Jeffrey Schnapp leads new approach to research in the arts and humanities

2 min read

As revolutionaries go — and he is one, embracing a dynamic new conception of humanistic research in the digital age — Jeffrey Schnapp is really quite grounded. He’s a medievalist, for one thing, a Dante scholar with impeccable credentials and a long track record in all the traditional scholarly forms. And although he founded a collaborative research lab at Harvard to incubate experimental models of knowledge creation and dissemination, he still publishes books, and still uses conventional channels to distribute them.

In short, Schnapp, one of the leading theorists of an emerging set of scholarly practices referred to as the digital humanities, doesn’t intend to shock anyone with talk of a book-less, print-less e-future for the academy. Instead, he makes a persuasive case for what he calls a “print-plus” model of inquiry — a model that exploits the power of new analytic and narrative tools, a model in which iterative process, not just outcome, is important, a model in which print is one of many knowledge-sharing media.

Schnapp helped pioneer this new way of thinking about humanistic practice as the founder of the influential Humanities Lab at Stanford, where he held the Pierotti Chair of Italian Studies before moving to Harvard in 2011. Now he is the faculty director of metaLAB at Harvard, a new research engine for the arts and humanities that is housed at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a University-wide initiative. He is also a professor of Romance languages and literatures and of comparative literature, building productive ties with Ph.D. students across FAS disciplines, who are among metaLAB’s co-founders and most active members. And as a cultural historian who has curated art and architecture installations, he is on the teaching faculty at the Graduate School of Design (GSD).