(Re)Reading with R

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Margaret Linley, Department of English

Project team: Kimberly O’Donnell, Adam Taylor, and Kandice Sharren, research assistants

Timeframe: March to September 2018

Funding: $6000

Course addressed: English 363 – Studies in Digital Humanities: Theory and Practice

Description: This pedagogical experiment in applying quantitative analysis in the literature classroom seeks to explore whether R, a programming language for statistical programming and visualization, might address some of the criticisms levelled at digital humanities, particularly charges that digital humanities methods (oriented toward making tools or displaying and disseminating research) are at odds with traditional humanities approaches to knowledge production based on reflection, argument, and interpretation.

Ultimately, this project aims to create resources (R scripts and potential applications) that can be replicated in other classrooms in English and the humanities. It also seeks to explore cross-disciplinary teaching and learning practices with the potential for future collaboration within SFU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and across faculties, such as Statistics, Computing Science, and Environmental Science.

Questions addressed:

  • What are English undergraduate student attitudes toward using quantitative analysis in the classroom?
  • How do the workshops and exercises work as learning tools?
  • How do students learn to apply quantitative analysis techniques (using R) to interpret literary texts?
  • How do students assess R as a tool for cultural analysis?
  • Have students become more comfortable using text analysis in the literary classroom?
  • What do students view as the most and least important uses of R in literary studies? Which R applications do they find most useful and/or illuminating for literary interpretation?

Knowledge sharing: I plan to present my project findings in department meetings and informal discussions.