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Durham University

Department of English Studies


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Publication details for Professor Claire Warwick

Warwick, C. (2016). Building theories or theories of building? A tension at the heart of digital humanities. In A New Companion to Digital Humanities. Schreibman, S., Siemens, R. & Unsworth, J. Wiley-Blackwell. 538-552.

Author(s) from Durham


This chapter discusses the perceived opposition in digital humanities scholarship between making and theorizing, often encapsulated by the phrase “more hack less yack.” Proponents of technically driven digital humanities insist that we must be builders, and that digital humanities students must learn to program, code, and create digital resources. Those more interested in theory, most notoriously Stanley Fish, object that digital humanities is crudely positivist, under‐theorized, and insufficiently self‐critical, and does not address questions for example of representation of race, gender, and sexuality, nor engage with cultural criticism. This chapter examines details of the debate and discusses whether the two sides can, or should, be reconciled. It examines earlier discussions about theory and method in English studies and history, as they grew into mature disciplines, and asks what digital humanities can learn from the development of these two fields, as it seeks to shape its own future.

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