“Direct Address in Beowulf; or How I Became a Literary Quant” Keynote Lecture by Matthew Jockers (Washington State University)
“Direct Address in Beowulf; or How I Became a Literary Quant”
The lecture charts developments in quantitative literary studies through reflection on my early work in the field and some sample applications of current computational methods. I use the case-study of the Old English poem Beowulf not only to show some of the important ways in which research has evolved, but also to highlight the potential for premodern texts to inform the advancement of the field at large. Traditional philology and stylistics has always had a quantitative aspect, as illustrated by my forays into the metrics of Beowulf nearly 25 years ago. The rise of computation, however, has enabled more diverse and comprehensive studies of style, which I illustrate with analyses of the poem’s authorship and the implications of the two scribal hands in the single surviving manuscript. The presentation will describe the use of word frequency distributions and high dimensional clustering for these analyses, in the course of which I will also show examples of pertinent code and graphical visualizations. My twofold aim is to introduce these methods to a wider audience of humanists unacquainted with them, and to reflect on the particular amenability of premodern fields to this sort of work.
Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.