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Re: [Synoptic-L] Text Criticism Criticism

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: WSW In Response To: David Mealand On: Stylometrics From: Bruce DAVID: Things have moved on a huge amount since 1964. BRUCE: Let s hope. And
    Message 1 of 8 , Apr 27 6:51 AM
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      To: Synoptic
      Cc: WSW
      In Response To: David Mealand
      On: Stylometrics
      From: Bruce

      DAVID: Things have moved on a huge amount since 1964.

      BRUCE: Let's hope. And myself, perhaps, among the rest. In classical
      Chinese, my institute is currently able to get usable results out of
      relatively modest stretches of text, leading to such things as the
      possibility of saying that, for the writer, this segment of the
      anecdote is of more consequence, is more internally emphatic, than
      that segment. The detection of the author's message, his purpose in
      writing, is much facilitated thereby. No such conclusion is automatic,
      but of two readings of the text, one can turn out to be better
      supported by stylometrics than the other.

      We were retained some decades ago to investigate some unsigned
      contributions to the political paper The Examiner, supposed to have
      been written by Jonathan Swift. As usual, the interest of the
      investigator was in authorship, not in style as such. Turned out the
      pieces were reasonably consistent with Swift's style in general, so
      the conjectured and indeed traditional attribution was not refuted.
      But there was one rather interesting specimen, in which the usual
      style of that writer simply fell apart, so to speak. Turned out (we
      deferred actually reading the text until after the stylistic profile
      had been determined) that the piece purported to describe a vision
      seen in an opium dream. Well, on the stylistic level, it was decidedly
      dreamlike. I concluded with the suspicion that when he wrote of opium,
      Jonathan (or whoever, but on balance likely Jonathan) knew whereof he
      spoke.

      A perhaps useful little biographical datum, emerging out of the
      machinery of mere vulgar text analysis. Whether it has objective
      confirmation in what is otherwise known of Swift, I don't happen to
      know.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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