Rhetorical Schematics Project

The ACL’s flagship enterprise, called the Rhetorical Schematics Project (RSP), employs a computational approach to traditional philology. Its main goal is to systematically investigate the poetic function of rhetorical schemes.

Our first targets were incrementum and gradatio, or what George Puttenham calls the “marching figure.” Take, for example, this excerpt from Richard III:

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain. (TLN 3655)

We first developed a tool that finds and contextualizes these figures, and have now turned our attention toward a broader corpus of over 400 early modern plays from 1570 to 1640. The next step in the process is to investigate these passages as they relate to broader usage patterns in early modern English.

Eventually, we plan to apply this method to other figures of repetition, and as the scope of the project widens, the ACL plans to produce tools that facilitate other types of scalable reading, including tasks like:

    • comparing the figural habits of multiple authors
    • identifying usage patterns from models to imitations to quantify claims of rhetorical imitation—like Milton’s of Ariosto—and to identify imitations we haven’t yet recognized
    • identifying the figural signatures of students of influential teachers or schools (students who read the same texts and recognized the same figures)
    • measuring the influence of certain texts and writers (especially preachers and playwrights) on common figural habits.