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Earlier this month, Stanley Fish, one of the most influential literary critics of the past 50 years, devoted two of his blogposts at the New York Times to digital humanities.

In the first, he described what he characterized as the "vision" of DH as "theological":

The vision is theological because it promises to liberate us from the confines of the linear, temporal medium in the context of which knowledge is discrete, partial and situated — knowledge at this time and this place experienced by this limited being — and deliver us into a spatial universe where knowledge is everywhere available in a full and immediate presence to which everyone has access as a node or relay in the meaning-producing system.

In the second, he concludes that

whatever vision of the digital humanities is proclaimed, it will have little place for the likes of me and for the kind of criticism I practice: a criticism that narrows meaning to the significances designed by an author, a criticism that generalizes from a text as small as half a line, a criticism that insists on the distinction between the true and the false, between what is relevant and what is noise, between what is serious and what is mere play.

A question to keep in mind as we explore DH this semester in Engl 390 through the lens of Thoreau's Walden, and subject Walden to some of the methods of DH: How fair is Fish's critique?

1 Comment

  1. Unknown User (cjs3)

    An interesting and valid take on the issue. I haven't made my mind up on the digital humanities quite yet but I do think it has potential to elevate or at least aid criticism in some way.  If not criticism then at least the world of scholarly research...right?  According to an article in Times Higher Education some of Fish's concerns are being echoed by scholars and administrators alike.  Funding, usefulness, limitations, quality of research, and relevance are all a subject of debate even with the hallowed halls of academia.