To kick off our conversations in the Literature and Digital Humanities group, I thought it might be nice for us to discuss some important critical work in the field. I'd propose the Stanford Literary Lab's fifth Pamphlet--"Style at the Scale of Sentence"--as something we might start of with.
It's a brilliant, persuasive argument about the relationship between authorial style and the types of countable elements of language that are susceptible to computerized analysis. In the interests of collocating my money and mouth, here are a few discussion questions that occured to me this time through the pamphlet.
(1) What do we make of the genre of the article itself? It's written as a narrative of ongoing research that seems to turn the methodology of the sciences into a mystery novel (whether we formulate that as hypothesis-->experiment or idea-->information gathering). Sentence-opening phrases like "The more one looked, the clearer" and closing phrases like "...a comparable surprising was awaiting us..." build suspence by delaying the revelation while emphasizing the ongoing process of discovery. The temporal organization contributes to the same effect.
It's a brilliant stylistic gambit. The pamphlet is a delight to read. But will this rhetorical gesture stand up over time? How does it relate to the emphasis on the anecdote in (ie) New Historicist writing?
In part, this narrative of discovery is imitating the "feedback loop" of interpretation described on page 28. How different is that loop from Gadamer's hermeneutic circle?
(2) The most interesting insights of the piece, it seems to me, come from insightful theories by particular critics of the general tendences of particular sentence structures. The observations about crescendo and diminuendo, sequencing and stasis, feel sharp and perceptive regardless of the data underlying them. (And, indeed, these generalizations tend not to be defended with recourse to quantity. We rather get phrases like "in case after case.")
This builds to a head in section 6, with the case of /Middlemarch./ Does the account, on page 23-24, of the difference made by quantiative analysis for the study of that text convince? I find it persuasively put when restated in the abstract on page 28: that in formulating questions that are amenable to digital study, we generate "entirely new type[s] of problem" that lead to new archives and new insight.
What else leaps out about this piece? What other pieces might we discuss?