Summer Update 2015

With an exciting fall quickly approaching, July is an opportune time to recap and review the ACL’s progress. In the past months, the team has been busily presenting research at conferences, drafting a manuscript on gradatio in early modern drama, strengthening the research team, and laying out the foundations for several new ACL initiatives.

The following outlines the ACL’s progress. Its purpose is to tell you where we are and what problems we’re tackling next. If you have any questions, suggestions, or other comments on these updates (or other activities that match the ACL’s interests), please send us an email

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What’s in a Name? Introducing the Augmented Criticism Lab

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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” Painting by Laura Wilson Barker (c. 1886). Source: BBC – Your Paintings

“It’s where we take all the important people who visit the university,” Adam told us with a wry smile.

Michael was visiting the University of Waterloo for the “Computers Figuring/Figuring Computers” workshop, hosted by Randy Harris and the gang from RhetFig.

It was the first time that Michael, Adam, and I had been in the same city. The three of us were sitting down to a well-deserved meal a short drive from the university. We had spent the afternoon in Hagey Hall, hammering out research questions in the department library.

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Collaboration Celebration

While wandering (digitally) on tumblr., I found an interesting post by The Getty. It compiled six principles as to why “networked scholarship” in the digital humanities is important.

The post’s principles relate to any digital humanities project as there is an environment where DH projects do conform to ideas like “process and product are inseparable,” “experimentation and collaboration are core values,” and “digital work enables and demands innovative modes of thought and argumentation.” And this got me thinking.

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Introducing Theresa Kenney

[With this, the Zeugmatic welcomes our new research assistant Theresa Kenney, who has guest-blogged for us before. Theresa and Rachel Shabalin will work on different facets of the project, and will blog their discoveries periodically.]

Upon entering university, I pictured what I could learn from my degrees (English and Political Science): grammar, international relations, early 19th century literature, and world domination. They seemed to have matched my interests and were seemingly feasible to learn at the University of Calgary.

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Flowers? … Figures!

[A guest post by Theresa Kenney, rhetorician extraordinaire and current #engl410 student.]

I’ve always been a fan of literary devices. I notice them everywhere, even on twitter. But, George Puttenham was a true fanatic. He attempted to define rhetorical figures in Early-Modern English (he may have not had twitter, but he did have a treatise).

Puttenham argues in The Arte of English Poesy that rhetorical figures are the flowers1 to the colours of argument2 as they attract the reader based “on the natural, already existing predilections of the hearer’s ear and mind”3. He also defines poetry as “an art not only of making but also of imitation”4, therefore suggesting that a poet’s art is of imitating rhetorical devices.

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Extraordinary Language

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 18.00.46 What makes poetry poetic? It’s a question as old as criticism itself, which probably got its start during the recitation of the world’s first poem. What makes its language different from any other?

It’s not rhyme, because unrhymed blank verse seems poetic enough. What about form? Or meter — the limited number of syllables before a line breaks? Or the pattern of those syllables? Maybe, but there are plenty of prose passages in Shakespeare that seem to qualify as poetry. “What a piece of work is a man,” Hamlet says in prose, but not prosaically: “how noble in reason; how infinite in faculties, in form and moving; how express and admirable in action,” and so on.

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Introducing Rachel Shabalin

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This is the inaugural post by the incoming Zeugmatic RA Rachel Shabalin, an English major at the University of Calgary. Rachel brings a fresh perspective to the project, as this post (about her journey into DH) makes clear.

The summer after high school I felt tranquil—I was officially free from the torture of finding the value of “x.” The world harmonized. Mathematics was a fading, distant memory—or so I thought! During the first year of my English degree, I found home in the ambiguous and paradoxical, and rhetoric’s refusal to make “logical” sense only made me dig deeper. Feeling new questions pulling on my perception, fraying the familiar answers, I found myself in a new world. The desire to write creatively swept over me. Words and sounds were fragments and pieces I arranged, and whether I was aware of it or not, my poetry appropriated and followed patterns. Although I felt liberated from what I understood as the mathematical, little did I know I was working within patterns (math), networking and translating signs (language) into meaning.

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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

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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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