I’ve just finished teaching 58 first-year students the adult short stories of Roald Dahl, the 20th-century English writer better known for children’s books. (Here’s the course outline in PDF.)
From 1944 to 1988 Dahl, who died in 1990, wrote and published stories for adults: beginning with memoirs of his RAF service during the second world war, and covering a range of topics and settings: suburban English and American life; dysfunctional marriages; country pastimes in his rural Buckinghamshire (dog races, pheasant poaching); pick-pocketing, rat-catching, and human taxidermy.
This week I’m away to the Pacific Northwest Renaissance Conference to deliver a paper on rhetorical figures in early modern drama. (Wait! Don’t stop reading, it gets better.) I feel like a legit digital humanist for the first time in my life, because I’ve written my own computer program to analyze texts – a bash script in Unix that you can try for yourself on Github.
I presented it first at the Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies (CSRS) conference at Congress 2015, and a revised version a few weeks later at the 2015 Shakespearean Theatre Conference in Stratford, Ontario.
My subject is “Augmented Criticism and Rhetorical Figures.” If that sounds highly technical, let me assure you that Adam and I are literary critics first and digital humanists second. That is, we use computers only to augment traditional research inquities, that are rooted in philology.
Here, for instance, our inquiry is into rhetorical figures, or the patterns of repetition and variation that make poetic language memorable, compelling, and beautiful.
One of my favorite podcasts, Mac Power Users, has just released a stand-alone show on DEVONthink, the information-management system for Mac that I’ve used for the past five years or so. If you’ve heard of Evernote, which is the system that MPU’s hosts Katie and David frequently talk about, then you know what DEVONthink is.
This paper explores literary complexity as it manifests in rhetorical figures, or the patterns of repetition and variation that make language beautiful and memorable, and thus make it powerful. Figures have the advantage of being computationally tractable. My research team has a Python script that uses regular expressions to detect them — first in Shakespeare’s works, and then in a 400-play corpus (supplied by Martin Mueller) from 1576 to 1642. Below, I compare Shakespeare’s use of one figure to these broader habits of usage. I conclude that while Shakespeare’s use appears to be more nuanced, it is also more narrow in its ambitions.
A CFP for RSA 2016, 31 March – 2 April, Boston MA
Since 2001, the Renaissance Society of America annual meetings have featured panels on the applications of new technology in scholarly research, publishing, and teaching sponsored by Iter. Panels at the 2016 meeting (31 March – 2 April, Boston) will continue to explore new and emerging projects and methodologies — this year also featuring virtual presentations and interactions at and in advance of the conference in Boston, in partnership with Iter Community.
We welcome proposals for papers, panels, and or poster / demonstration / workshop presentations on new technologies and their impact on research, teaching, publishing, and beyond, in the context of Renaissance Studies. Examples of the many areas considered by members of our community can be found in the list of papers presented at the RSA since 2001 and in those papers published thus far under the heading of New Technologies and Renaissance Studies.