Patrick J. Burns

Postdoc at the Quantitative Criticism Lab | Formerly ISAW Library | Fordham PhD, Classics | CLTK contributor

Introduction to Digital Literary Studies

Taught at Fordham University as part of the NYC Classics Consortium (CLAS 6535.1), Fall 2020. This graduate seminar met one (1) time per week in a 2-hour block.


This graduate seminar introduces students to the digital tools, resources, and methods used in producing publishable data-driven scholarship in classical philology and literary criticism. The course provides a forum for students to develop hands-on skills in computer programming for literary studies (using Python), focused primarily on string manipulation, text mining and analysis, and data visualization, and with a strong emphasis on research design, reproducibility and replicability, and changing modes of scholarly communication in the Humanities. The course culminates in a series of Digital Classics “case studies,” through which students will be invited to use the skills acquired in the course to reproduce landmark data-driven studies in Classics by N. A. Greenberg, D. Packard, D. Clayman, and the Tesserae Project, among others. The course has no prerequisites and is open to students with no prior programming experience. While the case studies will be drawn largely from scholarship in Classics, the training acquired in the class will be useful to any GSAS student at Fordham working with digitized corpora and textual data. Moreover, students will have the opportunity to work on material in Latin, Ancient Greek, English, and/or, with the permission of the instructor, another language of their own choosing.

The aims of this course are to:

Your grade will be based on the following:

Required Texts


Code Repositories

*Additional readings (i.e. articles, chapters, reviews, etc.) will be assigned on a weekly basis.

If you have any trouble viewing or using online resources and/or need technical assistance with the computer requirements of this course, please email me as soon as possible.

Class Preparation and Assignments

The synchronous part of our seminar consists of a two-hour weekly meeting at 6:30pm on Thursdays. For each seminar meeting, you are expected to read the assigned material and write a brief response (300- 600 words) to weekly prompts. Responses should be submitted as a Google Doc and shared with me by end-of-day Tuesday so that I have adequate time to review them and to organize topics for discussion for Thursday’s meeting. Responses will be evaluated on a plus-check-minus scale and can be revised at any point after initial submission to address feedback, elaborate on earlier discussion, add new material, make corrections, and so on. Substantive revision is eligible for an additional point on the scale (i.e. check to plus); add me to a comment in your response Doc if you would like to resubmit revised work.

You will each have the opportunity to lead two weekly presentations throughout the semester; for weeks in which you are leading the presentation, you will substitute a slideshow and/or video for the weekly response (again to be submitted by end-of-day Tuesday). NB: The final two classes will have a modified structure; instead of a brief response, teams will present on assigned case studies. Additional guidelines for weekly responses, presentations, and case-study reviews will be distributed to the class as necessary.

The asynchronous part of our seminar consists of code notebooks and related tutorials. This material will be largely self-paced, although I have included weekly goals on the course schedule. Notebook reviews will be done using Google Colab (or a similar code notebook service). Additional guidelines for notebook assignments will be distributed to the class as necessary.

Attendance and Participation

You are expected to attend every seminar meeting. Our meeting time will be spent on discussion and active practice of both critical and technical applications in digital literary studies. This is your opportunity to formulate and refine research questions, rehearse newly acquired technical skills and methodological practices, and receive constructive support and feedback from colleagues (to name a few benefits of the seminar format) and as such it is difficult to find a substitute for these meetings. In the event of an absence, I ask that you email me as soon as possible to schedule a one-on-one meeting before the next week’s seminar.

That said, I understand that this seminar takes place during a time of great challenge and invite you to contact me about anything that arises that affects (or could affect) attendance, completion of assignments, etc. I ask that you familiarize yourself with the attendance policy of your school/department (as well as continued, supplementary guidance) and follow this policy, but perhaps mostly importantly, I ask that you keep an open line of contact with me, your director of graduate studies, your department chair, and others in a position to support your graduate work. Your health, safety, and well-being is a priority and will be treated as such.

Participation will be evaluated on a weekly basis by contributions to the seminar discussion—whether through conversation or chat in the synchronous sections or through commenting in the asynchronous code notebooks— and by attention to submission goals for responses, presentations, and other assignments.

