DLCL 122
Winter 2016
MW: 03:00p-04:20p
School of Education, Rm 313
Course Site: http://blalbrit.github.io/courses/dlcl122_2016

Course Blog

The Digital Middle Ages

Benjamin Albritton
Email: blalbrit@stanford.edu
Office: Lathrop Library, 3rd Floor
Office Hours: By appointment

Course Description

Medieval Studies is entering a phase of digital abundance. In the last five years, more medieval material has been put online than has ever been available for study at any point in the past. How can we engage with the growing mass of digitized material available to us? How does this sudden access impact the work we do, the types of questions we ask, the connections we make, and the audiences we write for?

In this course, we will examine and evaluate digital medieval resources and software that has been created for interacting with those resources. Students will have the opportunity to design and create an innovative project based on medieval primary sources held at Stanford, applying current digital methods in the analysis of those resources.

Course Goals

By the end of the course, committed students will be able to:

  • Evaluate current tools for approaching historical objects and texts
  • Develop productive, socially aware and culturally relevant questions about a text or object
  • Consider multiple and divergent solutions to the problem of making historical sources accessible using different digital media and platforms
  • Describe different forms of medieval cultural production
  • Produce a project that integrates social and historical methods with contemporary scholarly tools


Your final grade will reflect the sum of your work over the quarter, with the following weighting:

  • Readings and Discussions 20%
  • Practical Exercises 20%
  • Blogging 20%
  • Final Project 40%
    • Presentation (10%)
    • Contribution to Exhibit (15%)
    • Paper (15%)


Readings and Discussions

Reading assignments are posted in the course schedule below, though there will be some changes or additions depending on the overall direction of the final projects (all updates will be reflected on the course website). You will be required to submit at least two discussion questions based on the readings for each day that the class meets. These questions should be posted to the course blog by midnight of the day before class.

Practical Exercises

There will be five exercises over to complete during the course. The exercises are all designed to allow you the opportunity to work with software and materials to produce content that can be re-used as part of your final project. Upon completion of the exercise, you will be asked to write a short blog post reflecting upon aspects of the exercise. These reflective posts should be added to the blog no later than the start of the next class AFTER the exercise has been completed.

Exercise 1

  • Find two online medieval manuscript repositories.
  • Critique them – prepared to discuss in class.
  • Points to consider:
    • Content
    • “metadata”
    • additional information
    • ability to interact with the resources
  • Your critique and class discussion will fuel a blog post.

Exercise 2

  • Formulate a question about one or more primary resources available digitally at Stanford (preferably from the data set to be used in the final project).
  • Using the Mirador tool, annotate primary resources to provide evidence for answering you question.
  • Be prepared to discuss your question and evidence in class.
  • Write up the question and supporting evidence in a blog post following class discussion.

Exercise 3

  • Choose an object that you wish to transcribe from the data set to be used in the final project.
  • Using the T-PEN tool, transcribe that object (noting anything unusual in the “notes” field as you work).
  • Be prepared to discuss the process and outcomes in class.
  • Present your transcription in a blog post following class discussion.

Exercise 4

  • Using the text you transcribed in Exercise 3, compare it to an edition or another witness of the same text
  • Mark these up for presentation in the Versioning Machine
  • Think about the differences in the versions, and why they might be of interest – be prepared to discuss in class.
  • Present your versions in a blog post following class discussion.

Exercise 5

  • Choose a small textual corpus related to the materials you are working on for the final project.
  • Using the Voyant tools, begin to analyze this corpus of texts.
  • Reflect on limitations and possibilities of this tool and this approach to analysis as they relate to the final project.
  • Present your analysis in a blog post following class discussion.


This class is a community, and together we are producing a public outcome (the final project). As a community, sharing our thoughts, reflections, and intermediate outputs is critical – as is learning to work publicly. While our blog will not likely be widely read, it is a key component of tracking and building our course (and an opportunity to practice writing for different audiences). You will be required to provide regular updates to the blog as follows:

  • Discussion questions for every reading assignment
  • Reflective posts presenting the results of the Practical Exercises

Additionally, you can optionally use the blog to raise questions, provide additional materials to share with the other participants, or present ideas for course critique.

Final Project

The outcome of this class will be a final project dedicated to sharing your research in a useful way with the world. There are three components to this:

  1. A digital exhibit hosted by the Stanford University Libraries, produced by the participants in the class (myself included). Each participant will be responsible for one section of the exhibit.
  2. A paper presenting your exhibit “section” in a slightly more formal manner.
  3. A class presentation of your material intended as a 15-20 minute summary of your work as if it were a conference paper.

