Remaking "English" at the Intersection of Digital, Medical and Public Humanities

Anne SchwanMCRl

This panel explores English Studies’ engagement with the world beyond universities and its potential to address local, national and global challenges through its conversation with the interdisciplinary fields of Digital, Medical and Public Humanities. Collectively, and in discussion with the audience, panel members will consider practical and theoretical questions arising in the context of research, knowledge exchange and curriculum development.

Dr Tara Thomson will discuss her role as an English Studies researcher in the development of a new Literature House for Edinburgh, a heritage experience for engaging visitors in the story of literary Scotland. This is an interdisciplinary team project at the intersections of cultural heritage, literary studies, and informatics, in collaboration with university researchers, digital developers, cultural sector organisations, and their stakeholders. Of course, the key stakeholders at the centre of this digital and public humanities project are local residents; as such, this talk will argue for the necessity of public engagement as part of a critical digital humanities practice. In context of the Literature House and other literary heritage projects, the production of narrative space must be resolved with inclusive and ethical uses of public space, and this talk will reflect on practical models for implementing the theoretical call to start from the ‘Public, First’ (Brennan, 2016) in digital scholarly research.

Dr Jana Funke will introduce the Wellcome Trust-funded Transformations project, a collaboration between the Rethinking Sexology project (University of Exeter), community group Gendered Intelligence, artist Jason Barker and Dr Catherine McNamara (Portsmouth University). The project engages young trans and gender diverse people with LGBTQ+ history and the history of science to co-produce a public performance. Dr Funke’s paper will explore how she drew on her literary research on modernist authors Bryher, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West to work with the young people as part of this project and how literary and historical scholarship shaped the overall project.

Professor Anne Schwan will conclude the panel presentations by reflecting on the first year of delivering a new MA in Digital and Public Humanities. Co-taught with Dr Thomson and the English team at Edinburgh Napier, the MA combines literary and cultural analysis with training in digital skills and community engagement, including a work placement option. Schwan will focus on some of the conceptual-theoretical and logistical challenges of broadening the scope of English Studies in this way. The presentation will consider to what extent a critically informed Public Humanities has the potential to not only enhance graduates’ employability but also to contribute to social justice agendas by integrating questions of social capital and access to literature and the arts into the curriculum.

Works Cited:

Brennan, Sheila A., ‘Public, First’, in Debates in the Digital Humanities, eds. Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016).

Sat 9:15 am - 10:30 am