My research builds upon the groundbreaking work of scholars Dan Edelstein, Robert Morrissey, and Glenn Roe in the burgeoning field of the digital humanities. By utilizing the search capabilities offered with the digitized ARTFL version of Diderot’s Encyclopédie (the masterful Enlightenment work totaling 28 volumes published between 1751 and 1772), I find that the carefully designed “macroscopic” methodology of Edelstein and his colleagues must be tempered by ongoing “microscopic” analysis of digitized source material. Thus, digital tools designed for historical research have both remarkable value and noteworthy limitations. The use of sequence alignment programs and massive online databases can yield important new insights in cultural history, but these findings must be balanced by “close” reading of documents relevant to the research question(s) at hand.
Faculty Mentor: David Eick, French