Augmented Criticism: Putting the ‘human’ back in the humanities

There are approximately 35,000 paintings on display at the Louvre. Most tourists feel overwhelmed by the prospect of viewing them. Indeed, if one were to devote 30 seconds to each painting (not counting the time it takes to walk between them), it would take more than twelve twenty-four hour days to visit them all.

Yet if one were to design an algorithm capable of identifying all 19th century British oil paintings, a visit to the museum would feel quite different. Indeed it would be much more efficient, as one could effectively skip those works irrelevant to one’s research. Providing the algorithm was correctly designed, one could apply it to London’s Tate Britain: the trick is in knowing which works speak to you—in my case, J. M. W. Turner’s Decline of the Carthaginian Empire.

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“Program or program not: there is no try.”

By Sarah Hertz


As a novice programmer, I am reminded of Yoda’s words to Luke Skywalker on the swamp-planet Dagobah: “You must unlearn what you have learned.” During the course of this project, I’ve had many surprises; and the relevance of Star Wars quotes is one of them. Since grade six, I only ever thought of Yoda’s proverbs as playful inversions of syntax—some of which took a few too many trips through the Google translator (like “around the survivors a perimeter create”). What I didn’t know then—and what I realize now—is that Jedi Knights are trained to fight with words as well as lightsabers. Indeed, Yoda’s most famous maxim, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering” is a classic example of climax or gradatio.

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To ‘Be’ or Not to ‘Be’: Towards an Ontology of Rhetorical Figures

Word Tree

By Sarah Hertz

While Jakub Gawryjołek has built a tool1 to detect figures of repetition and one trope (oxymoron); and Claus Strommer has developed a software program to detect epanaphora; the Inkpot research team at UWaterloo has compiled a database of figures and an associated wiki as part of their Rhetorical Figure Ontology Project. In 2010, the database contained 1,000 entries, including definitions, examples, and bibliographic information on the figures. A Python-based application running on top of a Google App Engine, Inkpot’s Rhetfig will be entirely web-based, allowing anyone capable of standard web-browsing to access the online platform (Kelly 3).

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  1. Called JANTOR; see previous post. []

Process Talk: Introducing the Taxonomy of Rhetoric


By Maria Jaramillo

The first meeting of the Zeugtern took place on a sunny Thursday afternoon. With an equally sunny disposition, we came bearing lovingly annotated documents, prepared to discuss the rhetorical figure we would begin with–that is, a simple, repetitive scheme that our algorithm would be trained to recognize. Quickly enough, however, our conversation soon digressed into an energetic dialogue about our individual goals for The Zeugmatic, ranging from target audiences to the visualization of our soon-to-be text analysis tool as a Renaissance Rubik’s Cube. 

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From Decimals to Decahedrons: Renaissance Rubik’s Cubes

By Sarah Hertz

Zeugmatic Files: Week 2, Spring 2013

~ We are such stuff as dreams are made on.

Picture a Shakespearean sonnet: fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, knotted with a rhyming couplet:

Sonnet 98

Take out a pen and annotate it, chisel the sonnet and slice it into layers: one for anaphora, two for brachylogia, three for climax or gradatio. Peel each layer of annotations from your paper and examine them as transparencies; overlay them, one upon the other, in a diaphanous stack. Shakespeare’s Sonnet, you realize, has ‘depth’ not just metaphorically, but metrically, as well, with each separate colour (or layer of annotations) designating a specific rhetorical figure. Pull out the third transparency and examine it, as a scientist would a specimen under a microscope—flicking through the sonnet like a card catalogue—from Anaphora to Zeugma:

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