Introduction by OpenMethods Editor (Marinella Testori): In his pivotal contribution “Conjectures on World Literature”, Franco Moretti argues that distant reading is a type of reading “where distance (…) is a condition of knowledge: it allows you to focus on units that are much smaller or much larger than the text: devices, themes, tropes – or genres and systems”. Distant reading applies several computational approaches and methods in order to provide analyses of literary textual data and differs from close reading insofar as the latter is based on attention devoted to the single, specific components of the text.
Among the most recent, currently ongoing, projects exploiting distant techniques reading there is the European Literary Text Collection (ELTeC), which is one of the main elements of the Distant Reading for European Literary History (COST Action CA16204, https://www.distant-reading.net/).
Thanks to the contribution provided by four Working Groups (respectively dealing with Scholarly Resources, Methods and Tools, Literary Theory and History, and Dissemination: https://www.distant-reading.net/working-groups/ ), the project aims at providing at least 2,500 novels written in ten European languages with a range of Distant Reading computational tools and methodological strategies to approach them from various perspectives (textual, stylistic, topical, et similia).
A full description of the objectives of the Action and of ELTeC can be found and read in the Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of the COST Action “Distant Reading for European Literary History” (DISTANT-READING) CA 16204”, available at the link https://e-services.cost.eu/files/domain_files/CA/Action_CA16204/mou/CA16204-e.pdf
As highlighted by Odebrecht et al. in quoting the “Memorandum”, the main idea underpinning the Action is “to develop the resources and methods necessary to change the way European literary history is written” (https://dev.clariah.nl/files/dh2019/boa/0715.html).
Along with the development of such a collection, the Action, according to its third and fourth Objectives (https://www.distant-reading.net/about/objectives/), wishes to delve into the several, theoretical and practical, aspects of Distant Reading techniques, as well as to contribute to the development of related skills and competencies among researchers.
In this regard, the NLP methods applied by ELTeC to tagging are summarized by Cinková et al., in a contribution presented at the DH_Budapest_2019, while they have raised a number of challenges, including the replication in computational based literary studies, as pointed out by Schöch et al. during the Digital Humanities Conference 2020 in Canada.
Cinková, Silvie, Tomaž Erjavec, Cláudia Freitas, Ioana Galleron, Péter Horváth, Christian-Emil Ore, and others, ‘Evaluation of Taggers for 19th-Century Fiction’, in DH_Budapest_2019, ed. by Gábor Pálko (presented at the DH_Budapest_2019, Budapest: ELTE, 2019) <http://elte-dh.hu/dh_budapest_2019-abstract-booklet/>
ELTeC Collection page https://distantreading.github.io/ELTeC/
ELTeC Official page https://www.distant-reading.net/
ELTeC Objectives https://www.distant-reading.net/about/objectives/
ELTeC Summary page https://distantreading.github.io/ELTeC/
Oldebrecht, Carolin, Burnard, Lou, Navarro, Borja, Eder, Maciej, and Schöch, Christof. ‘The European Literary Text Collection (ELTeC). Presented at the Digital Humanities Conference 2019 (DH2019), Utrecht University. https://dev.clariah.nl/files/dh2019/boa/0715.html
Moretti, Franco (2000), “Conjectures on World Literature”. New Left Review, 1. https://newleftreview.org/issues/ii1/articles/franco-moretti-conjectures-on-world-literature
Schöch, Christof, van Dalen-Oskam, Karin, Antoniak, Maria, Jannidis, Fotis and Mimno, David (2020). ‘Replication and Computational Literary Studies’. Presented at the Digital Humanities Conference 2020 (DH2020), Ottawa, Canada: Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.389328