Academic Integrity and Collaboration

Students are advised to familiarize themselves with Fordham’s Academic Integrity Standards as given in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Handbook. In accordance with the university’s policies, you are expected to present your own work in all aspects of the course and to represent accurately your own contributions and the contributions of others. For collaborative assignments, it is expected that you contribute your fair share of the work as a whole. For more information, please consult the Standards of Academic Integrity available on the Fordham website.

Note that I fully encourage you work together, form research/writing groups, collaborate on creating study materials, etc. Academics can benefit enormously from community and collegiality and I hope that you will all find ways of supporting each other in our seminar. We can learn more deeply and more efficiently if we work together in this sort of constructive environment. As noted in the GSAS Handbook, if questions about “permissable collaboration” arise, you are encouraged to “seek guidance and clarification in advance … regarding this issue.”

Support Services

Students needing academic accommodation should speak with me and contact Fordham’s Office of Disability Services (ODS)—or the corresponding support services at your university—as soon as possible. The Office of Disability Services can be contacted at the number 718.817.0655 or by email at All discussions related to accommodation will remain confidential.

Counseling Services

Students who are experiencing personal difficulties or mental health distress are encouraged to contact Fordham’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS)—or the corresponding counseling services at your university. For more information about CPS, please visit their website at All discussions related to counseling will remain confidential.


Students are encouraged to email me with questions about the course and I will respond to most messages within 24 hours. I will respond during working hours (i.e. weekdays 9am to 5pm). Students are also encouraged to speak with me directly about the course before class between 6:00pm and 6:30pm or after class between 8:30pm and 9:00pm as well as during office hours. Meetings during office hours should be scheduled over email.

Students who would like to be known by a name that is different from their legal name or who would like to be identified by specific pronouns can contact me via email with their chosen name and pronouns.

Class Schedule

Readings marked additional are subject to change based on seminar discussion and student suggestions; selections will be confirmed and posted in the previous week’s seminar notes. Code assignments should be considered asynchronous and self-paced; the dates listed below are a recommended working pace.

Session 1: 8/27. Literary Data 1. Introduction to Colab/Jupyter; additional readings by Dombrowski et al., Somers, et al.
Session 2: 9/03. Literary Data 2. Readings: Rockwell/Sinclair 1-6; additional readings by Schöch, Underwood, et al. Code: ALTA 1-5
Session 3: 9/10. Analysis/Criticism 1. Readings: Rockwell/Sinclair 7-11; additional readings by Crane; Clement et al., Riddell, et al. Code: ALTA 6-7
Session 4: 9/17. Analysis/Criticism 2. Readings: Earhart Intro-3; additional readings by Crane, et al. Code: ALTA 8-9
Session 5: 9/24. Analysis/Criticism 3. Readings: Earhart 4-5; additional readings by Coffee, Almas/Beaulieu, Koentges, et al. Code: ALTA 10-11
Session 6: 10/01. Analysis/Criticism 4. Readings: Readings by Allison et al., Bode, Mimno/Storey, et al.
Session 7: 10/08. Analysis/Criticism 5. Readings: Piper Intro-4; additional readings by McGann/Samuels, et al. Code: Piper 1-2
Session 8: 10/15. Analysis/Criticism 6. Readings: Piper 5-conclusion; additional readings by Unsworth, Schmidt, et al. Code: Piper 3-4
Session 9: 10/22. Visualization. Readings: Readings by Clement, Drucker, Mandell, Luchetta, Wrisley, et al. Code: Piper 5
Session 10: 10/29. Research Design/Publication and Venue. Readings: Dobson 1-2; additional readings by Mimno, Goldstone/Underwood, et al. Code: Dobson 1-2
Session 11: 11/05. Ethics. Readings: Dobson 3-Conclusion; additional readings by Liu, Posner, Noble, Nowviskie, et al. Code: Dobson 3-4
Session 12: 11/12. Representation. Readings: Readings by D’Ignazio/Klein, Risam, Rhody, et al. Code: Dobson 5
Session 13: 11/19. Critique. Readings: Readings by Graham, Dombrowski, Da, Bond et al, et al.

11/26. Thanksgiving Break. No class.

Session 14: 12/03. Case Studies. Readings: Case studies by Greenberg, Packard, Clayman, Coffee et al.
Session 15: 12/10. Case Studies. Readings: Readings continued from previous week.

12/17. Final projects due. No class.

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