Hello World

For some time now I have led a double life as a musician and book lover. As a third year PhD in the English department at UVA, I work primarily on twentieth-century fiction in relation to music and sound. These interests drew me to Praxis in the first place: writing about sound is incredibly difficult in a print medium where the reader can’t hear what I describe. I am very excited to be a part of the Praxis team this year, where as a DH novitiate I hope to learn how technology can help make those two fields work together more easily. The Scholars’ Lab team seems happy to have us as well, welcoming the new team with open arms and inscrutable computer science jokes. Last year’s Praxis team reached out to us many months ago from their charter:

Preparations for future cohorts

In order to allow the next Praxis Program team to start work right away on a project, we will make suggestions for that project before our tenure is over.

How nice to be thought of! But I think this excerpt shows how our situation is fundamentally different from theirs: last year’s team had to deal only with the future, but our team also has to deal with the past. It would be easy for us to feel anxiety as latecomers to the Praxis party, so I think it’s important that our own charter reflect the ways in which our work will talk back to last year’s team.

As I look through last year’s blog posts, I’m struck by the problem of knowledge we have in store for us. Implicit in the suggestions offered to us are all the ideas that last year’s team discarded, thought better of, and revised. Those are what I really want to see! The archive of blog posts can only give a skeletal sense of the past: there is no replacement for sitting in that chair all last year.

So beyond the question of how we deal with their great suggestions, I am struck by a more basic dilemma: what sort of dialogue will we have with last year’s group? I imagine that the cheerful team in the Scholars Lab will welcome repeat conversations as opportunities to rethink and retool, but I also believe that we can benefit from the experience of those who came before. I hope that we can continue the conversation with both those members of last year’s team that are still on grounds and those that have moved on to wonderful jobs across the country.

Even so, it is also important for us to recognize that, try as we might, we can never know everything about the project’s history to date. Our team will work better in the long run if we welcome the unknown and greet it just as enthusiastically as it welcomes us.

Brandon is Head of Graduate Programs in the Scholars' Lab. His research focuses on modern and contemporary fiction, especially on Anglophone modernisms and the novel in relation to sound studies and musicology. Before coming to the Scholars' Lab, he was Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of English in the Washington and Lee University…


  1. Thanks for your comments, guys! It’s great to know that you are both going to remain connected. We will definitely have to meet up when you are back in town for reasons transformative or otherwise. In the meantime, I will work towards failures as magical as the ones that Brooke describes and live in fear of Fibonacci.

  2. B-Walsh – I second Alex, though I think I unloaded quite a bit of knowledge onto you during bouts of exasperated sighing and angry command-line typing last year in the English grad lounge. Still, any conversation with Brandon Walsh, musician and modernist, is an opportunity not to be refused.

    I’ll also be reading your blog posts and giggling wisely as I sit here in my cushy software project management job, knowing everything about everything. To borrow a phrase from the 90s: “NOT!” To speak to your most recent post, failure and not knowing are healthy, magical, transformative things and I can say with great amounts of swagger that I fail every day at my new job, I know practically nothing, and I am AWESOME at it. Keep failing and fighting the good DH fight. I’m sure I can speak for our entire First Praxis Cohort when I say, we’ll be failing right alongside you and cheering you along the whole way!

    (Wait til they start talking about the Fibonacci sequence. That David McClure is a cruel and twisted genius.)

  3. Brandon, I’ll be happy to unload what I can remember of our discarded, neglected, shunned, bounced out ideas. Hopefully, I will have a chance to visit when I come down to defend (next month?). In the meantime, I’m going to be reading all of your blogposts. You have no idea how good it feels to read you guys go through what we went through. Transformative.