Class 6 (English 238 – Fall 2019)

Class Business

Humanities “Data” (and the Digital Humanities Field)

Gallery (An Opening Provocation & Two Thought Experiments)

Thought Experiment 1 — Jane Austen’s writing desk and manuscript of Persuasion (British Library)

Jane Austen's writing desk (British Library)

Manuscript of chapters 10 and 11 from Jane Austen's Persuasion (British Library)

Fleuron icon (small)

  • “Series”
  • “Archival bond”
    • Jefferson Bailey: “Luciana Duranti’s notion of the archival bond, which she defines as the “network of relations that each record has with the records belonging in the same aggregation.”
  • Parallelismus membrorum
    • Jefferson Bailey on Michel Duchein’s notion of “the similarity of parallel files”: “Parallelismus membrorum is a rhetorical term referring to the patterns within a text formed by the utilization of repeated grammatical structures. (“I came. I saw. I conquered,” is a brief example).”
  • Digital humanities “corpus”
    • Jefferson Bailey:
      • “these ideas represent a continued expansion of context beyond the limitations of grouping by creatorship or creator-derived order. In each case, similarities and dependencies emerge out of cross-collection networks or semantically derived principles.”
      • “What distinguishes these projects from archival representations of old is that context and meaning are not exclusively provided through descriptive, narrative details that precede an arrangement and location list, but instead through networks, interlinkages, modeling, and content analysis….”
    • Tim Sherratt:
      • “All of these tools and experiments take advantage of Trove’s API. I think it’s important to note that the delivery of cultural heritage resources in a machine-readable form, whether through a custom API or as Linked Open Data, provides more than just improved access or possibilities for aggregation. It opens those resources to transformation. It empowers us to move beyond ‘discovery’ as a mode of interaction to analyse, extract, visualise and play. “
      • “Likewise, while we often have to clean up or ‘normalise’ cultural heritage data in order to do things with it, we should value its intrinsic messiness as a reminder that it is shot through with history. Invested with the complexities of human experience it resists our attempts at reduction, and that too is both infuriating and wonderful.”
      • “The wall of faces also raises interesting questions about context. Some people might be concerned by the loss of context when images are presented in this way, although each portrait is linked back to the document it was derived from, and to the Archive’s own collection database. What is more important, I think, are the contexts that are gained.”
      • “Thinking about this I came across Wendy Duff and Verne Harris’s call to develop ‘liberatory standards’ for archival description. Standards, like categories, are useful. They enable us to share information and integrate systems. But standards also embody power. How can we take advantage of the cooperative utility of standards while remaining attuned to the workings of power?  A liberatory descriptive standard, Duff and Harris argue: ‘would posit the record as always in the process of being made, the record opening out of the future. Such a standard would not seek to affirm the keeping of something already made. It would seek to affirm a process of open-ended making and re-making’.”
    • Andrew Piper:
      • “The concept of “dis­tributional semantics,” which lies at the center of almost all approaches in the field of computational linguistics today, is in many ways a pro­found manifestation of post-structural textual theory. At base, the distri­butional hypothesis assumes four things: a) a word’s meaning is tied to how often it occurs; b) a word’s meaning is tied to how often it occurs with other words within a given context; c) these relationships are en­tirely contingent upon the scale of analysis; and d) these relationships can be rendered spatially to capture the semantic associations between them. The distributional hypothesis is thus based on a cognitive as­sumption about the probabilistic way we assess meaning through lan­guage and a rhetorical assumption about the importance of spatial rela­tionships for the construction of meaning.” (13-14)
      • “There is a fundamental plurality to how texts can be modeled in a distributional framework, a lack of essential boundaries. But there is also a crucial as­pect of multidimensionality, a way of seeing our objects of study as fluid configurations of multiple interacting components. ” (15)
      • “Ever since Augustine, the act of rereading has served as a deeply effective practice of cultural stabilization. It has stood alongside a va­riety of other repetitive cultural practices, such as copying, reprinting, note-taking, commonplacing, anthologizing, canonizing, and memo­rizing, which have all assumed cultural importance ….” (3)
    • Michael Witmore, “Text: A Massively Addressable Object” (2013)
    • A. Liu, The Hermeneutics of DH (diagram)


Tim Sherratt

But White Australia always a myth. As well as the indigenous population there were, in 1901, many thousands of people classified as non-white living in Australia. They came from China, India, Indonesia, Turkey and elsewhere. A growing number had been born in Australia. They were building lives, making families and contributing to the community.

Tim Sherratt,

Katherine Bode, “The Equivalence of ‘Close’ and ‘Distant’ Reading; or, Toward a New Object for Data-Rich Literary History” (2017)

The curated data set for a scholarly edition of a literary system is intended not as raw data. Rather, with its associated introduction and apparatus, it constitutes a historically contextualized model of literary-historical events and connections, and an interpretive intermediary between increasingly complex, digital disciplinary infrastructure and the requirements of literary-historical analysis. (99)