DiSpecs - Distant Spectators: Distant Reading for periodicals of the Enlightenmen

Project: Research project

Project Details


The enlightened Spectator press of the 18th century constitutes an important cultural heritage of the world, affecting the discourse system of the Enlightenment. It complied with the democratic ideal of disseminating cultural and moral issues, techniques and practices within a non-academic audience, popularizing enlightened ideas, such as cosmopolitanism, tolerance, intellectual criticism, self-reflection and social responsibility. DiSpecs aims to analyze the digitized, TEI encoded and semantically enriched texts of The Spectators in the international context (http://gams.uni-graz.at/mws), an ongoing digital edition project which has been running since 2008 (Ertler et al. 2011-2018; Ertler 2018), with quantitative methods of data analysis referred to as distant reading (Moretti 2005) and macroanalysis (Jockers 2013). Thus, the proposed project builds on existing data and investigates them with digital methods in order to open up new perspectives on the material.
The main question of DiSpecs is how (and which) quantitative methods (topic modeling, stylometry, meme diffusion, sentiment analysis and community detection) prove useful and efficient for the analysis of a multilingual text corpus from the 18th century, which currently incorporates discourses in six languages (French, Italian, Spanish, English, German and Portuguese) with a total of approximately 4000 individual texts with more than 9 million tokens. In particular, the quantitative analysis of the Spectators aims to enhance and improve the studies on micro-narration regarding the repetition of motifs throughout different journals. Another focus is on the transnational-transfer and development of this literary genre based on the English prototypes The Tatler (1709-1711) and The Spectator (1711-1712 and 1714) founded by Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele, while keeping geographical, cultural and temporal specifics under constant consideration.
Effective start/end date1/06/1930/11/20