New Grad Course in Digital Humanities at McGill

September 8, 2011
Photo by Mathieu Thouvenin

Photo by Mathieu Thouvenin

As much as I love the calmer pace and greater flexibility of summer, I was very happy to be back in the classroom today. My days are typically spent staring at the computer screen a lot and though I do interact with colleagues in person and through various media, there’s something very stimulating and satisfying that happens in the classroom that doesn’t happen elsewhere, at least for me. There were a lot of firsts in this inaugural seminar of LLCU-602: New Approaches to Scholarship in the Digital Humanities: first fully-fledged digital humanities course at McGill; first class for me to teach since my arrival at McGill; first course I’ve taught where a colleague is auditing it; etc… Below is the syllabus for the course, a humble contribution to the ever growing number of digital humanities syllabi out there. This syllabus may be of interest for the organization of the topics & assessments – unfortunately the readings aren’t included in this view, but I’ll post an updated version later in the term.

LLCU-602: Digital Humanities

New Approaches to Scholarship (Fall 2011)

Seminars Wednesdays from 3-5:30pm in Sherbrooke 465

Professor Stéfan Sinclair – office hours Wednesdays at 1pm (Sherbrooke 341) or by appointment


The Humanities are rich from centuries of intellectual practices and millennia of historical records and thought. The Digital Humanities seek to engage with those traditions while also exploring the potential for using digital technologies to extend modes of humanistic inquiry. What new interpretations might be spawned when bits of cultural data can be infinitely rearranged into representations unimaginable in analogue form? What new arguments might be proposed when we can instantly ask questions at the unprecedented scale of millions of books? Through a mix of seminar discussions, hands-on tutorials, and project-based work, this course will provide students with theoretical and practical foundations for working in the Digital Humanities, covering topics such as digitization, encoding, analysis, and visualization. No technical background is required.


  • students will be able to describe the essential characteristics of the digital humanities as a discipline
  • students will be familiar with a wide range of tools and techniques for digital humanities scholarship
  • students will have expertise in using a set of tools effectively to enhance their own research
  • students will have experience in communicating their ideas using a variety of digital platforms
  • students will have experience in planning and implementing a collaborative digital project


  • Module 1: Overview & Tentative Definitions:
    • Week 1: What are the Humanities? What is Digital? What are the Digital Humanities?
    • Week 2: Humanities Scholarship in the Digital Age
  • Module 2: Exploring & Critiquing Projects
    • Week 3: Scholarly Editing & Libraries
    • Week 4: Literary Criticism & Authorship Attribution
    • Week 5: Music, Film, Gaming
  • Module 3: Getting our Feet Wet
    • Week 6: Digitization & Encoding
    • Week 7: Data Preparation, Representations & Databases
    • Week 8: Analytic Tools
    • Week 9: Visualization Tools
    • Week 10: Roll Your Own
  • Module 4: Collaborative Projects
    • Week 11: Planning & Describing
    • Week 12: Implementing
    • Week 13: Preserving

Please note that further details, including readings, will be provided via the course management system. There are no bookstore purchases to be made for this course.


  • Blog (30%): Students will write at least one blog entry per week that contains at least one paragraph of reflection on the week’s readings and at least one paragraph on an additional relevant reading that the student has found. Students are also encouraged to write on other topics, such as reflections on the past week’s seminar, thoughts on relevant news articles, ideas about possible projects, etc. Students should adopt the tone of academic blog (including references as needed) and the entries will be assessed based on the quality of the ideas and expression.
  • Presentation (15%): Students will choose a topic of interest from the course schedule and create a presentation. Presentations must make significant use of a digital technology, but may not use slideware (PowerPoint, Keynote, Impress, etc.). Alternatives include Prezi, Xtranormal, and multimedia videos. Students will be assessed on the quality and usefulness of the information presented, as well as the effectiveness of the use of the chosen communication platform. References should be included.
  • Individual Mini-Project Write-up (15%): In conjuction with Module 3 “Getting our Feet Wet” students will produce a mini-project that is the fruit of their individual efforts to digitize, prepare and analyze some textual corpus. The write-up should be under five pages and include a short summary of each component of the methodology and reflections on the overall process and success of the project. References may be included as appropriate. (Tentative deadline: November 14th.)
  • Group Project (30%): This major group project is the culmination of the class. Students will work in groups of at least two to create a project with a significant digital component. Projects will include a write-up that documents objectives, description, collaboration, challenges, and possible future directions. References should be included as needed (scholarly references, related projects, code, etc.). (Tentative deadline: December 23rd.)
  • Participation (10%): Student attendance and participation in seminar discussions is a crucial component of the class.


  • This course is a mix of theory and practice – students are expected to attend and participate thoughtfully and respectfully in the seminar meetings. If possible, students should bring a laptop to class to participate in the hands-on components.
  • The Course Management System will be used extensively in this class to post notes, important date changes, assignment descriptions, etc. You are responsible for checking the site regularly (at least twice a week) for any changes or updates.
  • In accord with McGill University’s Charter of Students’ Rights, you may submit in English or in French any written work that is to be graded. Please be aware that impeccable grammar is required whether you choose to write in French or in English.
  • McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see for more information). Please note that multimedia objects (images, video, etc.) as well as programming code are subject to the same standards of academic integrity.

2 Responses to New Grad Course in Digital Humanities at McGill

  1. Matt on September 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Stéfan — just wanted to let you know that I’ve also added your course to the DH Syllabi listing in the CUNY Digital Humanities Research Guide. Looks like a great course!

    • sgsinclair on September 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks Matt. I’m not sure I would have thought to organize the syllabi by year, but that certainly draws attention to how fast things can change.