Literary programming

When it comes to digital humanities, Wheaton faculty lead the way. A number of professors are incorporating technology into the classroom and scholarship in novel ways, from the use of Twitter to extend and document class discussions on literature to data analysis of texts.

On Sunday, The New York Times picked up on the trend with an article headlined, Computer Science for the Rest of Us, which highlights how information technology and computer programming is being taught to students who are not majoring in computer science.

The article included an interview with Professor of Computer Science Mark LeBlanc, who teaches the course Computing for Poets, in which students learn the Python programming language and use it to create software that analyzes large bodies of text.

The course is part of Wheaton’s Connections curriculum. Through the connection Computing and Texts, the course is linked with courses on Anglo-Saxon Literature and the works of the Old English scholar and Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.

Professor LeBlanc says teaching such courses together demonstrates the contributions that different disciplines make to studying an issue, and it serves a very pragmatic purpose as well: preparing students for professional careers. The New York Times reported:

[LeBlanc] believes that most graduates of Wheaton, a liberal arts college, will work in fields where they must learn how to program. The liberal arts college offers “a safe place to be a novice,” he says.

And LeBlanc could offer proof for his point, For example, English major Mitchel Edwards, who developed an innovative app for the Android phone, identified the course as one of his favorites.

I really enjoyed Professor Mark LeBlanc’s course “Computing for Poets,” not so much because I am a poet, but because it showed me that I didn’t have to have a background in technology to pursue my idea.