Computational Literary Studies (2015)

Computational Literary Studies (2015)

Prof. dr. Karina van Dalen-Oskam
University of Amsterdam, March-June 2015

March 30, April 13, April 20, May 11 (all 14:00-17:00) – University Library – Belle van Zuylenzaal
May 18 & June 1 (14:00-17:00, except June 1, 12:00-17:00): Workshop in the UvA computer lab, PC Hoofthuis 2.10-2.11
Registration for RMA and PhD-students

Scholars working in computational literary studies make use of computer software that helps them to analyze digital textual data. Software can support the exploration of a much larger amount of data in systematic ways than was possible before. In this course, students will get introduced to the most important current approaches in computational literary studies, ranging from the analysis of style and methods for the verification and attribution of authorship to various forms of ‘distant reading’ and discourse analysis.

The first part of the course explores the new horizons and possibilities as well as the limitations of computational approaches in literary studies. Several computational tools will be demonstrated such as concordance software that can be used for discourse analytical approaches and specialized R-scripts for authorship attribution and stylistic analysis. The questions to be addressed in the first four sessions of the seminar include: How can different authors be distinguished from each other using computational tools? In which ways do their writing styles exactly differ? What are the options for computer-assisted discourse analysis? What kinds of reasoning and logic play a role when computational tools are applied and what are their epistemological implications? How can be evaluate the results of the new methods and techniques?

The second part of the course is optional and more practical. In workshop-like meetings in the UvA computer lab, students will conduct small research projects of their own. In this way, they will learn to use the computational tools themselves and gain practical experience with their possibilities and limitations. The research projects can be devoted to the cases presented in the first part of the course but also be proposed by the students themselves.

Course objectives:
  • Students learn to employ empirical and computational methods in literary studies, including the selection of tools and the reflection on their possibilities and limitations.
  • Students get an overview of international discussions in the fields of computational literary studies and digital humanities and learn to relate their research to these debates.
  • Students learn to reflect on the relation of research questions and digital methods in literary studies.
  • March 30: Introduction
  • April 13: Authorship attribution, verification, and profiling
  • April 20: Computational analysis of literary style
  • May 11: From style to discourse analysis
  • May 25 & June 8 (14:00-17:00): Workshop in the UvA computer lab, PC Hoofthuis

Students receive 2 EC for active participation (readings and small assignments) in the first four meetings on March 30, April 13 & 20, May 11 and an additional 3 EC for participation in the workshops on May 25 & June 8 and the preparation of a final assignment (= paper of 3000 words).

For more information please contact dr. Stephan Besser (