Digital Humanities Beyond Modern English

Computational Analysis of Premodern and Non-Western Literature

Dartmouth College
April 23-25, 2019

About DH Beyond Modern English

Recent trends in the study of literature have seen a transformation in the kinds of textual corpus examined and a concomitant change in the analytical methods applied to these corpora. Common to the digital humanities, world literature, and other current approaches to literary research is an order-of-magnitude enlargement in the scale of analysis, whether entire centuries of novelistic production or even corpora containing millions of books spanning numerous genres. The quantitative resources and techniques that have enabled this development have been limited largely to modern and Anglophone contexts, two reasons for which are the bias towards the English language within commercial and technical fields, and the greater availability of modern texts, especially in digitized form.

DH Beyond Modern English is the first of a two-part conference on the theme of computational approaches to the study of premodern and non-Western literature. The conference, to be held at Dartmouth College in Spring 2019 and the University of Texas at Austin in Spring 2020, features participants drawn from a variety of disciplines and linguistic traditions, including Arabic, Bengali, Celtic, Chinese, Coptic, Old English, Ancient Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, and Spanish. The conference (and a planned edited volume) will sketch a future for the field that encompasses philology, world literature, distant reading, and cultural evolution.

DH Beyond Modern English has been organized by the Quantitative Criticism Lab with support from the Neukom Institute for Computational Science and the Leslie Center for the Humanities. Additional support at Dartmouth as been provided by the Office of the Frank J. Guarini Associate Dean for International Studies and Interdisciplinary Programs, the Digital Humanities and Social Engagement Cluster, the Department of Classics, the Department of Computer Science, and the Department of English.

DH Beyond Modern English Schedule

Wednesday April 24

Thursday April 25

DH Beyond Modern English Keynote Panel

Computational Tools and the Cross-Cultural Study of Literature

Patrick J. Burns (University of Texas at Austin)
Tanya Clement (University of Texas at Austin)
Grace Fong (McGill University)
Carrie Schroeder (University of the Pacific)

Jacqueline Wernimont (Dartmouth College)

Thursday April 25
Occom Commons

This keynote panel will address the possibilities for cross-cultural and diachronic literary research opened up by the creation of new computational tools and methods. The panel will take the form of brief, informal presentations outlining the panelists’ views of the prospects for a digital “World Literature,” followed by an open Q&A. All of the panelists are leaders of major digital humanities projects that range across historical periods, diverse languages and cultures, and new methodologies.

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DH Beyond Modern English Keynote Lectures

Direct Address in Beowulf; or How I Became a Literary Quant
Matthew Jockers
Washington State University
Wednesday April 24 5:00-6:30pm
Life Sciences Center 100

The lecture charts developments in quantitative literary studies through reflection on my early work in the field and some sample applications of current computational methods. I use the case-study of the Old English poem Beowulf not only to show some of the important ways in which research has evolved, but also to highlight the potential for premodern texts to inform the advancement of the field at large. Traditional philology and stylistics has always had a quantitative aspect, as illustrated by my forays into the metrics of Beowulf nearly 25 years ago. The rise of computation, however, has enabled more diverse and comprehensive studies of style, which I illustrate with analyses of the poem’s authorship and the implications of the two scribal hands in the single surviving manuscript. The presentation will describe the use of word frequency distributions and high dimensional clustering for these analyses, in the course of which I will also show examples of pertinent code and graphical visualizations. My twofold aim is to introduce these methods to a wider audience of humanists unacquainted with them, and to reflect on the particular amenability of premodern fields to this sort of work.

The Human and the Digital: Extending the Dialogue
Sukanta Chaudhuri
Jadavpur University
Thursday April 25 4:30-6:00pm
Wilder 111

Digital technology promises to remove many barriers and inequalities in the search for knowledge, but it creates others covered by the shorthand term “digital divide.” Some of the issues are economic and socio-political; others epistemological and methodological, or related to the physical form of the knowledge material. Such challenges are routinely faced by workers outside the Western cultural and technological metropolis, or even within its “suburbs” given over to non-Latin fonts and underprojected cultures. This paper will look at a range of such challenges, with actual or potential solutions. They extend from the mechanics of digitization (fonts) to epistemological issues (grammar, semantics, discourse structure) to economic and cultural factors (the material medium, conditions of preservation and access). Illustrations will be drawn, inter alia, from the author’s experience at the School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University, India. The aim will be to suggest effective means of extending the linguistic, cultural and material reach of digital humanities in a diverse world.

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DH Beyond Modern English Participants

David Bamman University of California at Berkeley
Patrick Burns University of Texas at Austin
Tanya Clement University of Texas at Austin
Sukanta Chaudhuri Jadavpur University
Neil Coffee SUNY Buffalo
James Dobson Dartmouth College
Michael Drout Wheaton College
Grace Fong McGill University
Georgia Henley Saint Anselm College
Jennifer Isasi University of Texas at Austin
Matthew Jockers Washington State University
Andrew Ollett Harvard University
Carrie Schroeder University of the Pacific
Song Shi McGill University

Pramit Chaudhuri University of Texas at Austin email
Joseph Dexter Dartmouth College email

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Contact DH Beyond Modern English

Questions about the DH Beyond Modern English conference can be directed to

Follow on Twitter at @qCritLab & #dhbme.

Flier for the DHBME conference can be downloaded as a PDF here.

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