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Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism
Besides familiar and now-commonplace tasks that computers do all the time, what else are they capable of? Stephen Ramsay's intriguing study of computational text analysis examines how computers can be used as "reading machines" to open up entirely new possibilities for literary critics. Computer-based text analysis has been employed for the past several decades as a way of ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published November 30th 2011 by University of Illinois Press
(first published November 1st 2011)
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This book is incredibly thought-provoking. Although I'm still unsure how helpful the algorithmic exploration will be for many literary scholars, I have no doubt that it has merit despite its deformational tendencies. As Ramsay points out, all criticism is deformational in some way. I hope that I can one day mess around with some of the software he describes and see what the experience is like, analyzing text using the text's word data alone. I am also thinking this could be a cool thing for a ...more
No surprise that this wasn't a favorite of mine. Algorithmic literary criticism is fascinating, but his work leaned so heavily on the assumption that readers would already be familiar with the ins and outs of literary criticism, as well as familiar with a wide array of classic literature. Even as an English graduate student, I still had an incredibly difficult time keeping up with Ramsay. Most of the time, I didn't.
Read this for my Digital Humanities class, and I'm really glad it was assigned. It was basically about the role of humanities computation in literary criticism, but touched on a lot of stuff I like -- Alfred Jarry and Oulipo and textual data and concordances... geeky, but my kind of geeky. And dense, but that was OK. It's a small book. Definitely recommended if you have any interest in the intersection of literary studies and computers -- well written, clear, often very funny.