Issue nine of the Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy features an article by Joanna Swafford (SUNY New Paltz) entitled “Teaching Literature Through Technology: Sherlock Holmes and Digital Humanities,” which documents an introductory digital humanities course’s use of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories as “a corpus on which to practice basic digital humanities methodologies and tools, including visualizations, digital archives and editions, mapping (GIS), and distant reading, in order to better understand the texts themselves.” From the article’s introduction:
The stories also facilitate an interdisciplinary approach: they touch on issues of gender, class, race, the arts, politics, empire, and law. This ensures that students from almost any field can find something relevant to their major. Perhaps most helpfully for this class, Holmes solves his cases not just through his quasi-supernatural cognitive abilities, but also through his mastery of Victorian technology, including the photograph, railroad, and daily periodicals. This focus on technology enables students to address the similarities between the industrial and digital revolutions: the anxieties that accompany the rise of blogs and Twitter echo Victorian concerns about the proliferation of print and periodicals, as both audiences were wary about the increased public voice such technologies could invite. These connections help students historicize their own technological moment and better understand both the Victorian period and the discourses around modern technology. The course begins with close-reading and discussion of four Holmes stories to introduce students to the central themes of the class and of Victorian studies, and we use these stories as our core texts with which we practice digital humanities methodologies, so students can see first-hand how visualizations, maps, archives, and distant reading can lead us to new interpretations.
The article includes course assignments as an appendix for those who would like to “borrow or build on” Swafford’s model.