The parameters for the project are as follows:

  • Materials: we will agree, as a class, what our corpus of materials will be, but they should be drawn from the selection of materials where Stanford a) owns the physical objects and b) has digitized them.
  • Methodologies: depending on the topic you choose to focus on within these materials, you may choose to do a deep analysis using a single analytic method, or you may choose to do a broad presentation of multiple approaches to your materials. We will discuss this as you develop your project goals.
  • External Materials: it is possible to bring external resources into the exhibit, but I encourage talking about this early and often.

Attribution and Preservation:

  • This is your scholarly work, and will contribute to our knowledge about the materials you work on. Every aspect of your work in this class will be associated with your name, as an author – from blog posts, to data, to papers.
  • We will deposit all course outcomes into the Stanford Digital Repository, with each of you named as authors on your own work. This means that the material will be preserved for the long term, and that you will be able to refer to this material in the future by linking to its Persistent URL (PURL).

Significant dates:

  • January 20: one paragraph describing the object(s) you will use for your portion of the final project and why it/they are of interest to you, for sharing and discussion with the class.
  • February 3: lead an in-class discussion of the materials for your final project (including an outline of what you would like to do with them and how you think your project will take shape).
  • February 17: Final outline of both paper and exhibit due for discussion in class.
  • March 2: Class presentation of final project.
  • March 7: Exhibit Launch.
  • March 9: Paper due.

NB: You are welcome to submit a draft of your paper to me for review at any time after February 17. We will be building the exhibit together as a class on an ongoing basis.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Discovering

  • Overview
    • Syllabus, introductions, discussion of assignments.
    • Stanford’s digitized medieval manuscripts.
    • Discovering and evaluating digital medieval resources.
  • 4 January
  • 6 January

Week 2: Annotating

Week 3: More Annotating

Week 4: Transcribing

  • 25 January
    • Reading
      • Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, “How to Transcribe Middle English,” in Opening Up Middle English Manuscripts: Literary & Visual Approaches, pp. 2-5
      • “A Walkthrough of T-PEN” (video)
      • Postpone: (Allen H. Renear, “Text Encoding,” in A Companion to Digital Humanities, 2004.)
    • Exercise 3 (see description above)
  • 27 January
    • Reading
      • Optional Resource: (Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham, “Selected Scripts,” in Introduction to Manuscript Studies, pp. 135-178.)
      • Reading catch-up from weeks 2-3.

Week 5: Comparing

Week 6: Referring

Week 7: Sampling & Illustrating

Week 8: More Sampling & Illustrating

Week 9: Representing & Deforming

  • 29 February
  • 2 March
    • Reading
      • re-read the Martin Grandjean article from Week 8, paying attention to presentation of data on maps in Gephi
    • In-class activities:
      • generating project-specific data representations
      • focus: what story are you telling with your visualizations?

Week 10: Creating & Sharing

  • 7 March
    • Finalizing and publishing the exhibit
    • Preservation:
      • creating a collection in SDR
      • depositing content
  • 9 March
    • Final Presentations Due in Class

Finals Week

  • 16 March
    • Final papers due

Course Policies

Office Hours and Communications

Face to face meetings are extremely important to me, and I am always happy to schedule an appointment to discuss course work and progress. I may offer drop-by hours as well, depending on the needs of the course.

E-mail is the easiest way of communicating with me blalbrit@stanford.edu. I will do my best to respond within 24 hours. All course communications will be sent to your Stanford e-mail address.


Given the nature of this class, I reserve the right to change due dates or assignments in response to course needs. I will provide lots of notice of any changes, and those changes will be designed only to occur if they benefit student work. Satisfactory completion of all assignments is a requirement for this course.

Assignments will be penalized if submitted late – by one step per day (from A to A-, for example). If you anticipate a conflict with a due date, contact me as soon as possible.

Participation and Attendance

We will be working closely together in this class, and you are expected to be in attendance every day without exception. Should you have to be absent from a class session, please notify me well in advance by e-mail. All assignments must be turned in on time, even if you are absent.

Honor Code and Fundamental Standard

All students must observe the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard. For full details, please see the page provided by the Stanford Office of Community Standards here: https://communitystandards.stanford.edu/student-conduct-process/honor-code-and-fundamental-standard.

Students with Documented Disabilities

Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066, URL: http://studentaffairs.stanford.edu/oae).