“Reading Machines” is an experiential course that moves between discussion of readings and applied “humanities laboratories” each week. A central goal of the class will be to bring its two facets into conversation: to use our readings and discussions to contextualize our applied work in laboratories, and to use our applied work in laboratories to enrich our understanding of concepts from our readings.

To help accomplish this goal, you will maintain a fieldbook, which will constitute your central scholarly activity throughout this semester. I call this assignment a “fieldbook” rather than a “journal” to convey its hybridity: week by week, your entries will include a mix of description, analysis, code, figures, or images. This ongoing assignment will give you the chance to organize the diverse tasks of the class’ experiential work, practice the skills introduced in the labs, bring your experiential work into conversation with class readings and personal research, and experiment with ideas that will be further developed in your seminar unpaper (see below).

There will be two types of entries in your fieldbooks: bibliographic annotation and lab report.

Bibliographic Annotation Entries

In order to help you attend closely to our course texts and prepare for each class, you should prepare a few paragraphs responding to the core readings and your chosen penumbral text. I mean a few paragraphs in total, NOT a few paragraphs per text. Your entries should synthesize and bring readings into conversation, and should focus on a few ideas you want to highlight rather than attempting to summarize everything in the readings. These entries should be prepared, roughly, in the style of the annotated bibliography. It will be easiest to complete this assignment if you jot down notes and ideas while reading.

You should draft each bibliographic annotation fieldbook entry in its own .md file, following the naming convention outlined above, and commit it to your fieldbook repository prior to the pertinent class period. To emphasize: each class preparation entry should be saved as a separate file in your Github repository.

Lab Report Entries

Your lab report entries will vary quite a bit from lab to lab. I may post a prompt for a lab to help start your thinking, in which case you should begin your reports from these prompts.

In each lab report entry, I will expect to find a brief description of the lab activities completed and any outcomes (code, a material product, etc.). For coding labs, you will likely integrate code snippets directly into your Markdown file (more on this as those labs approach), while for other labs you may instead reference external proof of your work, such as photos. I will also expect prose that reflects analytically on the work of the lab, putting it into conversation with one or two readings from the same week of class as the lab, as well as readings drawn from the larger class or beyond where appropriate. This prose need not be quite as formal as a research paper, but it should demonstrate careful thought and preparation. You should integrate the readings explicitly, if possible through direct quotation. Use this writing to experiment with intellectual pairings you think might be generative to your larger thinking and help you prepare for the class’ Unessay projects.

Organizing Your Fieldbook

Your fieldbook will be a collection of Markdown or .md files collected in a Github Repository. We will learn how to write in Markdown and contribute to a Github repository during the first laboratory (which you will reflect on in your first lab report). You will share the address of your repository with me so that I can check your progress. I may also ask to repost stellar fieldbook entries on our class website, either under your name or anonymously as you prefer.

You should name your files following the following convention:

For bibliographic annotation entries:


For lab report entries:



Reading Machines is a challenging and full class. The semester will include thirteen weeks of readings and eleven or twelve humanities laboratories. To give you some flexibility, you may choose to forgo bibliographic annotation entries twice during the semester, and you should plan to complete seven lab report entries. I strongly recommend you not delay starting this work, but instead begin early and work steadily so that you can use this flexibility as the inevitable stresses of the semester emerge. Your bibliographic annotation entries are due prior to the pertinent class, while lab report entries are due within two weeks of the pertinent lab session.

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