Course – Computational Literary Studies

Dates: 3, 10, 17, 24 April; 15 and 22 May 2019 | Time: 15.00-18.00 hrs. | Venue: University of Amsterdam, P.C. Hoofthuis – 4.28, Spuistraat 134, Amsterdam | Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students, OSL members will have first access | Organiser: prof. Karina van Dalen-Oskam (UvA) | ECTS: 3-6

Bring your own laptop to all classes


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 we evaluate the results of the new methods and techniques? Each class, a new tool will be introduced and the students will learn the basics of their use hands-on.


The second part of the course is optional and more practical. In two workshop-like meetings 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.



April 3: Introduction: Authorship attribution

April 10: Stylometry: quantifying literary style

April 17: Analyzing the genesis of digital-born literary works

April 24: Computational analysis of online book discussion

May 15 and 22: Hands-on sessions: using the presented tools and designing the experiment for the paper



Students receive 3 EC for active participation (readings and small assignments) in the first four meetings and an additional 3 EC for participation in the workshops and the preparation of a final assignment (= paper of 3000 words).

For more information please contact Dr Alberto Godioli (