Hello

I’m Avery J. Wiscomb, an Assistant Professor of Modernist Studies and Digital Humanities in the Department of English at Virginia Tech. Broadly, my research and teaching interests are driven by questions about the reciprocal connections between science, technology, and literature. In terms of literature and the book, my main interests are in the relations of influence between literature and computer science.

For AY21-22, I’m teaching History of Humanities Computing and Introduction to Science Fiction while working on a scholarly monograph entitled Herbert A. Simon and His Books. The monograph offers a humanities-oriented history of symbolic artificial intelligence (AI) as it emerged in the U.S. mid-century in the technical work of Herbert A. Simon. I draw from a novel archive of Simon’s papers totaling ~87,000 documents and then compare them to books from his home and office libraries and from his undergraduate education at the University of Chicago. Thus the project seeks to magnify models visible in Simon’s work and translate them back into their literary, philosophical, and historical source texts.

What I’ve Done 

Previously, I was a National Science Foundation-funded research fellow for a book history project entitled Print and Probability. In this capacity, I helped develop computer-assisted book history and computational bibliography methods with Christopher WarrenMax G’Sell, and Taylor Berg-Kirkpatrick. We recently published an article in Eighteenth-Century Studies that reports on some of our team’s practices and discoveries: “Canst Thou Draw Out Leviathan with Computational Bibliography? New Angles on Printing Thomas Hobbes’ ‘Ornaments’ Edition.”

Prior to the NSF, I held positions advancing research and teaching involving digital scholarship. For example, from 2017–19, I was a HASTAC Scholar for Carnegie Mellon University’s digital humanities lab, dSHARP. In 2017, I was an A.W. Mellon Fellow in the Digital Humanities learning from Scott Weingart and Jessica Otis. And in 2018, I was CMU’s Fellow in Humanities Analytics (HumAn), inaugurating a new minor in Humanities Analytics for undergraduates with David Kaufer and other exceptional CMU faculty.

I have also collaborated on multiple team-based public humanities projects. In 2018, I co-curated The Frankenstein Complexwhich was on display at the Posner Center and Fine Arts Foundation to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel. This project later informed my work on The Frankenstein Variorum, a digital humanities project led by Elisa Beshero-Bondar and Jon P. Klancher and funded by a Mellon Foundation Seed Grant. The project sought to create an annotated, variorum-style interface for viewing and comparing five versions of Shelley’s text (in print and manuscript form).

My research interests are informed by my educational background in intellectual history and the liberal arts. I earned a BA in Liberal Arts from The Evergreen State College, an MA in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College, Annapolis, an MA in Rhetoric, and a Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University.

If you are interested in collaborating on research, teaching, or digital efforts, don’t hesitate to contact me at awiscomb@vt.edu.