Humanities Center

Digital Humanities Series

Whitney Sperrazza, "Measuring Silence: New Digital Approaches to Shakespeare"

Whitney Sperrazza

Wednesday, February 21st, 5:00 PM, ZOOM

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Words have been central to computational text analysis in literary studies. Digital humanities scholars count words, sort for words, and craft visualizations based on words in order to do the work of what Matthew Jockers calls “macroanalysis.” Words, the story goes, are our gateway to the broader themes, trends, and patterns of literary history. In Sperrazza’s work, she turns from speech to silence—from words to blanks—in order to consider how we might think otherwise with computational text analysis tools. Building on ongoing feminist digital humanities work, this talk will take William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure as a case study for exploring what’s possible when our analysis shifts from speech to silence. Rather than offer a one-size-fits-all new method for computational text analysis in premodern literature studies, this talk will make a case for changing critical approaches, open space for new questions in the field, and offer examples demonstrating the interpretive and critical payoff of moving premodern digital work in new directions. 

Whitney Sperrazza is an Assistant Professor of English and Digital Humanities at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her research sits at the intersections of early modern literary studies, histories of science, media archaeology, and feminist digital practice. In addition to incorporating digital tools and methods consistently in her teaching, Sperrazza has led digital projects that include a collaborative living primary resource on space-based systemic racism in Rochester, NY and an investigation of the interwoven histories of computing, textile arts, and bookmaking. You can find her published work in the Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Shakespeare Studies, Lady Science, and The Sundial.

2023-2024 Theme: Water

Water is at once both simple and complex.  A vital life element, essential to any species’ survival, water is threatened by human activity. Water is at the heart of politics and culture, news and information, science, and technology. We seek it; we fight over it; we yearn for it. It is an eternal inspiration for writers and artists. Whether it is drought or receding glaciers, atmospheric rivers or massive flooding, water is everywhere.

The Humanities Center is the interdisciplinary heart of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. Our purpose is to create and nurture a culture of ideas at Chico State and to engage our diverse intellectual community through public events.  During the 2023-24 year, the Humanities Center will host a series of lectures and films exploring our human relationships with water. 

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