13.0354 research in the humanities

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Mon Jan 17 2000 - 23:13:04 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 354.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: "Norman D. Hinton" <hinton@springnet1.com> (19)
             Subject: Re: 13.0351 research in the humanities

       [2] From: "Malcolm Hayward, English, IUP, Indiana PA 15705" (25)
             Subject: Empirical Approaches to the Humanities

       [3] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (21)
             Subject: shortcomings

             Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 22:58:19 +0000
             From: "Norman D. Hinton" <hinton@springnet1.com>
             Subject: Re: 13.0351 research in the humanities

    > [2] From: Steven Totosy <steven.totosy@ualberta.ca> (15)
    > >
    > --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------
    > Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 17:22:16 +0000
    > From: Steven Totosy <steven.totosy@ualberta.ca>
    > Subject: the humanities
    > your letter about shortcomings in the humanities, especially with regard to
    > the empirical, is unfortunately an important observation.

    I wasn't aware that Willard said these were shortcomings, and I'm not sure I
    think so. Now I 've been in "humanities computing" since the early 1970's, and
    have been using stat and suchlike tools in my research in historical
    linguistics for about the same length of time, and Willard knows I've been an
    enthusiastic member of Humanist off and on for a long time--but much of what I
    read here these days just seems irrelevant to anything I do or care about

    I regard that as a shortcoming of many of the writers to the List, not mine (so

             Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 22:59:19 +0000
             From: "Malcolm Hayward, English, IUP, Indiana PA 15705"
             Subject: Empirical Approaches to the Humanities

    I would like to second (or third or whatever number we may be
    at) the points made by Steven and others on the need for empirical
    research in the humanities and particularly in the study of
    literature. There are, at least, two ways that empirical
    studies can be useful. First as an adjunct to other theoretical
    approaches--a way of testing out some of the basic and perhaps
    unexamined hypotheses upon which theories are grounded. Second
    as a way to generate new questions and new approaches--I've never
    yet done a quantitative/statistical analysis that has not yielded
    some results that were entirely unexpected. The "not what I was
    looking for at all" experience is one of the best a researcher
    can have.

    In line with this I'd like to encourage humanists moving in this
    direction to submit proposals to the Computer Studies in Language
    and Literature Discussion Group meeting for next December's
    MLA. David has posted or will post the call--if you missed
    it as I may have--David Hoover's address is dh3@is.nyu.edu.
    I will also call for submissions in this area to Studies in
    the Humanities, the journal I edit. Most of the articles we've
    published over the last 30 years have been on literature and film
    and have been informed by literary theory. I'd like to broaden
    our perspectives and include articles that take an empirical
    approach. Work may be sent to me: Malcolm Hayward, Editor,
    Studies in the Humanities, English Department, Indiana University
    of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA 15705.

    Malcolm Hayward

             Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 23:03:56 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: shortcomings

    In Humanist 13.346 I was indeed pointing to SOME shortcomings in the
    humanities: (1) the lack of attention to research methods, which if taught
    would save graduate/postgraduate students precious time and effort; and (2)
    the relegation of material culture in humanities research to a lesser
    status than the supposedly vehicle-free content. These failings concern me
    because computing the humanities depends on attention being paid to them. I
    certainly did not intend to suggest that a data-centred (or empirical)
    approach is the only one, though I am intensely interested in the
    differences that it makes to what we see -- and don't see.

    Why is it, do you suppose, that research methods are often given such a
    short shrift? What is the argument, if any, against a strong methodological
    component to the postgraduate curriculum? What do we gain, if anything,
    from ignoring the technological vehicle, be it codex or hypertext, as if
    the artefact were simply words without specific material embodiment?
    Subtracting the straw men and women, what sort of a battle do we have here?

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    voice: +44 (0)171 848 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 848 5081
    <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    maui gratia

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