Working in Digital Humanities and Classics at the Small Undergraduate University

Bruce Robertson

Mount Allison University

The graduating Ph.D. will naturally understand Digital Humanities as it is organized at research-intensive universities: as a large-scale enterprise based in a ‘Centre’ or ‘Program’, often with its own programming staff, a teaching curriculum and long-standing relationship across the Humanities and Computer Science. However, a great number of tenure-stream positions are to be found in small universities where these conditions do not pertain. Based in a 17-year career, this paper will use four projects, three of them ongoing, as examples of how (and how not) to research Classics through Digital Humanities within the small undergraduate university.

At small institutions, a good working knowledge of formats, data analysis and programming is an even greater advantage: undergraduate employees, even those who study Computer Science, cannot be assumed to have the required skills. Teaching these skills to Humanities students will be highly prized within certain parts of the academy, but it is slow work, and the project needs to respond to a pertinent research question or a well-understood DH problem. Therefore, the small university Professor cannot afford to offer ‘solutions looking for a problem’, especially early in his or her career.

A far more satisfactory strategy is to find an indispensable niche small enough to master both technically and conceptually. Connecting and collaborating is therefore essential. Connect with someone who can give a good overview of the field (usually a senior Professor still active in grant-writing). Collaborate with: keen postdocs who will keep you sharp and sustain you with their enthusiasm; colleagues in Computer Science departments who are looking for fresh challenges; and people who work at at research institutions.  All of these scenarios offer even greater rewards than in traditional work in the Classics, since publication with co-authors is more common in Classics DH.

Finally, it should be noted that DH work at a small university is perhaps more effective in tenure and promotion than at large ones, since Classics faculty (being small in number) are assessed more directly by Dean and colleagues in other disciplines, including the Sciences, these people tend to be more receptive of DH work than colleagues in the Humanities.


Session/Panel Title:

Digital Classics and the Changing Profession

Session/Paper Number

24.2

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