Digital Humanities

 

 

Alas.  I was never very quick with the quill; was neither able-handler of paired knitting needles, nor proficient at churning the butter we melt atop heedless pink-bellied salmon unceremoniously speared alongst their fertile swim upstream.  But, I was damn good at interpreting the bejesus out of literature.

I’ve been successfully interpreting and re-interpreting written texts for years, all by the scanty light of a time-honored oil lamp.  “Dulce et utile,” believed Horace.  He spoke of literature as both “sweet”  and “useful,” and atop a bed of straw, before me a row of novels rhythmically flipped open, I read, analyze and develop conclusions exemplifying the great poet’s admission on the duality of entertainment and education.  

We Interpreters need not much, if any, grandeur to construct the likes of these interpretations.   No Isaac Newton, no novelty reflecting-telescope equivalent necessary.  Give me a document, a mass of fiction or non-, and I will jar you with a horde of identified rhetorical devices.  Prototype literary interpretations, such as symbolism, character archetypes and plot structure (to fork just barely a nibble), are readily accessible within each work itself.  Hell, I can jar the preserves and spot myself a metonym within the same breathe.

. . .

The task of interpreting literature has metamorphosed in time with that of contemporary digital humanities.  I am told of a great-great-(infinitely-great)-relative who excelled, at just the glow of a feeble oil lamp, in the interpretive field, albeit bereft of the lovely Wordle, astounding Ngram, etc.

Access to these digital tools has enhanced our ability to interpret literature.  (Read: “enhance,” i.e.” embellish.”)  Ngram, alone, exists as a powerhouse.  Even if my primitive-relative had rebelled and turned her apron-ed-waist on domestic responsibilities, there is no realistic way that she could have performed this systematic tallying and charting of billions of individual words across centuries of literature.  What I learned in two minutes of the synonymous pairs “detective” and “investigator,” and its proper noun-incarnations “Detective” and “Investigator” over a complete century is essentially exclusive to twenty-first century Interpreters simply because admission to this knowledge was previously unattainable.  The innovation behind Wordle exists primarily in its attractive instantaneous, intelligent results.  However, with enough time (and no life), perhaps she could have produced something similar via needlepoint.

I am now tempted to tackle the query as to whether or not digital humanities make for an elite literary interpretation.  I bear no hesitations at asserting their embellishment (bringing attention to the schism between embellishment and perfection) of analysis.  However, without the fundamental interpretations (those that still require brain-exertion, although that’s bound to change with the development of a digital metaphor indicator), the literature exists bare of rhetorical devices.  Similarly, work interpreted under the passé conditions of great-great-grandmother lacks study of historical connotative word-patterns and internal individual word assessments.  Because the digital humanities do contribute a deluge of ingenious, onetime inaccessible data, if they were to exist bound with all other interpretive tools of yesterday and yesterday’s yesterday, a text interpreted (preferably by a Doctor of Literary Interpretations) under those conditions would be most embellished and perfect.

Digital tool Ngram provides me with easy access to dying and dead, replaced and replacee connotation clusters, and digital tool Wordle performs a superhuman skim on a specified text and delivers calculated results on a mini, (optionally) colorful word-studded placemat.  Likewise, old-school interpretive tools serve their critical purposes as well.  With a dance floor so broad, there is no one better way to cha-cha, unless, of course, you do the tango – with two.

 

 

Claim you Wordle needlepoint: http://170w.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/2011/10/12/literary-analysis-go-digital/

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