The third article of the Distant Reading Recommends series is written by Ellie Boyadzhieva of the South-West University of Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria. She describes a prominent revolutionary novel from the Bulgarian tradition whose enduring popularity is felt to this day.

In Distant Reading Recommends, an Action member introduces a novel, published between 1850 and 1920, from one of the participating countries in our Action. These novels may be important or notable within the individual nation’s literary tradition, but less well-known in the broader European context. By bringing these novels to light, we aim to further advance our objectives of creating a broader, more inclusive, and better-grounded account of European literary history and cultural identity.

The novel Под игото (Under the Yoke) was written by Ivan Vazov, who is commonly referred to as “the Patriarch of Bulgarian literature” by Bulgarian literary historians. 

Ivan Vazov (1850-1921) lived on the border of two eras and his numerous literary works depict two significant periods of Bulgarian history: the Renaissance and the Post-Liberation epoch. During his lifetime he was also a prominent public figure who exerted a huge influence on Bulgarian literary and cultural life.

Ivan Vazov

He wrote Under the Yoke in Odessa (today’s Ukraine) where, in 1886, Vazov was forced into exile because of the persecution of the Russophile political faction of which he was an active member.

The novel consists of three parts. The first part was published in 1889 in the periodical Collection of Folk Lore, Science and Literature, and the other two parts were published in the same volume in 1890.

The first English edition of Under the Yoke (1894)

Curiously enough, Under the Yoke was first published as a separate volume in English in 1894. The British editor William Heinemann included it as № 14 in his newly-founded series, Heinemann’s International Library, which published English translations of classical authors from all over the world. In this way, the novel was designated as a world literary classic on its initial publication. Later on in the same year, Under the Yoke was published in Bulgaria by T. F. Chipev. In the subsequent years three more Bulgarian editions appeared. Today Под игото is translated into over 30 languages, including Japanese.

The subtitle of the novel is “From the Life of the Bulgarians on the Eve of the Liberation,” as it depicts the heroic time leading to the April Uprising against Ottoman rule in 1876 and its subsequent cruel suppression.

The first Bulgarian edition of Под игото (1894)

The main protagonist in the novel, Boycho Ognyanov, is a romantic character: a personification of the revolutionary spirit in Bulgaria on the eve of the April Uprising. He is a brave and glamorous leader of the national liberation movement and a representative of the young Bulgarian intelligentsia.

The location where the action develops is the small mountainous town of Bjala Cherkva (White Church) in the spring of 1875. The first scene depicts a peaceful dinner in the home of Chorbadzhi Marko which is suddenly interrupted by a startling noise of falling bricks. Marko goes to check out what is happening and recognizes Ivan Kralicha, an outlaw who has managed to escape from Diyarbakir [1]. The Turkish soldiers are knocking on Marko’s gate and Kralicha runs away. He takes shelter in a windmill outside the town where he kills two Turks to save the life of the miller and his little daughter. The miller helps him to bury them and takes him to the nearby monastery. Later he meets Doctor Sokolov and the two young men become friends as they share one and the same ideal: the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule. Sokolov invents a new identity for Kralicha under which he enters the community of Bjala Cherkva [2].

Ognyanov is hired as a teacher. This allows him to settle down in the town and to preside over the secret revolutionary committee. He saves the reputation of the young teacher Rada Gospozhina at the yearly exams in the girls’ school, and receives the approval of all honest town folk. Everything goes smoothly until one of the schoolgirls unintentionally reveals revolutionary accounts she overheard at home, causing chaos. After that episode Rada and Ognyanov fall in love.

The story unfolds by depicting the preparation for the uprising, which changes the lives of many of the characters and finishes with the defeat of the revolt. Ognyanov, Sokolov and Rada sacrifice their lives in the final battle with the Turks.

Bulgarian literary historians unanimously agree that Under the Yoke is the first historical novel and the most famous novel in the Bulgarian literary tradition that has influenced other fiction written in this period and thereafter. Although the main theme is uniquely Bulgarian, the author’s technique of narration with sudden turning points, escalating suspense, and unexpected climaxes, is deeply influenced by French romanticism and especially by Victor Hugo’s historical novels. For over 50 years it has been included in the Bulgarian secondary school curriculum, and is still revered by Bulgarian readers. In 2009, the novel was voted as Bulgaria’s favourite novel in the “Big Read” campaign, organised by Bulgarian National television.

Read the text of Под игото, which will soon be included in the Bulgarian contribution to ELTeC.

