Schreibman and Siemans 2008

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Schreibman, Susan and Ray Siemans. A Companion to Digital Literary Studies. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

ePhilology: When Books Talk to their Readers, by Gregory Crane, David Bamman, and Alison Jones


"At least six features distinguish emerging digital resources: (1) they can be delivered to any point on the earth and at any time; (2) they can be fundamentally hypertextual, supporting comprehensive links between assertions and their evidence; (3) they dynamically recombine small, well-defined units of information to serve particular people at particular times; (4) they learn on their own and apply as many automated processes as possible, not only automatic indexing but morphological and syntactic analysis, named entity recognition, knowledge extraction, machine translation, etc., with changes in automatically generated results tracked over time; (5) they learn from their human readers and can make effective use of contributions, explicit and implicit, from a range of users in real time; (6) they automatically adapt themselves to the general background and current purposes of their users."
"All products of information technology —paintings and poems, novels and newspapers, movies and music — have been static since our ancestors first scratched diagrams in the dirt or pressed visions of their world on the walls of caves. Other human hands could add or destroy, but the products of our hands could do nothing but decay, prey to the scorching sun, the worm, or the slow fires of acid within. We can direct our questions to the written word or to the most lifelike painting, but we can expect only silence. Now, however, we have created cultural products that can respond, systems that can change and adapt themselves to our needs."
"The digital world makes possible a new kind of editor: the corpus editor occupies a middle ground between the algorithm-heavy, knowledge-light approaches of computer science and the wholly manual practices of traditional editing. The corpus editor works with thematically coherent bodies of text that are too big to be processed and checked by hand and that therefore demand automated methods."

"Knowledge will be multiplied": Digital Literary Studies and Early Modern Literature, by Matthew Steggle


"a recurring theme will be the ways in which data which already, in some sense, exist, are repackaged, resorted, made searchable, and, above all, made accessible by the tools of digital literary studies."
"What is distinctive about the early modern period, compared to the others under consideration in these essays, is the extent to which its literary canon is made finite and describable, first, by the invention of printing during that period, and second, by the relatively small numbers of books printed."

bibliographic projects and catalogues of late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries; lexicons like OED, DNB, provide the foundation for a digital corpus

  • "The stress on the novelty of electronic resources should not disguise the extent to which they are built out of preceding research."

access and availability

  • "The sheer brute force of these resources entirely changes one's ability to find certain sorts of data in early modern literature. "

Renascence editions, Luminarium

"As for electronic texts, the power of Luminarium lay in the combination of a careful list of links to e-texts scattered around the web, together with Luminarium's own project of easily accessible HTML texts mostly based on Victorian editions (so that, again, the new technologies are, in effect, propagating the work of nineteenth-century scholars)."

LION (Literature Online)

  • didn't rely on OCR but keyed in text; more accurate
  • "LION's usefulness compared to collections on the scale of Luminarium, Renascence Editions, and Representative Poetry Online lies not just in the fact that it offers more texts than them, but also in its ambitions to comprehensive coverage — in the fact that it aims there should be no texts, within its self-imposed limits, which it does not cover."


  • "If EEBO's self-imposed restrictions relate to its date range and to its limitation to print culture, its strength is the range of print culture it enables a reader to get at — not merely literary texts, but sermons, cookery books, guides to arithmetic, and factual material of all sorts. EEBO holds out the prospect of getting a truer sense of proportion than ever before about the extant print culture of early modern Britain."

Internet Shakespeare Editions

  • "The ISE project views Shakespeare's texts as documents existing in multiple forms — old-spelling and modernized spelling; quarto and folio versions; and page-by-page pictorial facsimile of those originals. All of these versions are tied to one another for easy comparison."

