Digital Humanists Need to Learn How to Count

Mordechai Levy-Eichel and Daniel Scheinerman

There’s an old, self-deprecating Jewish joke about our collective differences. A French student, a German student, an American student, and a Jewish student are each asked to write a paper on the elephant. The French student, of course, writes about the elephant’s sex life; the German one composes a thick tome entitled “Prologue to a Comprehensive Bibliography on the Classification of the Pachyderm”; the American writes about how to make bigger and better elephants; and the Jewish student, as ever, writes about “The Elephant and the Jewish Question.” While neither of the authors of this review essay is especially fond of playing the Jew, certain works — not so much by their focus on Jews, but rather by their omission and marginalization of them — prompt one to sit up and wonder: Wait, just where are the Jews? And why is it so hard to count well in the first place — and not just with regard to Jews — when it comes to the study of literature and the humanities?