Blog Post

Introduction to the HASTAC community

Greetings to the HASTAC community and fellow scholars,

My name is Trevor Williams and I am a graduate student at the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University. I recently had the privilege of being appointed as the HASTAC Scholar for the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching. In view of this, I have several reflections regarding my scholarly interests and their relationship to the digital humanities. My research agenda is focused on the content of religious studies and how it relates to the rest of the humanities. The ways that digital education can enhance the changing face of this field is likely the primary area that I will explore in the HASTAC community. Still, this is a very broad portrait of my interests since I find myself drawn to interdisciplinary approaches. Most of my work addresses ways in which the Hebrew Bible comes alive in the literary and artistic imaginations of its inheritors. In the HASTAC community, I hope to find clarifying sources for my pedagogical agenda, discover methods for approaching the digital classroom, and expand my view of what is possible in online learning.

Technological advances in communication can help us reach out in more persuasive and visually compelling ways. Teaching strategies that share information by way of seminars and workshops expose these links. The importance of exposure cannot be understated. For me, its importance has been encouraged through several classes that emphasized the need to produce visually pleasing media. Greeting others with a foretaste of what the humanities offers delivers a first impression that can inspire exploration. When we speak about the humanities, we ought not offer a simple declaration of its importance; instead, I believe that showing its indispensable participation in our lives—using the latest tools and technologies—is the best way to present the fullness of its gifts and aesthetics. Students need to integrate the arts into their worldviews and make it a formative aspect of their education. The humanities are not meant to be a mere addition to the richness of our inner life.

The passion I hope to share provokes an understanding of the humanities that is intentional about its status among our ways of knowing. Seeing the growing field of digital options for communication provides a path for furthering awareness of the humanities, but the same tools can equally increase the common confusions about its significance. I believe we need to constantly clarify and illustrate the importance of art and literature. There are people I encounter on a day-to-day basis for whom these parts of culture are unnecessary and simply “extra.” Much of what I have seen on social media platforms like YouTube and Reddit show a huge disparity in how the humanities is understood. Confusion about its purpose—particularly in relation to the natural sciences and STEM fields—is something that deeply concerns me. I believe that it is imperative for scholars in the digital humanities to more effectively communicate about these issues, and to be present in our growing online spaces. Advocating for clarity regarding the purpose of the humanities is one of the most important goals of any educational institution. By participating in an active effort to teach the humanities with the assistance of technology, I hope to increase the availability of my research and bring the work of others to light.

At the root of my scholarly interests is the desire to show the concrete and creative links that give history its richness. Communities that were once isolated can now inform one another with the beauty embedded in their traditions. My research on the Hebrew Bible provides an important focus for me. I am captivated by the ways that different reading communities (religious or not) have interpreted the Bible through art and literature. Theologies of protest, lamentation, and distinct paradigms of moral obligations make the Hebrew Bible a library of texts that shakes the soul with beauty. Habakkuk, Ecclesiastes, and the Book of Job offer some of the best insights in this regard. However, one of the most frustrating parts of studying religion is the sheer magnitude of popular misapprehensions. Despite this problem and its connection to broader confusions about the humanities, there is also a growing field of online resources for spreading more sophisticated information about religion. The Society of Biblical Literature is an international body of scholars that increasingly concerns itself with this exact thing, and they have helped create Bible Odyssey (Link) in an effort to spread scholarly, pithy articles on topics in biblical studies. Moreover, the Wabash Center (Link) has been a growing force in providing a collaborative online space for scholars. Other online projects like Digital Dante (Link) provide many of the earliest artistic interpretations of the Divine Comedy, which is particularly captivating and inspirational for me. Of course, there are plenty of other examples I could provide here, but my point is to illustrate how my time as a HASTAC Scholar will be devoted to advancing the presence of scholarship in online spaces. We have a lot to share!

If you would like to contact me or make suggestions about my contributions to the HASTAC community, please email me at trevor.b.williams@vanderbilt.edu; follow me on Twitter at TrevBW; or visit my website: trevorbwilliams.com.

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