previously focused primarily on early modern texts and their analyses.

15. Bringing Languages into the DH Classroom. The comfort of students is again a consideration for Quinn Dombrowski, who complains that most DH instructional materials are in English and consequently provides guidelines for teaching text analysis in non-English-first classrooms.

16. DH Ghost Towns: What Happens When Makers Abandon Their Creations? Moving in a different direction, Emily Gilliland Grover recounts her experience teaching Frankenstein with, appropriately enough, an abandoned DH tool, wondering what it means to adopt orphaned projects within our pedagogy.

17. How to Teach DH without Separating New from Old. Working with her students to evaluate the range of tools that we use in studying the humanities— from chalkboards and desks to optical character recognition technologies and library databases— Sheila Liming cautions us not to forget the old in favor of the new.

18. The Three-Speed Problem in Digital Humanities Pedagogy. Brandon Walsh concludes with a meta-reflection inspired by his old bicycle on the challenge of teaching when no two students learn at the same rate, requiring instructors to regularly “shift gears” to ensure all students have a meaningful learning experience.

Part IV. Collaborations

19. Sharing Authority in Collaborative Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Library Workers’ Perspectives. Chelcie Juliet Rowell and Alix Keener investigate the complex dynamics of instructional labor, drawing on interviews they conducted with librarians who partner with instructors in DH classrooms.

20. K12DH: Precollege DH in Historically Underprivileged Communities. Considering collaboration beyond the college classroom, Laquana Cooke and Andrew Famiglietti discuss their effort to teach DH principles in the context of social justice to public high school students in Philadelphia.

21. A Tale of Two Durhams: How Duke University and North Carolina Central University Are Increasing Access and Building Community through DH Pedagogy. A quartet of authors from North Carolina Central and Duke Universities— Hannah L. Jacobs, Kathryn Wymer, Victoria Szabo, and W. Russell Robinson— report on their efforts to develop a cross-institutional teacher-training program that draws on the distinctive strengths of each campus.

22. Expanding Communities of Practice through DH Andragogy. Building a community of collaboration, Lisa Marie Rhody and Kalle Westerling discuss DH andragogy as a means of improving how we train midcareer professionals and expanding and diversifying the pool of DH scholars.

23. What Is Postcolonial DH Pedagogy, and What Is It Doing in Nonhumanities Institutions? Case Studies from India. Dibyadyuti Roy and Nirmala Menon similarly discuss how the particular traits of individual institutions within the sprawling Indian educational apparatus shape DH pedagogy, taking the rhizome as their most apt metaphor for presenting the nonunity that is postcolonial DH pedagogy.

24. Finding Flexibility to Teach the “Next Big Thing”: Digital Humanities Pedagogy in China. Examining a similar question—how is DH being taught in a non-Western space?— Lik Hang Tsui, Benjun Zhu, and Jing Chen discuss how DH is collaboratively taught throughout China, where the absence of a liberal arts model for education means that DH tends to exist in liminal, informal spaces.

25. What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in the Classroom? Brian Croxall and Diane K. Jakacki argue how the collaborative nature of DH pedagogy makes possible the renegotiation of relationships between teachers and students, students themselves, and the way we think about humanities objects.

One thought on “What We Teach When We Teach DH is Published!

  1. Congratulations Brian! Since I’m not in education, I don’t have a clue what all this book really means, but seems like it is about an important accomplishment in explaining what certain pedagogy accomplishes in the classroom. If I’m way off base, I apologize. Just wanted to honor your accomplishment and acknowledge something thats important to you! Congratulations again Brian!

Comments are closed.