Course Introduction

Humanities 100: Digging into the Digital is a project-based course in the humanities that introduces students to the world of digital humanities through the use of selected digital tools and methods of analysis. Open to first years and sophomores only.

Richard_TarltonOur Subject: Richard Tarlton (1530?-1588) was arguably the most famous and popular actor in the early days of Elizabethan professional theatre. He was the star of the Queen’s Men acting troupe, performing in London and touring throughout England – and possibly acting as a spy for the queen. Tarlton was what today we would call an insult comic; he was notorious for performing ad libbed “jests” that were designed to mock everyone from the lowliest audience member to Queen Elizabeth herself. His victims seemed to love being ridiculed, and constantly tried to get the better of him (although they rarely did). Very little documentary evidence about Tarlton’s life remains, so we rely on references made to him in texts and pictures. The most famous of these is a collection of anecdotes called “Tarlton’s Jests), which will serve as the foundation for our work in the course. There is no modern edition of the “Jests”; as a class we will create digital artifacts that will serve as the foundation for a scholarly research project about him.

Method of Instruction and Evaluation: Through a project based approach, students will engage in the research process typical for a humanities scholar: namely, the discovery of artifacts, the formulation of research questions, followed by the analysis and synthesis of findings culminating in the publication of initial findings in a digital medium.  Class time will be divided between discussion of critical issues, group projects, sharing of findings, and the creation of an ongoing collaborative writing environment that will allow students to develop, reflect upon and share/publish research in-parallel with their work.

Course Design: This course was developed to encourage examination and experimentation with a range of digital humanities approaches. Digital humanists apply computational methods that involve textual analysis and data visualization. In order to provide a framework for your examination, the course has been divided into modules (see the Course Outline) that serve as a dialogic engagement with subject and tools. As you work with data related to Richard Tarlton you will apply the following methods and tools to those materials:

  • Textual analysis
    • Distant reading using text visualization tools from the Voyant suite
    • Close reading using TEI text markup
  • Temporal (time) analysis using Timeline JS
  •  Spatial analysis  using ArcGIS Online

Note: don’t worry if the terms and tool names seem unfamiliar to you now. You will become well acquainted with them by the end of the course.

Instructional Materials and Sources
Students will work with  primary archival materials and digital modes of inquiry and analysis.  Extensive use will be made of online environments and platforms that emphasize important forms of digital engagement, including collaborative online writing environments, close and distant reading vehicles, temporal, spatial and network visualization platforms, and artifact curation framework.


Your core text will be a facsimile edition of “Tarlton’s Jests”. You will also read a selection of essays and articles (in electronic format) pertinent to the course. In addition, you will use scholarly research resources available through the Bucknell library and online. These primary and secondary sources will assist us in understanding the period in which Tarlton lived and worked, and the people and events that influenced him. During the course we will spend time discussing credibility and attribution – crucial subjects to scholars and important for you to understand.

Software Tools and Platforms:                                                                      

Over the course of the semester you will be required to have access to and work with a variety of software tools and web-based platforms. You will not be required to pay for any software applications. You will need to install Oxygen (TEI/XML editing environment) on your personal computer – other software applications and environments are web-based.

  • ArcGIS Online (web-based, Bucknell account)
  • GitHub (web-based, free account)
  • Google Docs and Sheets (Bucknell Drive account)
  • Image viewer (Mac: Preview, Windows: Windows Media Viewer)
  • Juxta Editions (web-based, free account)
  • Oxygen XML text editor (30 day free trail version – download)
  • Text editor (Mac: TextEdit, Windows: NotePad)
  • Timeline JS (web-based, free account)
  • Voyant Tool Suite (web-based, no account required)
  • WordPress (web-based, Bucknell account – course site)