5.0435 MLA Session on Modeling Literay Research (1/66)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 10 Nov 1991 20:43:08 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0435. Sunday, 10 Nov 1991.

Date: Sat, 9 Nov 1991 23:39:47 -0500
From: mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca (W. McCarty)
Subject: MLA session announcement

Session announcement
Modern Language Association
1991 convention
San Francisco, California

Sponsored by the Association for Computers and the Humanities

Session 289. `How We Do What We Do: Modelling Literary Research
by Computer'. Saturday, 28 December, 1:45 - 3 p.m., Potrero
Hill/Telegraph Hill, Marriott.

This session addresses the mimetic role of the computer in
literary research and what we learn about methods and objects of
study as a result. It treats the computer as an imitative device
that follows an explicit model of scholarly research. The four
papers of the session variously address the idea that the primary
benefits of the computer to scholarship come from the light it
throws on our cognitive models, the tools it gives us to play
with them, and the new things it thus allows us to see.

1. In `Non-Verbal Aspects of Language and the Implication for
Computer Modeling', Charles Henry offers an hypothesis of how
words -- all parts of speech, not just descriptive or rhetorical
language -- conjure non-verbal images in the mind; he illustrates
the phenomenon by examples from various languages and periods,
then describes the characteristics of a computer-model adequate
to this phenomenon.

2. In `The Quantitative Study of Style in Traditional Japanese
Poetry: Putting the Problem in Terms even Computers can
Understand', Jon LaCure describes how the computer assists a
methodological and descriptive approach to the study of two
structural elements in the `waka', a traditional poetic form. He
hypothesizes that these elements are constituted by topical
reference; he describes a simple algorithmic procedure for
detecting relevant examples, on the basis of which further ideas
about poetic structure may be formed. He argues that modeling
such literary phenomena is itself more interesting than the
specific results it yields.

3. In `What Can and Cannot be Done with Electronic Text in
Historical and Literary Research', Mark Olsen argues that the
computer has not had significant influence on literary studies
because old models remain dominant. He emphasizes that the
primary benefits of the new tool come from asking new questions
with it, but that first we must construct an appropriate model of
computer-assisted literary research based on what the machine is
particularly good for. He notes that there has been little
interaction between critical theorizing and computer programming,
to the detriment of both, and recommends concentrating on
specific theoretical and methodological issues.

4. In `Hypertext and the Humanist Tradition of Literary
Scholarship', Arnold Sanders describes the popular technique of
software design as a close model for the practice of literary
scholarship and a logical development of much older practices for
acquiring, organizing, and representing knowledge. He considers
briefly the roots of hypertext in the information technology of
the Middle Ages and Renaissance. As an ancient principle for
textual organization, he contrasts it with the isolated or
`stand-alone' model and shows how in many cases modern software
is based on an imperfect grasp of this principle.