Week 9: Critical Theory and the Politics of Digital History


This week focuses on the issue of cultural criticism, critical theory, and the digital humanities. We will start with a discussion of some classic readings in critical theory and cultural studies. We will follow this with some recent writings on why digital humanities has been reluctant to engage with cultural criticism.


I.  Discussion: Critical Theory and Critical Studies (1 hr)
II. Break (5 min)
III. Discussion: Cultural Criticism and the Digital Humanities (1 hr)
IV. Break (5 min)
V. Discussion: Recent Projects in Cultural Criticism and DH (30 min)

Assignments (due before class)

  • Weekly Twitter Assignment

Required Reading

Read the following two theoretical pieces, written by major writers in the field of critical theory and cultural studies. Max Horkheimer is representative of a group of thinkers known as the Frankfurt School. Stuart Hall is representative of a group of thinkers known as the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies. We will discuss these two groups in class. What I would like you to think about as you read these essays is how each scholar examines the relationship of knowledge and forms of power.

  • Max Horkheimer, “Traditional and Critical Theory” (1937)
  • Stuart Hall, Hall, “Gramsci’s Relevance for the Study of Race and Ethnicity”, Journal of Communication Inquiry, vol. 10, no. 2 (1968): 5–27.

Horkheimer and Hall were both hugely influential in humanities research during the late 20th century. However, as digital humanities began to be more widely practiced in the first decade of the 21st century, some scholars began to recognize that the approaches of the Frankfurt and Birmingham schools were largely absent in the field of DH. In his essay, Alan Liu asks the question: “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities? He was one of a number scholars who were asking the same question.

Projects to Investigate


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