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Digital Humanities

Stanford Now Offers Minor in Digital Humanities

In September, Stanford University launched a new minor in digital humanities, intended to combine digital tools with research and exploration of history, literature, languages and other humanities topics.

Students in the minor can choose one of three focuses: geospacial humanities, text technologies or quantitative textual analysis. Each track has a corresponding introductory class that is partly method-based but also incorporates the larger themes of the digital humanities.

The minor requires students to complete 20 units, including one core class of five units and five other courses with a minimum of three units each. Examples of course titles include "The Digital Middle Ages," "Poetry and the Internet" and "Technologies of Enlightenment." More than 70 courses throughout the university satisfy requirements for the minor, including those offered by the linguistics, history, management science and Earth sciences departments.

The plan to introduce the minor was motivated by the fact that students were working with faculty on digital humanities projects outside of the classroom, but there was no formal way to acknowledge the field as part of the undergraduate curriculum. For instance, faculty and students were applying computational criticism to the study of literature and combining historical and digital analysis in the investigation of Chinese grave relocations.

Much of this work was being done at Stanford's Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA).

"The timing is right for a digital humanities minor at Stanford," said CESTA Director Zephyr Frank. "The intersection of faculty research and teaching and student interest and capacity makes digital humanities a natural place to grow and sustain our shared commitment to the humanities."

Unlike traditional computer science programs, the minor does not require computer coding knowledge. Instead it focuses on teaching students how to use existing digital tools and methods to expand their research.

One of the first students to enroll in the digital humanities minor was current sophomore — and computer science major — Angelica Previte.

"Computer science courses provide a set of tools and ways of solving problems," Previte said, "and digital humanities provides an opportunity for a more diverse field of uses for those tools."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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