My old WordPress theme was getting obsolete, so I’ve gone Back to the Future with a ‘new’ theme released in 2017 (new to me, anyway). It has multiple advantages: like publishing categories more transparently, for instance.
There should still be some errant [bracketed] tags here and there, which I’ll replace in due course. (Some of the categories, like the newsletters on teaching and learning that I used to publish when I was Associate Dean, were littered with them, but I think I’ve removed them all now.) Most of the site now looks pretty functional, I hope. As ever, suggestions and reports are welcome.
I’m giving a workshop at the University of Calgary’s Language Research Centre on the 16th of November 2018 (Craigie Hall D420, 9-10:30 am). Here’s the abstract:
A Gentle Introduction to Natural Language Processing
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is less intimidating than its name suggests. It’s just using a computer to process texts written in ‘natural’ (i.e. non-computer) languages like English, Estonian, or Esperanto. It slices those texts into lists of words, and then it does things with those words: counting, sorting, categorizing, comparing, transforming, substituting, and visualizing them. (Here’s my introduction and tutorial on some of these basic functions.) NLP is behind every phrase you Google, and every query you pose to Siri or Alexa; but what concerns us in this workshop is its potential for language research. You’ll learn how to collect and process texts, and how to run algorithms that quantify your qualitative inquiries. A case study will be my work detecting rhetorical figures like chiasmus in Shakespeare (“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”). To benefit from this workshop you need no programming experience, only a willingness to treat texts as data.
Preface: Knowledge and Information
Shall I compare thee, human, to a machine? Thou art more critical and more intemperate (Shakespeare, Sonnet 18).
But seriously: how do human readers compare to machines? I ask because I want to define how literary critics can use machines to augment and extend our readings. Figuring that out depends on an understanding of how our readings compare to the machine’s abilities. Sure, they’re faster: but faster at what, exactly?
Continue reading “NLP for Literary Critics: An Introduction and Tutorial”
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. Continue reading “The Roald Not Taken: Teaching the Short Stories”
Apparently I’m in the 20% of YouTube’s 1.3 billion users who don’t watch it regularly. But I am among the 50 million who upload content to it. Since 2010 I’ve produced just five videos, whose collective 84 minutes is a drop in the ocean compared to the 300 hours of video uploaded each minute. It would take you 60,000 years to watch YouTube’s entire back catalogue.
Continue reading “Teaching with YouTube”
I write, with my keyboard, all day. Every day. E-mails, lecture notes, grant applications, status updates, first drafts, second drafts, slideshow bullets, blog posts. To paraphrase the great Johnny Cash, I type everywhere, man.
And along the way, I find I quite often need to write the same words and numbers. I close every e-mail the same jaunty way (“yours, Michael”); I give students the same directions to my office; I repeat the same writing advice in my grading; my phone number hasn’t changed in a decade.
Continue reading “Text Accordians”
“I’ll bet you think you know this story. You don’t. The real one’s much more gory.” Roald Dahl wrote this about the tale of Cinderella in Revolting Rhymes, but it also applies to the stories he wrote for adults from 1944 to 1988. “Nobody in their right mind would want to be a character in a Roald Dahl short story,” writes Anthony Horowitz (2.x). This author of beloved children’s books was known as ‘the master of the macabre’ for the twisted imagination he reveals in stories abounding with cruelty, lust, madness, and murder.
Continue reading “Roald Dahl’s Stories for Adults”
This is the paper that I delivered on 13 November 2017 at the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) annual meeting at the University of Victoria (British Columbia). Here’s the PDF of my slideshow, whose images intersect my script below. Continue reading “TEI for Close-Readings”
(This continues my previous post on this research project, about my questions and initial steps.)
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.
Okay, so my program just prepares my text files to run a far more complex program by Marie Dubremetz at Uppsala University (chiasmusDetector), but getting it to run on my files took some work.
Continue reading “Get with the Programming”