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Whitney Sperrazza

Assistant Professor

Department of English
College of Liberal Arts

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Whitney Sperrazza

Assistant Professor

Department of English
College of Liberal Arts


Prof. Sperrazza is currently on research leave through Summer 2023.

My work sits at the intersections of early modern literary studies, histories of science, intersectional feminist theory, and digital humanities. I take a highly interdisciplinary approach in both my research and teaching, always interested in the questions that form in disciplinary contact zones.

I am currently at work on several major projects. First, my in-progress book traces an alternative history of women’s engagement with science. Instead of looking for singular examples of female scientists throughout history, I turn to the work of female poets who were engaging with new scientific questions and methods in 16th- and 17th-century England. The book centers on the following questions: how does women's poetry prompt us to reconsider what counts as scientific work? what can women's writing teach us about the relationship between poetic and scientific practices? what are the different ways in which science can manifest poetically?

Second, I am building a digital project prototype exploring the relationships among book history, textile work, and computer programming. /The Craft of Computation/ will be a robust digital exhibit featuring the first book made by an automated machine, a silk woven edition of /Les Laboureurs/ (1883) by Alphonse de Lamartine, held at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at RIT. With this project, I aim to expand the familiar story of computing history and bolster efforts to bridge humanities and STEM fields.

Finally, together with a regional team of faculty, staff, students, community educators, and activists, I am designing and building a digital humanities project titled /Resistance Mapping/. This interactive project supports ongoing anti-racist curriculum development for Rochester schools, and will serve as a portal into place-based racism and resistance in Monroe County, NY.

I teach in both the English Department and the Digital Humanities and Social Sciences Program. My goal as an instructor is to help students understand and think beyond disciplinary boundaries, always with an eye to the relationship between past and present, physical and digital. 


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Select Scholarship

Journal Paper
Sperrazza, Whitney. "Mary Sidney’s Postmortem Poetics." Shakespeare Studies 49. (2021): 175-180. Print.
Sperrazza, Whitney. "Knowing Mary Wroth's Pamphilia." Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 19. 3 (2019): 1-35. Print.
Invited Article/Publication
Sperrazza, Whitney. "The Algorithm’s Needlework Origins." The Sundial. (2021). Web.
Sperrazza, Whitney. "Reading Anatomy Texts Like Poetry (and why we should do it more often)." The Collation: Folger Shakespeare Library. (2021). Web.
Sperrazza, Whitney. "Before Lovelace." Lady Science. (2020). Web.
Published Review
Sperrazza, Whitney. "Early Modern Manuscripts Online." Rev. of Early Modern Manuscripts Online, ed. Isabella Magni. Early Modern Digital Review 2020: n.p. Web.

Currently Teaching

3 Credits
The course provides a basic introduction to the application of computation in the research and practice of the humanities, arts, and social sciences. The class offers students entry to work with archival theory and practice; textuality and electronic scholarly communication; data mining, analysis, and visualization; the spatial and temporal “turns;” game studies and digital arts. The course offers hands on experimentation with software platforms available to create scholarly and artistic production and theoretical approaches to digital presentation. Students will complete assignments requiring conceptual, aesthetic, and practical approaches to digital engagement with cultural materials. While no programming knowledge is required, students will design and create an online project using tools and platforms that are considered standard practice in the field, and reflect critically on the utility of digital techniques in their dialogue with the humanities.
3 Credits
The central focus of this course will be the excavation of textual, visual, and sonic materials, obsolete or emerging. The archaeological metaphor evokes both the desire to recover material traces of the past and the imperative to situate those traces in their social, cultural, and political contexts. How does the digital age imagine backwards to the Industrial Age and vice versa? Is it true that virtually everything that is being invented now for a digital age had its origins in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century industrial age? (inventions of telegraphy and telephony, electricity, photography, cinema, the automobile, the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classification systems, muckraking and sensationalist journalism, celebrity culture, the skyscraper, the office, the typewriter, the Brownie camera). We will take a research approach that explores moments in which both familiar and unfamiliar devices have yet to emerge as significant or disappear as curiosities.
3 Credits
We encounter digital texts and codes every time we use a smart phone, turn on an app, read an e-book, or interact online. This course examines the innovative combinations of text and code that underpin emerging textual practices such as electronic literatures, digital games, mobile communication, geospatial mapping, interactive and locative media, augmented reality, and interactive museum design. Drawing on key concepts of text and code in related fields, students will analyze shifting expressive textual practices and develop the literacies necessary to read and understand them. Practicing and reflecting on such new media literacies, the course explores their social, cultural, creative, technological, and legal significance. To encourage multiple perspectives on these pivotal concepts of text and code and their import, the course includes guest lectures by scholars and practitioners in these fields.
3 Credits
Designed for English majors, this course provides an introduction to methods used to analyze, interpret, and visualize textual data. Students will learn how to formulate research questions, collect relevant data, and disseminate findings. Students across tracks will leave the course with a toolbox of approaches for applied work as well as critical understanding of methodological and ethical considerations of working with textual data.
3 Credits
This course provides an in-depth look at literary giants and the masterpieces of prose or poetry they have created; it's an opportunity to see the role they played both within the context of their own time and within the larger span of literary history. These great authors confront key questions of modernity that continue to occupy us to this day; they ask the question of what it means to be human and explore fundamental human themes. They give us a fresh perspective on the past and on ourselves.

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