Computational analyses of texts are often based on prior quantifications of low-level linguistic features, such as the most frequent words or occurrences of specific grammatical constructions. Arguably, analyses on the basis of such data are intellectually remote from traditional forms of literary scholarship, which generally focuses on the description and the interpretation of aspects such as meter, figures of speech, imagery or themes. In this presentation, the results are presented of a study which has made a contribution to the alignment of traditional practices and scholarship based on data processing, through the quantification of a wide range of literary devices. The focus in the study was on the investigation of poetry. Software was built for the recognition of various forms of rhyme, alliteration, enjambment, onomatopoeia, refrains and forms of imagery. In addition, a number of techniques have been developed for the visualisation of these annotations. These visualisation techniques can firstly be used to expose patterns within the corpus in its entirety, allowing for a form of distant analysis. Next to this, the graphic abstractions derived from data on individual poems may also support close reading processes. The software that was developed enables scholars to explore correlations between, for instance, specific figures of speech and imagery, or to identify noteworthy uses of literary devices which specific parts of the corpus. Such forms of analysis clearly help to bridge a gap between the essentially quantitative and realist inclinations of the toolset on the one hand, and the largely interpretative and qualitative approach of the discipline in which these methods are adopted on the other.
Peter Verhaar studied English Literature and Book History at Leiden University and Computer Science at the Open University. He works as a lecturer at the MA Book and Digital Media Studies at Leiden University, where he teaches courses on text encoding, database theory and text mining. In addition, he works as a senior Project Manager at Leiden University Libraries, where he focuses mostly on innovations in the field of scholarly communication, such as virtual research environments, data curation and open access publishing.


Thursday 23 October15.30-17.00, Janskerkhof 13 (room 0.06), Utrecht


Translantis/AsymEnc colloquia are organized by the digital humanities research projects Translantis – Digital Humanities Approaches to Reference Cultures: The Emergence of the United States in Public Discourse in the Netherlands, 1890-1990 ( and Asymmetrical Encounters: Digital Humanities Approaches to Reference Cultures in Europe, 1815–1992 (

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