Computing for Poets
Whom does this stately Navy bring?
O! 'tis Great Britain's Glorious King
Katherine Phillips (1631-1664),
Arion to a Dolphin
The use of computers to manage the storage and retrieval of written texts creates new opportunities for scholars of ancient and other written works. Recent advances in computer software, hypertext, and database methodologies have made it possible to ask novel questions about a poem, a story, a trilogy, or anthology. This course teaches computer programming as a vehicle to explore poems and other texts that are now available online. Programming facilitates top-down thinking and practice with real-world problem solving skills such as problem decomposition and algorithmic thinking. Programming on texts introduces students to rich new areas of scholarship including stylometry and authorship attribution. Prerequisites: A love of the written (and digital) word; no computer programming experience required.
Using computers to analyze poems and stories is an exciting new area of research. In this course, you will learn to write programs in the language called Perl. Perl is a wonderful language when you are dealing with strings of characters.
Some of the programs that you will write will analyze texts to:
Nay long before, when once an inkeling came,
Me thought each thing did unto sorrow frame:
The trees that were so glorious in our view,
Forsooke both flowres and fruit, when once they knew
Of your depart, their very leaves did wither,
Changing their colours as they grewe together.
Aemilia Lanyer, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines and silver hooks.
John Donne, The Bait
We will learn to combine Perl programs, comma-separated output from those Perl programs, and Excel spreadsheets in a manner very similar to the way your instructor does when doing research. One of the goals is to take the mystery out of the problem solving and tools that one needs to do research in this area.
In addition to programming in Perl and work in Excel, we will also study how computers store individual characters, including the traditional (English-only) ASCII character code and the international standard called UniCode. The end of semester will be devoted to the the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). The TEI is an international and interdisciplinary standard that helps libraries, museums, publishers, and individual scholars store all kinds of literary and linguistic texts on computers for online research and teaching. TEI is a "must-know" for all scholars of the 21st century.
NOTE: This course is but an introduction to using computing to study written texts. Computers allow us to study texts in exciting new ways that we could not otherwise do; however, as we'll discuss at length, we are wise if we keep in mind what computers can not do. The following quotes can help us (1) stay humble and (2) stay focused.
"As students of a powerful new form of scholarship, we have much to offer.
"The onus of competency, clarity, and completeness is on the practioner.
Fred Kollett (1941-1997), MathCS, Wheaton College, Norton, MA
Cook, Gareth (2003). Much ado about data. Health Science - Boston Globe. August 5, 2003, D1-D4.
Gould, John (2004). Before the computer bug, there was the type louse. Weekly column from the Christian Science Monitor, January 9, 2004, p23.
Hockey, Susan (2000). Electronic Texts in the Humanities. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. Ch. 7 Stylometry and Attribution Studies.
Klarreich, Erica (2003). Bookish Math - Statistical tests are unraveling knotty literary mysteries. Science News, v164, No. 25/26, Dec. 2003, p392-394.
Levy, Steven (2003). Welcome to History 2.0. Newsweek. Nov. 10, 2003, p58.
Relihan, Joel (2002). Translating Boethius. Wheaton Quarterly, Fall 2002, 21-25.
Rudman, Joseph (1998). The State of Authorship Attribution Studies: Some Problems and Solutions. Computers and the Humanities, v31, p351-365.
URLs:: Finding books and poems online
Literature Online (Wheaton students only)
This site combines three sites first created in 1996 to provide a starting point for students and enthusiasts of English Literature. Humanities Text Initiative
The Humanities Text Initiative (HTI) is an umbrella organization for the creation, delivery, and maintenance of electronic texts, as well as a mechanism for furthering the library community's capabilities in the area of online text. University of Virginia Library
The Center combines an on-line archive of tens of thousands of SGML and XML-encoded electronic texts and images with a library service that offers hardware and software suitable for the creation and analysis of text. Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is the brainchild of Michael Hart, who in 1971 decided that it would be a really good idea if lots of famous and important texts were freely available to everyone in the world. Women Writers Project
The Brown University Women Writers Project is a long-term research project devoted to early modern women's writing and electronic text encoding.
Women Writers Online
Renaissance Women Online
When complete, the RWO collection will include 100 Renaissance texts from the main WWP textbase, together with contextual introductions and topical essays on women's life and writing in the Renaissance. When complete, the RWO collection will include 100 Renaissance texts from the main WWP textbase, together with contextual introductions and topical essays on women's life and writing in the Renaissance.
Storing and Encoding Text Online TEI
The TEI is an international and interdisciplinary standard that helps libraries, museums, publishers, and individual scholars represent all kinds of literary and linguistic texts for online research and teaching. UniCode
Unicode provides a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language.
Lots of good reading about the larger Perl community. Perl documentation
When you need to find out how to do something in Perl.
The longest palindrome
Honor Code Revisited: It goes without saying that all submitted work will be the student's own, in keeping with the Wheaton Honor Code, unless the assignment has assigned groups. For labs, you may get "help" from fellow classmates, but remember that all completed work must be your own. Use discretion; don't ask your colleague for "the" answer or for a piece of software. However, I do encourage you to discuss the problem in general, such as the type of statements one might use. For homework, your answers and software must be your own from beginning to end. Here is an analogy. Almost no one would every "use/steal" a line or two from another person's poem. Consider it the same with your Perl programs. Don't "borrow/use" lines or sections of Perl from another classmate. Your program is (like) your poem; everyone's program should be unique.
Be wise. If a colleague is asking you for too much help, be honest and remind them your program is just that, your program.
On your own ....
a quick chat in my office can often clear things up.
I'm here a lot...
Readings and homeworks are assigned in lecture.
1W (1W means "1st week, Wednesday)
WED, Jan 28
2M (2M means "2nd week, Monday)
MON, Feb 2
WED, Feb 4
MON, Feb 9
WED, Feb 11
"Turning the computer into a reader of poetry."
MON, Feb 16
WED, Feb 18
MON, Feb 23
WED, Feb 18
MON, Mar 01
WED, Mar 03
MON, Mar 8
WED, Mar 10
MON, Mar 15
WED, Mar 17
MON, Mar 22
"Words words words: the use and abuse of literary concordances"
WED, Mar 24
MON, Mar 29
WED, Mar 31
MON, Apr 05
WED, Apr 07
MON, Apr 12
WED, Apr 14
MON, Apr 19
WED, Apr 21
MON, Apr 26
WED, Apr 28
MON, May 03
WED, May 05