Enumerations: Data and Literary Study

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

For well over a century, academic disciplines have studied human behavior using quantitative information. Until recently, however, the humanities have remained largely immune to the use of data—or vigorously resisted it. Thanks to new developments in computer science and natural language processing, literary scholars have embraced the quantitative study of literary works and have helped make Digital Humanities a rapidly growing field. But these developments raise a fundamental, and as yet unanswered question: what is the meaning of literary quantity?
In Enumerations, Andrew Piper answers that question across a variety of domains fundamental to the study of literature. He focuses on the elementary particles of literature, from the role of punctuation in poetry, the matter of plot in novels, the study of topoi, and the behavior of characters, to the nature of fictional language and the shape of a poet’s career. How does quantity affect our understanding of these categories? What happens when we look at 3,388,230 punctuation marks, 1.4 billion words, or 650,000 fictional characters? Does this change how we think about poetry, the novel, fictionality, character, the commonplace, or the writer’s career? In the course of answering such questions, Piper introduces readers to the analytical building blocks of computational text analysis and brings them to bear on fundamental concerns of literary scholarship. This book will be essential reading for anyone interested in Digital Humanities and the future of literary study.
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About the author

Andrew Piper is professor in the department of languages, literatures, and cultures at McGill University. He is the author of Dreaming in Books: The Making of Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age and Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times, both published by the University of Chicago Press. He is also a founding member of the Multigraph Collective, a group of twenty-two scholars that recently published Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in the Era of Print Saturation, also with the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Sep 4, 2018
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780226568898
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / General
Literary Criticism / General
Philosophy / Language
Science / Cognitive Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This book investigates context-sensitivity in natural language by examining the meaning and use of a target class of theoretically recalcitrant expressions. These expressions-including epistemic vocabulary, normative and evaluative vocabulary, and vague language ("CR-expressions")-exhibit systematic differences from paradigm context-sensitive expressions in their discourse dynamics and embedding properties. Many researchers have responded by rethinking the nature of linguistic meaning and communication. Drawing on general insights about the role of context in interpretation and collaborative action, Silk develops an improved contextualist theory of CR-expressions within the classical truth-conditional paradigm: Discourse Contextualism. The aim of Discourse Contextualism is to derive the distinctive linguistic behavior of a CR-expression from a particular contextualist interpretation of an independently motivated formal semantics, along with general principles of interpretation and conversation. It is shown how in using CR-expressions, speakers can exploit their mutual grammatical and world knowledge, and general pragmatic reasoning skills, to coordinate their attitudes and negotiate about how the context should evolve. The book focuses primarily on developing a Discourse Contextualist semantics and pragmatics for epistemic modals. The Discourse Contextualist framework is also applied to other categories of epistemic vocabulary, normative and evaluative vocabulary, and vague adjectives. The similarities/differences among these expressions, and among context-sensitive expressions more generally, have been underexplored. The development of Discourse Contextualism in this book sheds light on general features of meaning and communication, and the variety of ways in which context affects and is affected by uses of language. Discourse Contextualism provides a fruitful framework for theorizing about various broader issues in philosophy, linguistics, and cognitive science.
Andrew Piper grew up liking books and loving computers. While occasionally burying his nose in books, he was going to computer camp, programming his Radio Shack TRS-80, and playing Pong. His eventual love of reading made him a historian of the book and a connoisseur of print, but as a card-carrying member of the first digital generation—and the father of two digital natives—he understands that we live in electronic times. Book Was There is Piper’s surprising and always entertaining essay on reading in an e-reader world. Much ink has been spilled lamenting or championing the decline of printed books, but Piper shows that the rich history of reading itself offers unexpected clues to what lies in store for books, print or digital. From medieval manuscript books to today’s playable media and interactive urban fictions, Piper explores the manifold ways that physical media have shaped how we read, while also observing his own children as they face the struggles and triumphs of learning to read. In doing so, he uncovers the intimate connections we develop with our reading materials—how we hold them, look at them, share them, play with them, and even where we read them—and shows how reading is interwoven with our experiences in life. Piper reveals that reading’s many identities, past and present, on page and on screen, are the key to helping us understand the kind of reading we care about and how new technologies will—and will not—change old habits. Contending that our experience of reading belies naive generalizations about the future of books, Book Was There is an elegantly argued and thoroughly up-to-date tribute to the endurance of books in our ever-evolving digital world.
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