MLL773 Digital Medieval Studies

A Graduate Seminar on Digital Medieval Methods (Spring 2021)

Basic Infos

  • Spring 2021
  • Prof: Susanna Allés-Torrent,
  • When: Thursday 4pm - 6:30pm (January 28 - April 30, 2021)
  • Office hours: T-TH 1-2pm and by appointment
  • Code: FRE-711 TOP FRE MEDVL LIT (Seminar)
  • Code: SPA-711 TOP SPA MEDVL LIT (Lecture)
  • Code: MLL-726 TOPICS COMP LIT (Lecture)

Digital technologies have played an active role in Medieval Studies for more than four decades, medievalists have since used computational methods, and many scholars are currently engaged with digital methods and tools to enhance their research. This course will offer an overview on the history and theoretical trends regarding digital resources and tools applied to medieval and early modern disciplines. An introduction on the emergence of the Digital Humanities and its relationship with medievalist and early modern scholars will precede an analysis of the pioneering projects. Students will become familiar with the main methodologies, technologies and projects ranging from the collection of digitized primary sources to the exploration of the main channels of scholarly publication and communication. While covering namely projects related to literary and historical genres, the course will merge readings on digital humanities at large -theoretical and practical- and medieval literary works -primary sources and secondary readings. Some of the fields we will analyze will be digitization, metadata curation, digital scholarly editing, as well as other digital approaches, such as historical and literary mapping, stylistics and authorship studies, stemmatology, or digital paleography.

This course is taught in English and is open to graduate students from all A&S departments, especially those interested in historical studies and digital methods.

Course goals and Learning outcomes

The goals of this course are:

  1. To understand to processes of digitization and curation of historical objects, especially for catalogs
  2. To introduce students to digital scholarly editing and text markup
  3. To encourage student to apply electronic text analysis, statistics, and data visualization in their research
  4. To appraise the potentialities of mapping and GIS techniques in literary studies
  5. To gain knowledge of particular fields within Medieval studies, such as paleography and stemmatology

As a result of this seminar, students should be able to:

  1. Understand digital technology especially within the the field of Medieval and Early Modern studies and the diversity of its methods
  2. Engage with key debates within the digital humanities
  3. Understand the role of digitization and metadata
  4. Know the mechanism behind the text encoding
  5. Work with a digital corpus and use basic tools to analyze it
  6. Review a DH project and adopt a critical analysis
  7. Structure a research question and formulate a proposal for a DH project

Grading and assignments

The assignments and distribution of the final grade will be as follows:

Attendance and Participation (20%): This course will consist of weekly readings and discussions. To facilitate the discussions, students will write short responses following a list of key questions proposed by the instructor and they will bring to class their own. In each class, there will be a designated student who will be responsible to start and “lead” the class. In addition to the list of readings, each unit has a Featured Projects section that students will analyze and discuss in class.

Digital Assignments (15%): At the end of almost every class there will be a small “technical” assignment (“How to section”). For these exercises, there will be a tutorial to be completed at home, while class time will be mainly for troubleshooting.

Oral Presentation “The history of a discipline” (15%): Each student will do one oral presentation about the history of a digital method in his/her discipline, and analyze a pioneer project and an ongoing one (English, MLL, History, etc.). - February 11

Attendance to DH Events (10%): The student will have to attend at least 2 DH events from a list of activities that will be updated on this website.

Review of a DH project (20%): one of the two writing assignments of this course consists of a critical review conceived as it was to be sent to one of these journals: Reviews in Digital Humanities or A review journal for digital editions and resources. A first draft will be required on March 11th, and a final version on April 4th.

A DH Grant proposal(20%): Depending on the interest of each of you, you will have to write a DH grant proposal consisting of a digital prototype preferably related to one of the topics seen in class. At the end of the semester students will present their DH projects in front of the class and they will receive feedback from their peers (April 29th). The final proposal should be submitted before May 6th.


Day 1: Introduction to Digital Medieval Studies

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Day 2: The Emergence of the Digital Humanities

Thursday, 4 February 2021

In this session, we explore the beginnings of the DH and the role of one of the pioneers of humanities computing, Roberto Busa and his Index Thomisticus. We analyze the role of medievalist in the awakening of the discipline, as well as the type of earliest projects (Concordances, Author Attribution, or Digital Editions). We frame some guidelines to analyze DH project.



How to… analyze a site?

Day 3: Doing DH in Our Different Fields

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Each student must offer a 15 minutes presentation featuring a digital approach within his/her field (English, MLL, History). The presentation must include:

  • A short history of DH in a discipline or field of study
  • Methods and tools most used that have shaped a particular discipline or field that discipline
  • A quick analysis of a pioneer project as well as a new project currently active (or recently finished) in the discipline
  • A reflexion on how your potential digital project would fit within the discipline and DH methods

In addition to this list, every student must add another reading belonging to his/her discipline or interests in consultation with the professor (Start by checking the “DH General Readings recommended for this Course” and the Readings for Day 3).


Day 4: Digitizing the Past

Thursday, 18 February 2021

We will focus on digitization of primary sources (codex, manuscripts, and early printed books) from different points of view. Frist, how do digitization and materiality fits within Medieval studies (Bamford & Fancomano); second what is data curation (Muñoz and Flander) and what types of metadata are there (Riley); we will discuss as well the best practices on sharing data and digital knowledge production (Brown). Finally, we will explore data interoperability and the digital identification of historical objects, making a case for the semantic metadata standards (Ehrmann).



How to… understand metadata?
  • Exercise with catalogs and metadata files

If you attend the Workshop "Stop using Word. Just write Markdown!" DH@UM , please make sure you understand how your terminal works. You can follow the basic steps in this tutorial at The Programming Historian: Introduction to the Bash Command Line. Also, if you want to start downloading the packages to work with Pandoc, read: Sustainable Authorship in Plain Text using Pandoc and Markdown.