[1] Diyarbakir is a fortified city in Turkey, which during the Ottoman rule was used as a prison for political convicts from the Christian parts of the Empire.

[2] His new name is Boycho Ognyanov, which is a symbolic name. Boycho derives from бой, meaning fight and Ognyanov derived from огън, meaning fire.

The COST Action Distant Reading for European Literary History is issuing a Call for Applications for its third Training School, hosted by the Centre for Digital Humanities – Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest from September 23 to 25, and co-located with the DH_Budapest 2019 conference

Note that participation is free of charge! Applicants may apply for one of the grants for participation in one of the 3 parallel tracks: 
TRACK 1: Corpus design and text contribution for ELTeC
TRACK 2: Natural Language Processing for Distant Reading 
TRACK 3: Canonization in Distant Reading Research  

To apply, please see the information and instructions in the full Call for Applications. Applications will be sent to Roxana Patras ( and Christof Schöch ( before June 25th, 2019 until July 15, 2019. In case you have questions regarding the call, the application process or the Training School, please contact Roxana Patras, the Action’s Training School Coordinator (

Beside the participation in one of the 3 parallel tracks, there are also opportunities for all Training School participants to register for and participate in the DH_BUDAPEST 2019 conference, held in Budapest and directly following the Training School, from September 25 to 27, 2019! Information will be available on the conference page

More details regarding the programme of the Training School are forthcoming. Please watch the page dedicated to the Training School on the Action’s website at:
Please feel free to disseminate this message within your own research communities. Early Career Investigators (ECI) from Inclusiveness Target Countries (ITC) ( are strongly encouraged to apply!

The second article of the Distant Reading Recommends series is written by Roxana Patras of “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi in Romania. Her piece describes a notable hajduk novel, from a genre which followed the adventures of these romanticised hero figures of the Balkans.

In Distant Reading Recommends, an Action member introduces a novel, published between 1850 and 1920, from one of the participating countries in our Action. These novels may be important or notable within the individual nation’s literary tradition, but less well-known in the broader European context. By bringing these novels to light, we aim to further advance our objectives of creating a broader, more inclusive, and better-grounded account of European literary history and cultural identity.

Around 1855, when French, English, German and Hungarian translations of Romanian ballads started to be published, Iancu Jianu did not look like an epitome of the Romanian hajduk. Thus, translators such as Jules Michelet, Henry Stanley, Wilhelm von Koetzebue, Karoly Acs or Vasile Alecsandri went for texts that featured braver outlaws, whose names were spelled in funny westernised versions: “Mihou” ou “Michu”, “Toma Alimoche” or “Thoma Alimosch”, “Boujor”, “Kodran”. Attested from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century and spread throughout the entire Central and South-Eastern Europe (Rodopi Mountains, Srena Gora, Stara Planina, Olympus Mountains, Romania Mountain in Bosnia), the Bulgarian haiduti/hayduds, the Serbian hajduks, the Greek klephts, the Albanian kaçaks, the Ukrainian cossacks, the Croatian uskoks, and the Romanian haiduci were known as paramilitary organisations championing democratic decision-making, rebellion against the feudal privileges and chiefly against the Ottoman rulers, a sort of alternative proto-socialist economy and a nomad lifestyle. The hajduk literature, ballads and derived genre fiction, is thus specific to the entire Balkan area, its regional development being favoured by shared geographic, economic, social, and cultural conditions.

Indeed, Jianu’s ballad is considerably shorter and looks lesser adventurous than others of the same type. Living between 1787 and 1842, also being Tudor Vladimirescu’s right-hand man during the 1821 Revolution, it seems that the Romanian hajduk would survive his dying legend and probably witness the decay of his own text (allegedly authored by himself) into bits of drinking songs, as the ones assembled by Anton Pann’s in his colportage collections. Surprisingly, a decade after his death, Iancu Jianu was resurrected as a die-hard literary character and as a national symbol that, for over a century and a half, would enthrall a lot of Romanian writers, composers, film and stage directors.

Images from editions of Popescu’s Iancu Jianu

A young and very energetic aspirant named Nicolae D. Popescu (1843-1921) speculated the success of melodramas and vaudevilles authored and directed by Matei Millo around 1855 and turned the dramatis persona into a sensational character. The resulting novel was issued in no fewer than 7 editions, comprising 5000 copies each. Taking into consideration the social, cultural and economic context, especially the low levels of literacy during the period of its publication, we might say that these are numbers that indicate market success, professionalisation of writing and enforcement of literary institutions. Gaining fame with this simple trick of rewriting recent national history as sensational literature, N. D. Popescu came to be acclaimed as “Romania’s Ponson du Terrail,” as the unchallenged master of nineteenth-century Romanian pulp fiction. Indeed, he wrote around 60 novels, the majority of them belonging to the hajduk genre. 

