Business as Usual? Reflections on University English in the Age of Digitality

How can English, a traditional university discipline established in the 1900s, respond to the challenges of the digital revolution?  What kinds of new digital and analytical skills should English students now be encouraged to acquire? What kinds of new knowledge should scholars of English now address and teach to the coming generations? What needs to change in the design of a ‘traditional’ English degree?

Based on the experience of designing (but not yet fully implementing) a new BA Hons programme at Loughborough (English with Digital Humanities), this paper will reflect on the different ways in which English has responded to DH.  For some DH is a passing fad, and thus the response is one of ‘not at all’ or willed ignorance. For others ‘digital’ (not DH) is just about ‘new resources’ and not new methodologies. A third group, very much a minority, identifies DH as a set of paradigm shifts which must be addressed as a matter of priority. But what are those priorities? What is it that every English student needs to know? Is there any consensus on this, and, if so, what is it?

The paper will refer specifically to the methodology and intellectual content which lies behind three new ‘digital’ modules which are currently being introduced within the English programme at Loughborough.  The digital competes for curriculum space at Loughborough, as everywhere, with literary theory, literary history, the study of language, film and creative writing. Can intelligently designed digital modules form bridges between these disparate parts and if so how?