A Question of Style: corpus building and stylistic analysis of the Edinburgh Review and Quarterly Review, 1814-1820

Benatti, Francesca and King, David (2018). A Question of Style: corpus building and stylistic analysis of the Edinburgh Review and Quarterly Review, 1814-1820. In: DHC (Digital Humanities Congress) 2018, 06-08 Sep 2018, University of Sheffield.

URL: https://www.dhi.ac.uk/dhc/2018/paper/128


We present our project, A Question of Style: individual voices and corporate identity in the Edinburgh Review, 1814-1820, funded by a Research Society for Victorian Periodicals Field Development Grant, which ran from January 2017 to 2017.

We wanted 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).

Two years after our first presentation at DHC 2016, we will reflect on the progress of the project.

We created a sample corpus of just over 787,000 words comprising 569,740 words from the Edinburgh Review and 217,801 words from its competitor, the Quarterly Review, drawn from 85 articles.

To assist our OCR correction, metadata creation and textual markup, we intended developing a suite of Python scripts based on our previous work; but the demands of preparing a corpus for stylistic analysis took this work in another direction, which we will describe.

We will evaluate our methods for measuring empirically select textual features, especially stylometry and corpus stylistics. We will debate whether our corpus shows traces of a “house style” for the Edinburgh and the Quarterly and whether the genre of the books being reviewed have an impact on stylistic analysis. We will discuss the effect of quoted texts on stylistic analysis and on the OCR correction process.

Finally, we will qualitatively describe the results of this stylistic analysis and evaluate them within the context of both literary scholarship on nineteenth-century periodicals and computational linguistics scholarship, using our literary and historical interpretation to generate critical knowledge out of our measurements. Which aspects of authorship and style do computational methods allow us to perceive more clearly? Which do they at the same time obscure?

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