Funeral Elegy debate on SHAKSPER

  • "It also marked a transition from a world in which few people were expected to have access — to the results of Foster's computer, to the primary texts, to the latest criticism — into a world in which electronic texts, tools, discussions, and electronic versions of publications both born-digital and born-paper were much more available, so that ultimately indefensible scholarship had, one might say, fewer places to hide. This represents perhaps the most powerful continuity between the digital revolution and traditions of scholarship dating back before the twentieth century and even to Renaissance humanism itself."
"Digital projects, then, have widened access to the data which form the basis of factual and interpretive claims about early modern culture and literature. This applies to texts produced in that period, now available as e-texts and e-editions; to later scholarship, in particular to the datasets exemplified by the OED and the Oxford DNB; and to new secondary texts, in the forms of discussion lists, electronic publications, and blogs."

The Virtual Codex from Page Space to E-space, by Johanna Drucker

Algorithmic Criticism, by Stephen Ramsay


"But "algorithmic criticism" — criticism prompted by the algorithmic manipulation of literary texts — either does not exist, or exists only in nascent form. The digital revolution, for all its wonders, has not penetrated the core activity of literary studies, which, despite numerous revolutions of a more epistemological nature, remains mostly concerned with the interpretive analysis of written cultural artifacts. Texts are browsed, searched, and disseminated by all but the most hardened Luddites in literary study, but seldom are they transformed algorithmically as a means of gaining entry to the deliberately and self-consciously subjective act of critical interpretation."

literary critical "facts" stand in different relation to the "facts"/empiricism of science

"In some sense, humanistic discourse seems to lacks methodology; it cannot describe the ground rules of engagement, the precise means of verification, or even the parameters of its subject matter."
"from a purely cultural standpoint, literary criticism operates at a register in which understanding, knowledge, and truth occur outside of the narrower denotative realm in which scientific statements are made. It is not merely the case that literary criticism is concerned with something other than the amassing of verified knowledge. Literary criticism operates within a hermeneutical framework in which the specifically scientific meaning of fact, metric, verification, and evidence simply do not apply."
"All of this leaves the project of text analysis in a difficult position. For even if we are willing to concede the general utility of computational methods for the project of humanistic inquiry, we must nonetheless contend with a fundamental disjunction between literary critical method and computational method. The logic that underlies computation, though not scientific in the strict sense of the term, conforms easily to the methodologies of science. Computers are, as Hockey noted, good at counting, measuring, and (in a limited sense) verifying data, and we judge the tractability of data by the degree to which it can be made to conform to these requirements. When it comes to literary criticism, however, we find that the "data" is almost entirely intractable from the standpoint of the computational rubric." (c.f., though, Nelson 1974?)
"Literary critical interpretation is not just a qualitative matter, but an insistently subjective manner of engagement."
"If text analysis is to participate in literary critical endeavor in some manner beyond fact-checking, it must endeavor to assist the critic in the unfolding of interpretive possibilities."
"The understanding promised by the critical act arises not from a presentation of facts, but from the elaboration of a gestalt, and it rightfully includes the vague reference, the conjectured similitude, the ironic twist, and the dramatic turn. In the spirit of inventio, the critic freely employs the rhetorical tactics of conjecture — not so that a given matter might be definitely settled, but in order that the matter might become richer, deeper, and ever more complicated."
"If algorithmic criticism is to have a central hermeneutical tenet, it is this: that the narrowing constraints of computational logic — the irreducible tendency of the computer toward enumeration, measurement, and verification — are fully compatible with the goals of criticism set forth above. For while it is possible, and in some cases useful, to confine algorithmic procedures to the scientific realm, such procedures can be made to conform to the methodological project of inventio without transforming the nature of computation or limiting the rhetorical range of critical inquiry. This is possible, because critical reading practices already contain elements of the algorithmic."
"It is not that such matters as redemptive world views and Marxist readings of texts can be arrived at algorithmically, but simply that algorithmic transformation can provide the alternative visions that give rise to such readings. The computer does this in a particularly useful way by carrying out transformations in a rigidly holistic manner."

pattern seeking

Electronic Scholarly Editions, by Kenneth M. Price

"if we assess the current moment and consider key genres of traditional print scholarship — articles, monographs, collections of essays, and scholarly editions — we find that digital work has achieved primacy only for editions."

documentary vs. intentionalist editors

  • "disregard of the material object is seen also in editions that emphasize the intention of the writer over the actual documents produced."