Digital humanities leads to Beinecke award

When Audrey Dubois ’17 looks at a book, she sees not only the words on the page but also a story hidden between the lines and among the author’s habits.

A double major in English and philosophy, Dubois is exploring the power of digital humanities scholarship—the use of computer-aided analysis of texts—to uncover insights about the authorship of prose and poetry as well as the cultures that gave rise to a particular work of literature.

She has received a significant boost in her ability to continue her explorations by winning a Beinecke Scholarship. She is one of 20 undergraduates nationwide to receive the $34,000 award for graduate studies.

“I wasn’t even sure I was going to go to grad school until this scholarship came through,” Dubois said, explaining the impact that the prize will have on her future.

A program of the Sperry Fund, the Beinecke Scholarship supports highly motivated students in pursuing graduate study in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

“I view what I do as both ‘literary archaeology’ and ‘literary anthropology,’” Dubois said. “My goal is to reconstruct the past by piecing together fragmentary material while at the same time creating an understanding of the particular culture of specific authors.”

Dubois discovered her interest in digital humanities from a course at Wheaton on medieval literature taught by Professor of English Michael Drout. The class ended with Dubois receiving the opportunity to intern with the Wheaton Lexomics research group, which develops and employs computer programs to analyze texts. During her internship, Dubois examined the poetic meter of Beowulf, identifying patterns within the Anglo-Saxon epic poem.

While she hasn’t yet chosen a graduate program, Dubois is certain that she will continue to explore the use of computers in analyzing and understanding literature and what it can reveal about our past.