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

Conference Activity

At MLA 2015 in early January, Michael and Adam shared “Augmented Criticism and Early Modern Rhetoric” to define augmented criticism and introduce the ACL’s Rhetorical Schematics Project.

As April arrived, Michael attended the Shakespeare Association of America Conference. There he presented “Language Use and Cognition: Shakespeare’s Gradatio in Context” in a workshop on Form, Complexity, and Computation that was co-organized by ACL Advisory Board member Anupam Basu.

During Congress 2015 at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies, Michael presented on augmented criticism and the ACL’s outputs. He received some great feedback from non-digital humanists about how the ACL’s results change our settled definitions of gradatio.

Following Congress, Michael shared the ACL’s latest research in two papers in Stratford, Ontario at the 2015 Shakespeare Theatre Conference. There he joined ACL Advisory Board member Cass Morris and colleague Janelle Jenstad on a panel called “Mark(up) the Play: Best Practices for Digital Tagging of Rhetorical Devices”. Then, Michael participated in the Stratford Festival Free Forum on Augmented Criticism to speak on “Shakespeare and the Problem of Abundance”.

Team Changes

In February we reached a major milestone for our team: we held the first meeting of the ACL’s Advisory Board. We’re grateful to have such wise counsel. The board provides formative peer review and advances the lab’s research internationally. Meanwhile, our long-time advisor Heather Froehlich has accepted a new position as the ACL’s Linguistics Specialist.   

This summer we transition into a new era. Research Assistant Rachel Shabalin will be on sabbatical working on her graduating essay, and Project Manager Cameron Butt will be replaced by former Research Assistant Theresa Kenney, who has been Cameron’s understudy for the last two months. We wish Cameron the best as he applies the “rhet-tricks” he studied carefully with the ACL to his new contract in political communication. If her work as an RA has been any indication, Theresa will make a phenomenal project manager and is the right person to lead us into Fall 2015 and beyond.

New Initiatives

As we’re aiming to finalize our first manuscript on gradatio, we’re now moving forward onto other projects:

Theresa Kenney is leading a new research project called Artful-Language Processing (ALP). The project investigates the comparative numeric frequency of craft (through rhetorical figures) in the dramatic works of William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. 

Michael is teaching a graduate-level course on “Algorithmic Criticism” at the University of Calgary. Students will learn and implement some programming basics using Python. Their introduction to natural-language processing and other tools will offer new ways to analyze individual texts and larger corpora. 


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