Thoughts On Our Digital History Seminar

Just to get it out of the way, I want to say that I really enjoyed the class. In fact, I think that this class would be an excellent requirement for the PhD program, and maybe even the MA program. While the future of digital humanities is not entirely clear, it seems that this type of scholarship/scholarly endeavor will be an increasing part of the academic world. I actually do not have any complaints or criticisms. I took the class on its own terms and had no real issues with the direction it took. I suspect that having an excellent instructor and excellent classmates probably helped to make this a great experience.

One of the interesting things about this class was that even though the readings were relatively short, the discussions were among the most vigorous and sustained that I have ever seen, both as a seminar student and as a teacher. Having gone through a Masters history program, law school, and now a PhD history program, I am more-or-less of the opinion that most seminars are little more that a high-priced “book-of –the-week” club with a research paper tacked on to the end. At some point the format provides diminishing returns. For the most part, grad students read (or skim) one book a week and then the gather once a week to discuss the book. Put generously, the quality of seminar discussions varies greatly.

In this seminar, the readings were shorter than usual, but the discussions never flagged. This is, in part, due to the pointed arguments of the readings, which seemed to compel us to argue back. But, it should be said that Dr. Gibbs is a skillful seminar leader, and his openness to ideas and willingness to ask probing questions also kept the discussions fruitful; and again, the members of the class each had interesting and useful contributions to the discussions.

I would leave the class unchanged, and I would recommend it to any humanities graduate student. I actually feel sort of guilty for enjoying the class so much.

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