From Canon/Archive to a Real Revolution in Literary Studies

27 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2017

Date Written: December 21, 2017

Abstract

Canon/Archive straddles the border between the standard interpretive literary criticism that has been in place since World War II and a new naturalist criticism in which literary texts and phenomena are treated as phenomena of the natural world, like language, without prejudice. This naturalist criticism takes the careful analytic description of texts, considered as strings of word forms, as its starting point. Canon/Archive exemplifies a computational criticism in which computers are tools used for analyzing texts, often taken as a corpus of 10s, 100s, or 1000s of texts. Naturalist criticism also includes a computational criticism in which computation is seen as the process linking word forms to semantic structures, expression to meaning. I examine two chapters from Canon/Archive, showing how that work can be supplemented by this other criticism in which computation is a model for a mental process.

Keywords: digital humanities, computational criticism, machine learning, symbolic computation, cognition, AI, computational linguistics, Franco Moretti, naturalist criticism, computational criticism

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., From Canon/Archive to a Real Revolution in Literary Studies (December 21, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3091816 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3091816

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