Between 1868 and 1916, the novel series Iancu Jianu grew in complexity from a structural, thematic and symbolical point of view, at the same time accommodating new historical and ethnographic content coming from scholars who were assiduously researching the hajduk’s biography. As the author himself avers in several prefatory notes, the story about the publication and growth of this series is as spectacular as the hero’s life. While the first edition was actually a newspaper installment and did not exceed the average length of a short-story, the second and the third editions, published in 1872 and 1881, were issued in response to readership demand. Apparently, the hagiographical structure of the fourth edition (1887) was an innovation inspired by Jianu’s recently-revealed autobiography and by a series of unknown documents and testimonies such as those published by Gr. G. Tocilescu, V. A. Urechia, and C. D. Aricescu around 1880; so, the novelist would now deliver the same novel in two mirrored parts that presented the hero’s deeds and temper before and after his conversion to an outlaw’s lifestyle: (a) Iancu Jianu, Zapciu/Iancu Jianu, the County-Tax Collector and (b) Iancu Jianu, Haiducul/Iancu Jianu, the Hajduk.

But the character sold too well for the publishers not to try more profitable typographic formulae or easy-going copyright transfers. The fifth edition had a third part, where the novelist developed the circumstances of Iancu Jianu’s death. The sixth edition (1912) returned to the hagiographical pattern, while the seventh edition (1912) seemed to be an aggregate of the previous ones.

Illustrations of Iancu Jianu

Why does Iancu Jianu decide to become a hajduk in king Caradja’s times? Beside his sister’s/his betrothed one’s elopement, beside his brothers’ plundering of properties, beside the strong ideological commitment to Φιλική Εταιρεία/Filiki Eteria and Tudor Vladimirescu’s riot against the Ottoman Empire, there is something about Iancu Jianu that places him in Karl Moor’s descent and makes him the most romantic Romanian hajduk of them all. Apart from his particular social status—he is an aristocrat offspring, while his kinds are rebellious peasants—it is his deep melancholy, his inexplicable longing for loneliness, isolation and perhaps self-extinction that express a modern consciousness, a troubled sense of identity, an intellectualised manner of acting. Indeed, his decision to commit himself to a hajduk lifestyle, his surrendering to the Phanariote militia and escape from the salt mine, his love affair with his host (Catinca/Ilinca/Stăncuța) and then the forced marriage to Sultana look like not entirely assumed acts, as if the hero is not thoroughly participating in his own life and story.

Taking into consideration the author’s massive interventions on the original text during half a century (1869-1912), Iancu Jianu, Haiducul could hardly be defined as a single novel. It should be considered more of a work-in-progress series. Certainly, there is magic about it, as the hajduk leader’s brave deeds and abyssal personality attracted not only N. D. Popescu’s imitators (Panait Macri, Panait Popescu, Anton Marcu, Ilie Ighel, T. M. Stoenescu, Ștefan Stoenescu, Alexandru Munte Stânceanul, Lazăr, Simion Bălănescu), but also accomplished writers such as Bucura Dumbravă or Panaït Istrati. They exported Iancu Jianu and the hajduk type through novels that were published in Germany (Der Haiduck, Der Pandur) and France (Présentation des Haïdouks). The force of this literary myth is also illustrated by a legion of texts, movie scripts, movie series and musicals that were produced under the Communist regime.

I remember that, during the 1980s when the programme of the Romanian national television was severely limited to 2 hours a day, the movie series Haiducii/The Hajduks, Pintea Haiducul/Pintea, the Hajduk, and Iancu Jianu were anticipated with restless excitement and watched in stunned admiration. Directors Dinu Cocea and Mircea Moldovan would avail of Romania’s isolation and deliver to the communist audiences a kind of Balkan western. This is another proof that Iancu Jianu, Haiducul should be recommended not only as a text authored by N. D. Popescu and restyled by many others, but also as a complex cultural phenomenon whose stretching in time and whose variety of artistic extensions makes it a perfect topic for distant-reading research.


According to Dictionarul Cronologic al Romanului Romanesc (The Chronological Dictionary of the Romanian Novel), N. D. Popescu wrote the following novels featuring Iancu Jianu:

Iancu Jianul, căpitanul de haiduci, Bucharest, Editura Librăriei H. Steinberg, 1873, 140 p.

