Literature in the Digital Age

(Begins April 5) Herman Melville’s novella Benito Cereno, a nineteenth-century story of mutiny at sea, is a duplicitous text. Somewhat in the manner of a detective story, Melville’s narrative raises questions about its design and its designs upon a reader. This class seeks to understand the text’s perils and pleasures by applying digital tools to the reading process. We will explore methods for deepening the reading experience, using a wide range of approaches:

  1. Reading and annotating the text in MIT’s Annotation Studio
  2. Fluid-text analysis: exploring and collating different versions—magazine and book publication, as well as different editions and formats
  3. Comparison with source text, Amasa Delano’s A Narrative of Voyages and Travels, and other literary and historical sources
  4. Marginalia: Melville’s manuscript annotations as critical tool
  5. Text analysis using Voyant Tools to locate significant patterns
  6. Digital research in MIT Libraries databases

Students will read and discuss texts intensively in class; practice using different digital platforms; post questions and responses in a class discussion forum; present an in-class report; and keep a portfolio of materials to submit at the end of the term. No technical expertise required.