Josephine Miles (1911-1985): Doing Digital Humanism with and without Machines

Mario Wimmer
S tyle and Proportion was both published and discounted in 1967. Ten years of hard intellectual work by Josephine "Jo" Miles, a poet and professor of English literature at the University of California at Berkeley, was dismissed by the very press that had carefully produced a strikingly original and lavish 200-page book. Miles's passion for poetry was augmented by a curious interest in reading at a "middledistance," a term rather ironically coined by Franco Moretti in 2000. 1 Given the current
more » ... Given the current interest in digital humanism, Miles can be furthermore considered one of the pioneers of digital humanities-given that she concluded what today would be called a digital humanities project seventeen year prior to the publication of the first volume of Roberto Busa's Index Thomasticus, which is considered the beginning of digital humanities. 2 It is not entirely clear why the historiography of digital humanism has mostly overlooked Miles contribution to the field. Thus far, two articles have accounted for her work as early digital humanist. 3 The practice of distant reading across text, looking at semantic structures rather than doing hermeneutics of authors' intentions, has a long history. The example of Miles's scholarship shows that the field of digital humanities grew out of a rather orthodox research practice that can be connected to the big humanities projects of the nineteenth century. 4 Back then, the hope was to establish a canon of texts to shape different national traditions. Accordingly, humanists in the academies of Berlin, Cambridge, or Paris were busy collecting, collating, and editing texts. The industrious efforts and good History of Humanities, Volume 4, Number 2. http://dx.
doi:10.5451/unibas-ep72424 fatcat:7dyk2qkonreazcb4ya35f6djoe