Iancu Jianu, zapciu de plasă. Nuvelă originală, Bucharest, Editura Librăriei H. Steinberg, 1887, V + 120 p.

Moartea lui Iancu Jianu, căpitan de haiduci. Nuvelă originală, Bucharest, Editura Librăriei H. Steinberg, 1894, 176 p.

Tinereţea lui Iancu Jianu, vestit căpitan de haiduci, Bucharest, Tip. Concurenţa, 1909, 164 p.

Jancu Jianu, polcovnic de poteraşi, Bucharest, Tip. Concurenţa, 1910, 148 p.

Scăparea lui Jancu Jianu din ocna părăsită, Bucharest, Tip. Concurenţa, 1911, 178 p.

Dragostea lui Iancu Jianu cu Smaranda Gălăşeasca. Nuvelă originală, Bucharest, Tip. Concurenţa, 1916, 174 p.

Prinderea lui Iancu Jianu căpitanul de haiduci. Nuvelă originală, Buc., Tip. Concurenţa, 1916, 143 p.

Versions of Iancu Jianu editions as well as other Romanian hajduk novels are available on Zenodo:

DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2648515; DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2648518; DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2648520; DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2648524; DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2648528; DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2648532; DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2648457.

For more info on Iancu Jianu’s biography and literary legacy:

For more details on the hajduk movie series:;

Many thanks to Cornelia Viziteu and to the librarians of Botoșani County Library, who provided me with scanned copies of several volumes from the “Iancu Jianu” series.

This is the first of a new occasional series of articles called Distant Reading Recommends. In each article, an Action member will introduce a novel, published between 1850 and 1920, from one of the participating countries in our Action. These novels may be important or notable within the individual nation’s literary tradition, but less well-known in the broader European context. By bringing these novels to light, we aim to further advance our objectives of creating a broader, more inclusive, and better-grounded account of European literary history and cultural identity.

The first article of the series comes to us from Lithuania, and is written by Saulius Keturakis of Kaunas University of Technology.

The novel Kuprelis (The Hunchback) was written and published in 1913 by Lithuanian writer and diplomat Ignas Šeinius (aka Ignas Scheynius). This literary work has had a paradoxical fate in Lithuanian culture: almost every Lithuanian was and still is familiar with the plot of the novel, but the novel’s unique literary technique, psychological insights about gender relationships in Lithuanian culture, and logic of characters’ decision-making were never repeated in Lithuanian literature. So, strictly speaking, the canon of Lithuanian literature includes the name of the author, the title of the novel, and the very basics of the plot: the novel is seldom read because of its perception as a very raw literary work.

Ignas Šeinius

The novel is about a man who dreams about his flight through a happy life, but from the start he encounters the first punch of destiny – the hump, his physical disability, which separates him from the community. Still, he believes in a bright and wide world until a second punch of destiny: a hump in the heart, as the narrator says, a psychological one. He falls in love with a girl, but she runs away with a man who is uninterested in spiritual values, but holds possession of some stolen money. In response, the Hunchback breaks down, retreats from Christianity and from community to a forest and starts his solitary inner life as a misogynist and a kind of a pagan hermit. The novel has no happy end: the narrator just leaves the broken man, who actually tells the story, alone. Not exactly alone, but surrounded by philosophical texts: Immanuel Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure Reason), Ludwig Feuerbach’s Das Wesen der Religion (The Essence of Christianity), some books by Wilhem Wundt. He is possibly the first character in Lithuanian literature who discovers philosophy as the way out of a miserable life, in which he had lost everything and been left alone. And to the present day the Hunchback has no companion in Lithuanian literature in terms of his reaction to reality. His nearest associate may be Mary Shelley’s Creature from Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, who, inter alia, tries to connect with society by reading the books that he finds. This final choice made by the Hunchback could be seen as a vision from the periphery of European culture about how to move a bit closer to the cultural centre.

The importance of this novel by Šeinius is related to its attempt to create a language for inner life events. The mind-events in Lithuanian literature before The Hunchback had been represented as external processes: feelings that were the cause of sweating, blushing, and weakness in the knees. The Hunchback changed the language of expression; the story is active as a stream of consciousness rather than a sequence of outer actions in the reality of the novel’s hero. But the way the main character thinks is rather bookish. As a result, the novel was sidelined in the later history of Lithuanian literature, which gave priority to novels perceived to be more closely related to everyday life experience, and those which used a more psychologically motivated way of telling “mind stories.”

