Practicum on Research Techniques

L504 — Spring 2019

Patricia Clare Ingham
Days and Times
1:00p – 2:15p TR (4 CR)
Course Description

*This course fulfills one course of the two-course research skill for English Ph.D. students.

Topic: The Humanities Lab

In recent years, humanist scholars and teacher have been experimenting with uses of the laboratory model for our research and teaching. Throughout the history of Higher Education, the lab has been almost exclusively identified with research techniques in the sciences.   So it may be surprising to hear that, in the early decades of the 20th century, John Matthews Manley (scholar of the literary works of Chaucer and medieval authors and early president of the Modern Language Association) and Edith Rickert (scholar of texts of Chaucer and medieval romance) collaborated at the University of Chicago where they established “The Chaucer Laboratory.” The Chaucer Laboratory was a collaborative research center dedicated to the production of scholarly editions of Chaucer’s corpus and other key medieval texts. Manley and Rickert supervised a group of young scholars who would go on to become key medievalists in the American academy. On the one hand, this example urges the long history of medieval studies to collaborative research methodologies now again in vogue; on the other hand, it suggests an exemplary model that might extend beyond the specificities of medieval collections, and help us to consider the power, pleasures, and politics of collaboration of the kind now again coming to the fore in humanities labs of all kinds, in all kinds of fields. 

In this course we will think in a focused way about the uses of the laboratory model for Humanities Research and Teaching. What features of early humanities laboratories might we revive or redirect? What liabilities to the lab model are legible either from the example of the Chaucer Laboratory, or in other examples today? Our primary work will be methodological: we will seek to assess the benefits and liabilities of collaborative work and collaborative writing in a lab setting; we will consider the history of Manley and Rickert’s extraordinary example, and ask why this history is under appreciated; we will research other such models, then or now; we will consider what possibilities, in addition to textual editing, beckon for the future of the Humanities Labs at research universities; we will work with some specific collections, housed in the Lilly Library, and seek to assess what hands-on research we might together perform.

While the case of the Chaucer Laboratory will serve as an exemplum, students interested in the methodologies of Humanities Labs from any period or discipline are welcome.

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

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