At and Above the Axis: Computational Approaches to Literary Reading and Marginalia

At and Above the Axis: Computational Approaches to Literary Reading and Marginalia
Date
23 July 2018, 11.15am - 12.00pm
Type
Lunchtime Lecture
Venue
Room 243, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Description

 

At and Above the Axis: Computational Approaches to Literary Reading and Marginalia

John Keats famously praised Shakespeare’s “negative capability.” Herman Melville lauded his “short, quick probings at the very axis of reality.” Many marked passages in their surviving copies of Shakespeare’s Dramatic Works hint of these formative conceptions, which significantly influenced their own creative achievements. Study of marginalia is complicated by the fragmentary character of the evidence, which physically marks and conceptually focuses on selected portions of a larger, integrated text. Since the experience of examining marginalia typically lacks the coherence and sequential unity that characterizes study of a work in its totality, methods of computation and data visualization produced from encoded text offer enhanced approaches to evidence. With examples from Keats’s and Melville’s marginalia to Shakespeare’s plays in sets housed at Harvard University’s Houghton Library, this talk will demonstrate some of the ways digital text analysis enriches our understanding of how these two great writers responded to their towering predecessor, and of literary reading and creativity generally.

Steven Olsen-Smith, a Professor of English at Boise State University, Idaho, holds the Holland H. Coors Endowed Visiting Chair in Digital Humanities at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. As General Editor of Melville’s Marginalia Online, he directs efforts to document the dispersal and recovery of Herman Melville’s personal library and to digitize and edit the author’s markings and notes in surviving volumes. With Christopher Ohge of IES, he coordinated digital analyses of Melville’s marginalia to Homer, Shakespeare, and Milton in the newly-released June 2018 issue of Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies.




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