Body Electric: How I Am Theorizing the Relationship between Computer Science and the Teaching of Literature

This goes out to all those readers who stopped me on the street to ask.

For several years now, I have been slowly building a theoretical case for the interplay between computer science and the teaching of English. Most recently, I began to create prototype assignments that could be used in secondary English classes that use computational methods to deepen and expand the teaching of literature. In what follows, I offer a series of resources related to these efforts, which I will update periodically.

Slides from LRA 2018

(To click through at your own pace, go here.)

Books that I Draw Upon (or Wrote)

  • The Hidden Role of Educational Research: Policy to Practice by Tom Liam Lynch | Part narrative, part theorizing. This monograph builds the conceptual and methodological case for applying software theory to educational research–particularly literacy and English education.
  • Coding Literacy: How Computer Programming is Changing Writing by Annette Vee | A bona fide composition and rhetoric scholar turns her attention to the nature of computer code as a composition practice.
  • Software Theory by Frederica Frabetti | A theoretical badass. Period. She ruptures assumptions about what software “is”, combining Kittler, Derrida, and pretty impressive technical chops.
  • The Philosophy of Software by David Berry | A fantastic conceptual account of the very nature of software with particular attention to the aesthetic and linguistic in what we call “digital.”
  • Speaking Code by Geoff Cox | His main argument is not just that “code” is language, but that code is more akin to speech than to writing.  He gets philosophical and political in this tome.
  • The Language of New Media by Lev Manovich | The OG of software theory who refers to “software studies” as a framework for critically examining the role of software in society and particularly in digital creativity.

Mixed Literary Analyses

Mixed literary analyses introduce students to computational text analysis techniques by exposing them to the ways quantitative data about literature can deepen one’s qualitative interpretations. Here are three samples:

  1. Plotting Plots | Students use word frequency data related to Romeo and Juliet to create an analogue graph of the interplay between “love” and “death”.
  2. Counting Characters | Students use a web-based text mining application called Voyant Tools to analyze lovers’ relationships in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  3. Distant Readings | Students use Voyant Tools again, this time to analyze ALL of Shakespeare’s tragedies at once.

All units include a three-week curriculum map that leverages The Folger’s Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Set Free.

Bardbots: A Shakespearean Introduction to Robotics

BardBots is a project in which students are introduced to key concepts in computational thinking via an unlikely combination: Shakespeare and robots.  We believe that the distance between the humanities, the arts, and computer science is not as wide as it appears.  The project emerged over a series of conversations where we started thinking creatively about computer science education: What does literary study teach us about computational thinking? What does robotics teach us about humanity? Are computational languages really just another kind of human language?  The result is BardBots. And there is a 20+ free curriculum guide available.

Other Resources


Show More

Related Articles

What Do You Think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button