DH_OU seminar: A Question of Style, 9 February 2017

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The Digital Humanities at The Open University Network is happy to invite you to the next event in the 2016/7 Digital Humanities in Practice seminar series.


Date: 9 February 2017

Time: 12.30-14.00 (lunch from 12.00)

Location: Room JLB 10, Jennie Lee Building, The Open University, Milton Keynes

Francesca Benatti and David King, OU Digital Humanities, will be in the Jennie Lee Building presenting the results of their research at the Open University’s School of Computing and Communications Research Seminar series on Thursday 9th February.


In a collaboration between FASS and STEM, we present our project, A Question of Style: individual voices and corporate identity in the Edinburgh Review, 1814-1820, which is funded by a Research Society for Victorian Periodicals Field Development Grant running from January 2017 to October 2017.

The Edinburgh Review was the main literary journal in early 19th-century Britain, including among its contributors some of the most prominent contemporary authors and politicians. Yet all its articles were published anonymously, their authority stemming exclusively from their presence in the Edinburgh and not from the name of their author. In 2016 we undertook a proof-of-concept project, employing methods from periodical studies, book history, computational linguistics and computational stylistics to assess the assumption that early nineteenth-century periodicals like the Edinburgh succeeded in creating, through a “transauthorial discourse”, a unified corporate voice that hid individual authors behind an impersonal public style (Klancher 1987).

We will discuss how we are now taking forward this work through “operationalising” our definition of style in order to select features that can be measured empirically (Moretti 2013) at the level of words and sentences, using methods such as term frequency: inverse document frequency, Burrows’ Delta and Zeta methods, Moretti’s Most Distinctive Words Method, and Principal Component Analysis.

Finally, we will qualitatively describe the results of our preliminary stylistic analysis.


Klancher, Jon P. The Making of English Reading Audiences, 1790-1832. University of Wisconsin Press, 1987.

Moretti, Franco. “Operationalizing”: or, the function of measurement in modern literary theory” Stanford Literary Lab. Pamphlet 6. Stanford Lit. Lab, December 2013. http://litlab.stanford.edu/LiteraryLabPamphlet6.pdf