Computational Methods for Literary-Historical Textual Scholarship

A three-day international conference on 3-5 July 2018

The Centre for Textual Studies at De Montfort University in Leicester, England, is running a three-day international conference to showcase and explore the latest methods for analyzing literary and historical texts using computers. Kerouac-Shannon

A particular focus will be the ways in which literary and historical scholarship will turn increasingly algorithmic in the future as we invent wholly new kinds of questions to ask of our texts because we have wholly new ways to investigate them. The conference will bring together, and put into fruitful dialogue, scholars using traditional literary and historical methods and those exploring and inventing new computational methods, to their mutual benefit.

Confirmed plenary speakers include:

Arianna Ciula (King's College London) "Modelling Digital Humanities: Thinking in practice"

Ruth Ahnert (Queen Mary University of London) "The cult of networks"

Rebecca Mason (Glasgow University) "Imposing structures on legal historical documents"

Anupam Basu (Washington University in St Louis) "Spenser's spell: Archaism and historical stylometrics"

Allesandro Vatri (Wolfson College Oxford and Turing Institute Cambridge) "A computational approach to lexical polysemy in Ancient Greek"

John Nance (Florida State University) "Title to be confirmed"

David L. Hoover (New York University) "Simulations and difficult problems"

Marco Büchler (Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities) "Title to be confirmed"

Hugh Craig (Newcastle University, Australia) "Digital dating: Early modern plays and the 'ever-rolling stream'"

Willard McCarty (King's College London) on "What happens when we intervene?"

Gary Taylor (Florida State University) on "Invisible writers: Finding 'anonymous' in the digital archives"

Paul McNulty (Cambridge University) "Methods and interactive tools for exploring the semantics of essentially contested political concepts"

John Jowett (Shakespeare Institute) "Shakespeare as digital text"

Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers on our topic, which might cover such matters as:

* More markup or smarter algorithms?: The future of text analysis.

* Is there anything just not computable in literary-historical textual studies, and does it matter?

* Where are we with Optical Character Recognition?

* Are texts Orderly Hierarchies of Content Objects, really?

* Can (should?) one person try to learn traditional and digital methods of textual scholarship?

* XML but not TEI: Using roll-your-own schemas

* New developments in Natural Language Processing

* Regularizing historical spelling variation: Is it necessary? How can we do it?

* Getting started with digital textual analysis: Reports from unwearied beginners

* Is it too easy to get results with computers and too hard to avoid big errors?

* Teaching textual analysis using computers

* Does it matter if non-computational colleagues don't understand our work?

* Showcasing new technologies

* Is digital practice changing textual theories?

* When is a source text digital transcription good enough?

* Teamwork versus lone scholarship: Does working digitally make a difference?

* Where does textual analysis meet digital editing?

* Any other theme you'd like to suggest within our topic

The conference is generously funded by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which includes the provision of eight student bursaries, worth 200 GBP each, to help cover the costs of attending to give a paper. Students wanting to apply for bursaries should indicate so in the paper proposal.

To apply to give a paper, please send the title of the paper and a description (200-300 words) to Prof Gabriel Egan <>. If you are a student applying for one of the bursaries, please say so in your proposal and add a couple of sentences describing your circumstances in a way that makes us want to give you the bursary.

Deadline for paper proposals: 1 May 2018

Where is it happening, exactly?

At De Montfort University, which is the middle of the city of Leicester in the middle of England. Fly in using a London airport (we're 100 miles north-west of it) or Birmingham airport (we're 35 north-east of it) or the regional East Midlands Airport (we're 20 miles south of it). Fast trains to/from central London take 65 minutes and sensible driving (straight up or down the M1 motorway) takes about 150 minutes.

We haven't picked which building the conference will be in, but it'll be on our campus which is here:



There will be an online link here shortly. The registration fee of 69 GBP (full rate) or 39 GBP (student and unwaged rate) will include admission to events on all three days, refreshments and lunch on 3 and 4 July and a drinks reception prior to the conference dinner. The conference dinner is an optional extra and will cost 40 GBP.

Programme (or the first stab at one)

The three days will look something like this:


8.45-9.15am Registration and Coffee

9.15-9.30am Welcome address from the conference organizer

9.30-10.15am Opening Keynote

10.15-10.50am Plenary address by ...

10.50-11.10am Coffee. Late registration available

11.10-11.45am Plenary address by ...

11.45am-12.20pm Plenary address by ...

12.20-12.55pm Plenary address by ...

1-1.45pm Lunch (provided). Late registration available

1.45-3.45pm Panel on ... in ... chaired by ...

1.45-3.45pm Panel on ... in ... chaired by ...

3.45-4pm Coffee. Late registration available

4-6pm Hands-on Intro to XML session in ... lead by ...

4-6pm Hands-in Intro to Python programming session in ... lead by ...


9-9.30am Late registration available

9.30-10.05am Plenary address by ...

10.05-10.40am Plenary address by ...

10.40-11am Coffee. Late registration available

11am-1pm Panel on ... in ... chaired by ...

11am-1pm Panel on ... in ... chaired by ...

1-1.45pm Lunch (provided). Late registration available

1.45-3.45pm Panel on ... in ... chaired by ...

1.45-3.45pm Panel on ... in ... chaired by ...

3.45-4pm Coffee.

4-6pm Panel on ... in ... chaired by ...

4-6pm Panel on ... in ... chaired by ...

7-8pm Drinks Reception ... followed by Conference Dinner
at ...


9.30-10.05am Plenary address by ... in ... chaired by ...

10.05-10.40am Plenary address by ... in ... chaired by ...

10.40-11am Coffee

11am-11.45pm Closing Keynote by ... in ... chaired by ...

11.45am-12noon Closing remarks from the conference organizer


We want to thank ...

Funding for this event came from De Montfort University, of course, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (grant AH/N007654/1).

AHRC logo