Day 5: Digital Archives

Thursday, 25 February 2021

We will explore the concept of digital archive and some of the main projects in the last decades. Some of the readings tackle the theory of the “archive” and the implications behind the selection of the objects. We will present two platforms to easily create digital archives and exhibitions.


Other examples not Medieval

How to… build a digital archive?

Day 6: Digital Scholarly Editing (I)

Thursday, 4 March 2021

This session explores the principles of digital textual scholarship and the possibilities of scholarly editions. We present as well the basics of text encoding.


Others (not Medieval):

Check Franzini’s Catalog of Digital Editions and Patrick Sahle’s Digital Scholarly Editions for more examples to discuss in class.

How to… work with XML-TEI?

Day 7: Digital Scholarly Editing (II)

Thursday, 11 March 2021 (Asynchronous class)

This session continues the topic of digital editing focusing on the process of publication.

More on TEI:

Day 8: Text Analysis and Digital Corpora (I)

Thursday, 18 March 2021

This session will be devoted to the basic principles of text analysis featuring some DH key readings (Jockers, Sinclair, Rockwell). We will see examples of digital corpora (collections of written material) and some of the potentialities to explore them (Drucker, Jänicke et al.).




How to… use Voyant Tools?


Day 9: Text Analysis and Digital Corpora (II)

Thursday, 25 March

  • Mining the Dispatch “Mining the Dispatch,” seeks to explore—and encourage exploration of—the dramatic and often traumatic changes as well as the sometimes surprising continuities in the social and political life of Civil War Richmond. It uses as its evidence nearly the full run of the Richmond Daily Dispatch from the eve of Lincoln’s election in November 1860 to the evacuation of the city in April 1865."
  • References in Derrida’s Of Grammatology

Remember: Sunday, April 4th the final draft for the DH project review is due.

Day 10: Statistics and Stylometry

Thursday, 1 April 2021

How to… use R?

Make an account with RStudio Cloud

Day 12: Digital Paleography

Thursday, 15 April 2021

How to use...

Day 13: Networks, Stemmatology

Thursday, 22 April 2021

How to… use Palladio?

Day 14: Final presentations

Defense of your grant proposal

Other Resources

Online Course and Tutorials:

Good nodes of information about Digital Humanities:

Digital History:

Stephen Robertson. “Digital History Readings

List of tool:

This syllabus takes inspiration from: Steven E. Jones DIG 6178 (Spring 2020), and Chris Alen Sula INFO 657


This are the list of event where you can participate in order to obtain the 10% of "Attendance to DH Events"

  1. February 9th - 12th: DH Week in NYC
  2. February 9th, 9am-12:15pm: Graph Technologies in the Humanities: 2021 Virtual Symposium
  3. Data Analytics For You. One Stop Workshop Series on Research Software and Data, University of Miami Libraries:
    • February 10th, 1-3 p.m: Introduction to R with Cameron Riopelle
    • February 15th, 1-3 p.m: Intermediate R with Cameron Riopelle
    • February 17th, 1-3 p.m: R for Data Visualization with Cameron Riopelle
    • February 24th, 1-3 p.m:Research Data Management Workshop with Tim Norris
    • March 9th, 1-3 p.m: Introduction to SPSS with Cameron Riopelle
    • March 17th, 1-3 p.m: Intermediate SPSS with Cameron Riopelle
    • March 24th, 1-3 p.m: Tableau for Data Visualization with Cameron Riopelle
    • April 7th, 1-3 p.m: Introduction to NVivo with Cameron Riopelle
    • April 20th 10th, 1-3 p.m.: Introduction to ArcGIS Online with Jorge Quintela
  4. February 16th, 11:15pm to 12:45pm: Carol Chiodo (Harvard University Library, Cambridge, USA) and Lauren Tilton (University of Richmond, USA), “Images as Data”
  5. February 16th, 5pm: Workshop: AI/Machine Learning Handwritten Text Recognition with Transkribus,
  6. February 16th, 11am-12pm: Nora Götze, Machine Translation: What Is It and How Does It Work?, Prosthetic Embodiment & Cognition in Classical Antiquity and Beyond Transdisciplinary lecture series
  7. February 24th, 10:30-12pm: Susanna Allés-Torrent, "Grads: Stop using Word! Just write Markdown!," DH@UM
  8. February 26th, 12-1pm: Camilla Campedelli, "Ancient Inscriptions and Digital Epigraphy", Prosthetic Embodiment & Cognition in Classical Antiquity and Beyond Transdisciplinary lecture series
  9. Seminars in Digital and Public Humanities, VEDPH (see dates on website from February 3th, to April 28th)
    • February 17th: Marta Severo (Université Paris Nanterre) Cultural Heritage, Participation and Platforms: Theoretical and Methodological Challenges
    • March 3rd:Michael B. Toth (R.B. Toth Associates) Advanced Imaging to Support the Digital Humanities
    • March 17th: Fabrizio Nevola (University of Exeter) Hidden Florence and Hidden Cities: Rediscovering the Renaissance City Using New Technologies
    • March 31st: Erma Hermens (University of Amsterdam – Rijksmuseum, VeDPH, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice) Beautiful Data: Digital Contexts for Object-Based Research and Issues of Interoperability
    • April 14th: Maurizio Forte (Duke University) Principles of Cyberarchaeology
  10. March 3rd: Lauren Klein, Digital Humanities and Data Justice: Lessons from Intersectional Feminism, DH@UM
  11. March 8-21: RSA 2021 Day of Digital Learning

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