The Digital Humanities as a Toolkit for Literary Theory: Three Case Studies of the Operationalization of the Concepts of “Late Style,” “Authorship Attribution,” and “Literary Movement”

Massimo Salgaro


Digital Humanities (DH) offers contemporary literary criticism a unique and constantly expandable set of “big data” that can be investigated through statistical analysis. Indeed, computational methods can be viewed as a “toolkit,” a unique array of instruments that allow the generation of new analytical data on literary texts. Through quantitative analysis of digitized texts, DH produces data that literary critics can use in qualitative analysis. Three case studies of computational analysis of “Late Style” (J. W. Goethe, Robert Musil, Franz Kafka), of “attribution of authorship” (Robert Musil) and of “literary movement” (German Romanticism and Heinrich von Kleist) are presented, demonstrating that the DH approach allows concepts in literary theory to be “operationalized,” i.e., translated from a theoretical to an empirical level. The methods exemplified in the three case studies provide a potential model for bridging the gap between literary theory and stylometric analysis.


big data; digital humanities; literature; stylometric analysis

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