One Year After. A Question of Style: individual voices and corporate identity in the Edinburgh Review, 1814-1820

Benatti, Francesca and King, David (2018). One Year After. A Question of Style: individual voices and corporate identity in the Edinburgh Review, 1814-1820. In: RSVP/VSAWC 2018 The Body and the Page in Victorian Culture, 26-28 Jul 2018, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.


We report on the conclusion of our project A Question of Style, awarded the RSVP Field Development Grant 2016. Our aim is to assess the assumption that early nineteenth-century periodicals succeeded in creating, through a “transauthorial discourse”, a unified corporate voice that hid individual authors behind an impersonal public text (Klancher 1987).
After detailing our process of “operationalization” (Moretti, 2013) at last year’s RSVP conference, this year we evaluate the successes and challenges we encountered in:
• Corpus creation: we assess the selection criteria applied to the body of 83 articles and comprising reviews of literature, history, biography, travel writing, and the issues resulting from the inclusion of 25 authors and four review genres.
• OCR correction: we document the extreme variability of OCR errors due to lack of complete runs with same provenance and the resulting challenges in implementing semi-automated approaches to OCR correction.
• Quotations: we quantify the actual extent of quotations in our corpus and the variability in their typographical marking, with their consequences on the implementation of semi-automated TEI encoding.
• Analysis: we will demonstrate our application of stylometric (Delta, Zeta), corpus stylistics (keywords, collocations, lexical clusters) and computational linguistics (TF:IDF) methods and evaluate our findings regarding individual and corporate style and the emergence of authorial and genre profiles
• Ongoing questions: we will debate the implications of our findings for periodical studies and for digital humanities, focusing especially on issues of scalability and data curation. Ultimately, are we willing to trade off data accuracy in return for speed?

Works Cited
Klancher, Jon P. The Making of English Reading Audiences, 1790-1832. University of Wisconsin Press, 1987.
Moretti, Franco. “Operationalizing”: or, the function of measurement in modern literary theory” Stanford Literary Lab. Pamphlet 6. Stanford Lit. Lab, December 2013.

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