Book-minded prof receives prestigious Mellon grant…to go to computer school

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awards its annual New Directions Fellowships to humanities researchers “whose research interests call for formal training in a discipline other than the one in which they are expert.” Researchers like Andrew Piper, associate professor of German studies in McGill’s Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

Piper is a 2012 recipient of a New Directions Fellowship, valued at $110,000. He knows a lot about the 2,000-plus year history of books in Europe, but less about this newfangled digital literacy. He’ll be using his fellowship to change that imbalance by taking classes in computer programming and quantitative analysis, in order to “better understand the technical conditions that underlie our access to texts today.”

“To understand the changes that are affecting our current reading landscape,” he says, “students and professors in the humanities are going to require a whole new range of skills, ones that far exceed our traditional training in literary criticism, bibliography, or the history of the book. My overall goal is to connect a deep knowledge of reading’s history with an immersion into the logic of new reading interfaces.”

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