I’m Avery J. Wiscomb, an Assistant Professor of Modernist Studies 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.
For AY21-22, I’m teaching History of Humanities Computing and Intro to Science Fiction, while working on a monograph entitled Herbert A. Simon and His Books. My current research offers a humanities-oriented history of symbolic artificial intelligence as it emerged in the U.S. mid-century in Herbert A. Simon’s technical work. Drawing from a novel archive of Simon’s papers totaling ~87,000 documents and comparing them to books from his home and office libraries, the project magnifies models visible in Simon’s writing and translates them back into their literary source texts.
What I’ve Done
Previously, I was a National Science Foundation-funded research fellow for a computational book history project entitled Print and Probability. Working with Christopher Warren, Max G’Sell, and Taylor Berg-Kirkpatrick, I helped develop computer-assisted methods for book history and computational bibliography. We recently published an article in Eighteenth-Century Studies that reports on some of our team’s methods 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 with 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 amazing CMU faculty.
I have also collaborated on multiple team-based public humanities projects. In 2018, I co-curated The Frankenstein Complex, which was on display at the Posner Center and Fine Arts Foundation as a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel. This project later informed my work on The Frankenstein Variorum, a digital humanities project funded by a Mellon Foundation Seed Grant 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, and an MA in Rhetoric and a PhD in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University.
If you are interested in collaborating on research, teaching, or digital efforts, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.