Our term is winding down, and the time to post my final blog entry has come. I thought that I might offer a general reflection this week on my perception of DH and how it has evolved over the course of this semester. My deliberations on DH, of course, are heavily influenced by its practitioners, and these remind me of characters from Mean Girls (2004) or any other dramatic interpretation of our most tumultuous formative years. That cafeteria could be a scary place. So, the important question (in a fun, not so important kind of way) becomes: where would I sit in DH at lunch tomorrow?
Reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (2012) was, for several reasons, the ideal way to open this course. As many of our most memorable teachers have preached, this novel taught us that “different” is not synonymous with “wrong.” Distant reading and close reading both have significant purposes; lone scholarship and collaborative scholarship do not necessarily need to butt heads; and balance, harmony, or moderation can go a long way. Next, we first walked into that DH cafeteria, and was it ever flavourful. All the cliques were there, chatting: Marché and the DH naysayers, Nowviskie and the feminists, Underwood and the pragmatists. We were not there for a minute, however, still gathering our food trays, that the cool kids strutted through the door: Drucker and those other California-tanned alphas, claiming DH from under their elevated noses, bullying the humanists as useless in a world moving too fast. Bueller could have dealt with them, but we did not have Bueller. We had Franco Moretti.
Moretti was that kid with the motorcycle, flicking a cigarette to the curb as he walked in, always late to class yet never in trouble. Everybody talked about him, but nobody knew what to make of him. Needless to say, he sat wherever the hell he wanted to in the DH cafeteria. His presence alone seemed to jeopardize the elite position of the Californians and spark up some debate. Ultimately, even little Scheinfeldt stood up and asked “where’s the beef?” Then Ed Folsom bravely compared the database to the archive before some of the elite fought back and threw their tatter tots at him. They would not be defeated so easily.
The tide was turning, however, and it was too late. Those business boys bustled into the DH cafeteria and made off with almost all the data. Jockers, that geek, took what was left and got on a motorcycle of his own, flipping off those paying attention as he rode off. Moretti grinned, Ramsay applauded. The cafeteria was a disaster in the wake of these developments. I could sit anywhere I wanted to, today, but tomorrow, I would have to make a choice, deal with the aftermath of the events. So, where would it be?
Marché and his followers were spoiled brats. If they had any dignity, they would sit outside at the picnic tables tomorrow. Drucker and those others were not all bad: they raised some highly important issues in DH. They just brought it too far – or not enough. Moretti and Jockers were the cool kids, but they were anarchists. Following them blindly would be unwise. Ramsay tried too hard. Folsom was taking a victory lap. So, where to sit?
Since I was in doubt, why not sit with the doubters and hold the fort? Yes, that would be wisest. Not that taking a position is bad, but, if I am not sure of my position, what is the harm of sitting with the people asking the right questions? I put my tray back on the counter and started towards the doors. I would eat at home. As I got to the door, I gave little Scheinfeldt a wink. He smiled and dipped into his pudding.