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Problems and Solutions for Modernist Digital Humanities (Roundtable)

At MLA 2014’s “Beyond the Digital: Pattern Recognition and Interpretation” panel, the first question from the audience was, “Why are so many of these projects modernist? What is it about modernism that attracted the presenters?” Modernism, indeed, with its textually diverse and expanding canon, its relative immunity to copyright problems, its attention to formal qualities, and its following of academics dedicated to “making it new,” has attracted perhaps a disproportionate amount of attention from digital humanists. As a result, modernist digital scholarship and pedagogy can provide an ideal stage for hypothesizing best practices at a time when the digital humanities is still, from an institutional standpoint, very much in transition from the “next big thing” to a staple feature of the humanities.

From within the digital humanities, demand for such hypotheses has arisen as the field has become increasingly self-aware of what has been called the “dark side” of the digital humanities. In his introduction to Debates in the Digital Humanities (2012), Matthew K. Gold lauds the collected essays for making “pointed critiques at DH for a variety of ills: a lack of attention to issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality; a preference for research-driven projects over pedagogical ones; an absence of political commitment; an inadequate level of diversity among its practitioners; an inability to address texts under copyright; and an institutional concentration in well-funded research universities.” As the digital humanities spread, so will these concerns.

This roundtable aims to address these problems specifically from the perspective of modernist studies. Each presenter will identify one problem in modernist digital humanities and suggest a solution to this problem in a five- to seven-minute presentation. Proposals should focus, as much as possible, the particular challenges presented by modernism for digital study. Please submit a 250-word abstract that identifies one problem and proposes a solution, along with a short biographical statement, to by April 1, 2014.

Topics might include:

* Obstacles to digital literary criticism arising from the specific formal qualities or cultural histories of modernism

* Potential changes to the modernist canon (or a re-entrenchment of a narrow canon) as a result of digital alt-canon building

* Barriers to resource production or collaboration created by the interdisciplinary nature of modernism

* Copyright issues involving late modernist texts or texts involving audio, video, or image

* Institutional resistances or pressures that might influence the future of modernist criticism or pedagogy

* Difficulties of obtaining software/programming training (digital skills acquisition), especially with an eye to “building” or “making” modernist projects

* Challenges for graduate education, from project development to the job hunt, either from the perspective of the graduate student or dissertation director

* Implications of resource allocation or attention for the continued development of cosmopolitan, transnational, postcolonial, or planetary modernisms

* The “digital divide” (questions of access, specifically to modernism), manifested in asymmetries across races, classes, genders, sexualities, or nationalities

* Pedagogical or administrative challenges of specific institutional instantiations of modernist study (community colleges, liberal arts colleges, branch campuses, et cetera)

Conference Location: Pittsburgh, USA
Conference Starts: November 06, 2014
Conference Ends: November 09, 2014

CFP Submission Deadline: April 25, 2014

For more information, contact: Shawna Ross