Distant reading, driven by the development of digital technology in the human sciences, has emerged as one of the most prolific approaches to literary texts. Maps, graphs and trees, in Moretti’s (2005) words, allow us to reread famous works in a new way, or to look at large amounts of texts that have long been forgotten. However, often, approaches to distant reading disregard the acquisition of the data to be observed: Where do they come from? How are they created?

Our training school proposes to return to the crucial stage of data acquisition, focusing on details of the production chain of literary data. During the two-day course, we will start with OCR (optical character recognition), which makes it possible to transform an image into machine-readable text, addressing the difficulties introduced by the variation of graphic systems or the materiality of old artifacts. The second – decisive – step is the encoding in XML-TEI, which transforms the text into a usable database and allows to addition of more information to the text (e.g., author, gender, period) for ensuing analysis. The third and final step is the analysis with R, which allows hypotheses to be tested and patterns to be explored by analysing and visualising data.

Basel Public and University Library, venue for the Training School

With a strong emphasis on practical experience, this training school is geared towards building the framework for a first multilingual Swiss literary corpus (French, Italian and German). Tasks participating in its construction during the training school will provide an opportunity to discuss pertinent issues.

This course is part of a collective work carried out within the European COST “Distant Reading For European Literary History” project of which the organizers are the Swiss representatives: https://www.distant-reading.net/

The working language of the training school is English, knowledge of at least one of the three languages of the literary data (French, Italian, German) is also required.

All information, including the full training school programme, can be found in French, German, and Italian here and here.

Registration process: target group of the training school isdoctoral students affiliated with the universities of Basel, Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Neuchâtel and Lausanne as well as from the EPFL. Post-doc researchers can apply via a short email pending registration of PhD students who have priority.

Please register by sending an email to alexandre.camus@unil.ch  Participation is free of charge for doctoral students. All travel and accommodation expenses are covered by the doctoral program.

Practical information:

  • Course title “Distant Reading – Tools and Methods”
  • Instructors: Simon Gabay, Berenike Herrmann, Simone Rebora, Elias Kreyenbühl
  • Date: 12 and 13 December 2019
  • Location: Basel Public and University Library (UB)
  • Schedule: 9am-5.30pm 

The First Workshop on Distant Reading in Portuguese will take place on 27-28 October 2019 at the University of Oslo, and will feature a presentation on our COST Action on Distant Reading for European Literary History by Isabel Araújo Branco, Diana Santos, Paulo Silva Pereira and Raquel Amaro.

Leitura distante em Português (Distant Reading in Portuguese)
Image created by Oriel Wandrass, Universidade Estadual do Maranhão (UEMA)

At the conference, which features additional presentations by members of our Action, participants will illustrate the state of the art, discuss research questions for the medium and long term, and to take a position on several Portuguese-related matters within the sphere of Distant Reading.

Further details, including the programme of the workshop and abstracts, are available here: Portuguese | English (via Google Translate).

We are very happy to announce that Action members Roxana Patraș and Ioana Galleron received approval for funding their project HAI-RO (Hajduk Novels in Romania During the Long Nineteenth Century: Digital Edition and Corpus Analysis Assisted by Computational Tools) within the “Brâncuși” Program for Integrated Actions. Even if the acronym HAI-RO originally stood for “Romanian hajduk” we like to think of it more in the terms of its literal translation: “Come on, Romania!”

Roxana Patraș and Ioana Galleron

The program rests on an enthusiastic collaboration between the “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iași and Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle, which started when the project’s principal investigators decided to experiment on a series of TEI-XML novels for ELTeC (the “European Literary Text Collection” developed within the Distant Reading COST Action. This further lead to the formation of a French-Romanian team whose members are Camelia Grădinaru, Ioana Lionte and Alexandra Oltean (both of them Training School grantees), Lucreția Pascariu, Chiara Mainardi, and Ofra Lévy.

Alexandra Olteanu, Lucreția Pascariu, and Camelia Grădinaru

In a nutshell, the project seeks to remedy the shortcomings of the resources and tools specially designed for the Romanian Computational Literary Studies. The research will focus on the characterisation of the features that are inherent to “the hajduk literature” by adapting the specific instruments of corpus linguistics to the specificities of literary texts printed in non-standardised Romanian. This will be completed with an analysis of the external features developed along the historical evolution of a literary genre that has generally been labelled as “national”.

The main result of the project will be the creation of a Romanian literary corpus (1850-1950) conformant with the XML-TEI international standard of digital editing and including semantic annotations. The project will be accessible on an Open Access basis and will be stored on the Nakala platform (France) and signalled on HAL-SHS. In accordance with its scientific objectives, the project will produce a schema and an annotation guide for spatial terms, both adapted to literary texts. It will also provide a rich input for the Romanian collection of ELTeC.

Ioana Lionte

For more details, visit the HAI-RO project website at: https://proiectulbrancusihairo.wordpress.com

Action members Mike Kestemont (University of Antwerp) and Maciej Eder (Polish Academy of Sciences) are happy to report that they have recently secured funding for a three-year, collaborative research project, following a joint call of the Research agency of Flanders (FWO) and the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAS). The project can be considered a spin-off of this COST action and, as an academic airbridge between Antwerp and Krakow, it will intensify the already strong ties that exist between various research teams in their respective institutions.

Maciej Eder and Mike Kestemont

The project is entitled ‘Deep Learning in Computational Stylistics.’ In the proposed collaboration, they aim to turn our attention to “deep” representation learning in order to improve computational methods for the robust stylistic analysis of short documents (< 1000 words). Although this technology is nowadays also emerging in Humanities research, it is surprising how (relatively) few applications have been reported so far in the domain of authorship attribution. The few research examples that have been published in this domain focus on micro-blogging data and is hard to extrapolate to longer documents. The researchers propose a three-year collaboration aimed at the introduction and adaptation of deep learning methods to computational stylistics, with an emphasis on author identification. 

Congratulations to Mike and Maciej!

We are proud to relay the news that the Czech Inter-COST project “Modeling of Complexity in Literary Texts” has just been launched. During the next three years, Dr. Silvie Cinkova and her team will investigate matters of readability in literary texts from the nineteenth century, for example adapting readability measures to the Czech language and evaluating their accuracy and usefulness for texts in Czech.

The project is associated with the Distant Reading COST Action and collaborates with several COST Action members, notably those working together in the Computational Stylistics Group.

The project is located at the Institute of Formal and Applied Linguistics (ÚFAL) at the Computer Science School, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University, Prague, and is funded by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport of the Czech Republic.