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Critical Digital HumanitiesThe Search for a Methodology$
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James E. Dobson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042270

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042270.001.0001

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Protocols, Methods, and Workflows

Protocols, Methods, and Workflows

Digital Ways of Reading

(p.1) Chapter 1 Protocols, Methods, and Workflows
Critical Digital Humanities

James E. Dobson

University of Illinois Press

This chapter serves as an introduction to the problems raised by the use of computational methods in cultural and literary criticism. It does so by placing the desire for a science of reading expressed by many digital humanists within a larger genealogy of interpretive hermeneutics by turning to a series of crucial historical inflection points in which scholars and other intellectuals have raised the question of whether literary and cultural criticism could be a science or should depend upon the procedures of the sciences. While some critics (Matthew Jockers, Ted Underwood, and Andrew Goldstone, among others) have proposed that research in the digital humanities should look more like the quantitative social sciences, this chapter’s reconstruction of pivotal debates in the literary studies demonstrates the existence of surplus questions related to the ongoing meaning of cultural objects, textual sources, and archives that remain unaddressable and unanswerable by empirical methods. The chapter argues that what sustains the possibility of this notion of the “unaddressable” is a regular disciplinary injunction to apply a critical gaze backward through scholarly methods, to the ways in which evidence is found, collected, or produced, to the ways in which scholars frame this evidence, the protocols by which they interpret it, and the arguments they present to their readers.

Keywords:   Methodology, Workflow, Formalization, text mining, big data, correlationism, computationality, computational turn, close reading

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