The Hunchback by Ignas Šeinius is important as an intermediate stop between the literatures of the enlightenment and modernism. That is the textual kitchen, where all the main recipes of the modernist way of expression in Lithuanian were found.

The first edition of Kuprelis.

The novel has an interesting publication history. Until 1904, the printing of books in the native language was forbidden in Lithuania by Russia, which had annexed the country from 1795 until 1918. Almost all Lithuanian-language books during that time were published in Germany or the USA, where strong expatriate communities had settled. Even after the publication ban was lifted in Lithuania, the first edition of the novel The Hunchback was published in New York in 1913, while the author was studying philosophy of art in Moscow. The first edition of the novel to be published in Lithuania appeared in 1932. Plans to translate the novel are currently underway, with the first English version of the novel due for publication at the end of 2020.  

Kuprelis (The Hunchback) will be included in the Lithuanian corpus of ELTeC at a later date. For the moment, the text of the novel (in Lithuanian) can be found at:

Saulius Keturakis is Professor of Humanities at Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania. His research interests are in the areas of avant-garde culture, nonlinear narrative, quantitative fiction analysis, literary text generation, and word and image relations. He is a member of WG2 and WG3.

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!

This guest post, written by Monika Barget, project manager at the Centre for Digital Humanities, Maynooth University, Ireland, reports on one of the two recent Distant Reading Training Schools that were held at the inaugural European Association for Digital Humanities Conference in Galway, Ireland.

Two of my colleagues from Maynooth University and I attended the COST Action Training Schools at the EADH 2018 conference in Galway. While one of us signed up for the theory sessions, discussing different approaches to ‘style’ in the digital humanities, an early career researcher in Early Irish and I (currently working as project manager in Digital Humanities) attended the sessions on methods and tools of ‘Distant Reading’. Our workshop group was very international and brought people from various disciplines together. Most of us had only recently started to extensively use digital tools for data/text analysis and had limited programming experience. That was why the step-by-step introductions to different technology-supported methods of topic modelling, stylometry, and data visualisation were a perfect fit. We were introduced to downloadable software with elaborate graphic user interfaces (e.g. TXM and Gephi) as well as portable software (Dariah Topics Explorer) in development and a stylometry tool based on R-libraries, which required working in the command line.

Participants at the Methods & Tools Training School, Galway (5-7 December 2018)

The corpora chosen by the workshop facilitators were mainly selections of British fiction, the North-American Brown Corpus and some smaller fiction corpora in other European languages (French, Italian, Hungarian, Slovene). For me as a historian specialising in visual cultures and politics of the early modern period, these were uncommon sources, but at the end of most workshop sessions, I had some time to apply each method and tool to my own corpora (e.g. a collection of political letters from Ireland). The workshop facilitators made sure that all participants were able to keep step and competently answered our questions. As not all methods and tools presented to us will, however, be equally relevant to our future research, additional ‘experimental time’ to work with just one of the methods/tools in smaller groups on the last workshop day would have been even more beneficial. There was a lot to take in, and a longer supervised ‘lab’ session focusing on a chosen method and my own material would also have aided me to process and practice what I had learned. In this way, the instructors, too, could have received more in-depth feedback, especially in those cases where their tools were still being updated and improved.

Nonetheless, the overall timing of the workshop suited me very well as we had the opportunity to connect with other participants during coffee breaks, lunch, and in the evenings. It was interesting to hear how other scholars at a similar career level were going to use topic modelling, stylometry, or network analysis in their projects, and I learned a lot about the institutional frameworks and digital cultures in other universities. Finally, the vivid keynote lecture delivered by Prof. Christof Schöch was a convenient occasion to sit back and reflect on some of the overarching challenges behind digital literary analysis. I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend the COST Action Training School and will recommend it to my peers.

This guest post was written by Action Member Dr Pieter Francois (WG1 & WG3), Associate Professor in Cultural Evolution at Oxford University.

Over the past six months I have been in extensive contact with Professor Tao Wang and his Digital History Centre at Nanjing University, China. Our mutual friend, Simon Mahoney (University College London), who knew I was keen to set up collaborations with digital humanists in China, put us in touch and told me that I simply had to speak to Tao. In November 2018 this resulted in a first visit to Nanjing University. I came back blown away by the quality and the level of commitment to Digital Humanities at Nanjing University. I returned home feeling invigorated and full of ideas and plans to deepen this promising collaboration.

Pieter Francois in China

The first day of my visit Tao had arranged for me to meet some of his closest colleagues at his Centre and get a hands-on introduction to a range of projects. Professor Gang Chen’s project on the Historical Geographic Information System for Six Dynasties is, for example, one of the finest examples of a full integration of archaeological, material culture and textual data that is made accessible through spatial querying. It is also an absolute labour of love for Gang Chen and his students. In the afternoon Tao had arranged a meeting with a number of his colleagues at the Humanities and Social Sciences Big Data Institute of Professor Lei Pei and Professor Jiang Li. Their work on tracking the global mobility of Chinese students and staff was very impressive.

The second day of my visit I gave an invited lecture to approximately 50 enthusiastic faculty and students of Digital Humanities at Nanjing University. My talk focused especially on our Cost Action project ‘Distant Reading for European Literary History’ and my ‘Seshat: Global History Databank’ project. After the talk we had a very lively discussion which we continued in the tea house afterwards. I especially managed to establish a real intellectual rapport with Professor Jing Chen. We left the tea house with a number of specific plans to introduce both projects to a wider audience in China. No doubt, this visit is only the first step in setting up meaningful collaborations between all research groups involved!


Following our recent Action meetings in Antwerp, WG2 member and Chief Content Architect at Wolters Kluwer Germany, Christian Dirschl, offered the following thoughts on our project from his perspective as an Information Scientist working in an industrial setting.

At the beginning of October, I participated in the meeting of Working Groups 2 and 3 in Antwerp. I am an Information Scientist who usually works on legal information and not literary texts, so I considered myself as an outsider to this group. Still, I joined WG2 and was very curious about how the digital humanities is dealing with the specific challenges it faces.

I felt very welcome! Both from the people at the meeting, but also from the discussions that were going on, which sounded quite familiar to me.

There were discussions about the balancing act of enriching documents by human experts versus automatically by machines. Another angle was about offering basic technological infrastructure or aiming at sophisticated and complex algorithms, which might not reach the maturity level that would be required in an operational environment. And then, there were open questions: whether to head for a single technology that serves all languages, or whether dedicated mono-lingual tools would be superior in the end—with the drawback that the results would hardly be comparable across the whole corpus.

Members of our Action bask in the Antwerp sunshine after three days of meetings last week.

My own experience with these technologies is very similar and obviously, there is no right or wrong answer. A complex challenge requires a complex solution—or a magic wand!

Although Deep Learning sometimes appears to be this wand, it was clear from the start that its application area in this Action is important, but limited. So, other solution streams also need to be investigated. I am looking very much forward to seeing what the final decision will be.

The Action has an interesting and ambitious goal and there were enough dedicated experts around the table to make sure that quite a lot will be achieved within the limited available resources.

What I have learned in the last five years or so is that technical progress needs to be aligned to customer needs, or rather, in this case, researchers’ requirements. And I have the impression that academia in general is still very much on an exploratory path. Most of the times, this will lead to more knowledge, but less applicability. So my advice is to spend quite some time on a regular basis on whether the intermediate results show progress on current (!) research requirements and not only in general and then to adapt to this feedback, so that an optimal practical solution is finally achieved. This may sound odd for some researchers, but in my experience this is the most efficient way to go forward.

I really enjoyed the two days in Antwerp and I am looking forward to further collaboration in the future. All the best to the Action and its participants!

Over the last few months, the Distant Reading COST Action has been present at several Digital Humanities conferences with a poster providing some basic information about our Action.

  • In May, the poster was presented at the DH Budapest conference by Jessie Labov. The conference has been organized by Gabor Pálko and his colleagues at the Centre for Digital Humanities of the Eötvös Loránd University.
  • In early June, Mike Kestemont presented our poster at the DH Benelux conference 2018 in Amsterdam.
  • And in late June, Maciej Eder, Christof Schöch and Mike Kestemont have presented the poster at the Digital Humanities Conference 2018 in Mexico City (DH2018).

The poster presentations were a good occasion to spread the word about our COST Action. The conversations show that many people really like the idea of the multilingual ELTeC! They also show that many people are still unaware of what a COST Action is and are really impressed when they hear that we are already a network of researchers from 30 countries across Europe and beyond.

The next poster presentation of our Action is at the conference on Language Technologies and Digital Humanities on 20 and 21 September 2018 in Ljubljanja (LTDH 2018).

For more information, please have a look at the poster, which is available from Zenodo. Also, an abstract with slightly more text is also available from the DH2018 abstracts page.