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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: January ::
Re: Stylometry; Cultural Studies
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0031.  Friday, 12 January 1996.

(1)     From:   Donald W. Foster <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Jan 1996 03:55:44 +0100
        Subj:   Stylometry and Quantitative Stylistic Analysis

(2)     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Jan 1996 21:18:24 +0100
        Subj:   Stylometric studies

(3)     From:   Michael Mullin <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Jan 1996 14:56:50 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0026  Qs: Cultural Studies; Stylometry


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Donald W. Foster <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Jan 1996 03:55:44 +0100
Subject:        Stylometry and Quantitative Stylistic Analysis

Jim Helfers asks about "stylometric" analysis of texts (i.e., statistical
analysis of function-words as an indication of a text's authorship).  There has
been much silliness published under the name of "stylometry," as well as much
solid scholarship.  My thanks to Jim for his kind mention of my book, *Elegy by
W.S.* (1989)--but in the final chapter of that book I was too dismissive in
poking fun at "stylometrics" (on account of the contradictory claims made by
its practitioners).  In point of fact, much CAN be learned from the frequency
of function-words, so long as the evidence is deployed judiciously and in
conjunction with other kinds of evidence.  Among the best recent scholarship in
this vein is the work of Tom Horton, whose focus has been the problem of
distinguishing Shakespeare's hand from Fletcher's (but the last I heard, he was
having some trouble finding a publisher for his book).  Also worth note is
Prof. Ward Elliott, who recently put a wrap on the "Shakespeare Authorship
Clinic" at Claremont-McKenna College, after several years of research that were
funded by the Sloan Foundation.  Prof. Elliott has prepared an extensive report
on the findings of the Clinic, and he's happy to share it with interested
readers.  He is a political scientist not a professional Shakespearean, but
that should not be held against him; anyone who gives Prof. Elliott a fair
hearing will be impressed by what he and his students were able to accomplish
in a few short years.  Prof. Elliott's interest in the authorship controversy
began with the anti-Stratfordians--but his own research has convinced him (and
many others who have seen his work) that none of the anti-Statfordians'
so-called "claimants" (several dozen of them, Bacon, DeVere, Elizabeth I,
Marlowe, et. al.) can have written any of Shakespeare's plays or poems.

Anyone interested in the use of function words to distinguish one author's
practice from that of another should consult the publications of M.W.A.
("Wilf") Smith.  Dr. Smith has issued many useful cautions against the
misinterpretion of stylometric evidence.      I lack an address for Tom Horton.
 Dr. Smith and Prof. Elliott may be reached at the following addresses:

Dr. M.W.A. Smith
Dept. of Information Systems
University of Ulster at Jordanstown
Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim BT37 OQB
NORTH IRELAND
e-mail: 
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 .ULSTER.UPVAX

Prof. Ward Elliott
Department of Government
Pitzer Hall
850 Columbia Avenue
Claremont McKenna College
Claremont, CA 91711-6420

Jim Helfers asks also about SHAXICON. Sorry for the delay--I'm pedaling as fast
as I can, but I have a terribly hard time just keeping up with the mail that I
receive concerning SHAXICON.  My hope is that SHAXICON will be mounted on the
World Wide Web sometime in 1996.  To make that plan work, I will need to
reformat the entire database for use with Oracle, a state-of the-art system of
database-management.  (ETC Word Cruncher, DeltaGraph, and Excel, the three
software programs on which SHAXICON is now mounted, have limitations that will
be avoided when we reconfigure SHAXICON for use with Oracle.)  I'll keep you
posted.

Don Foster

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Jan 1996 21:18:24 +0100
Subject:        Stylometric studies

Regarding Jim Helfers' query about stylometric studies:

The Shakespeare Clinic was a project several years ago by Ward Elliot and
Robert Valenza of Claremont-McKenna College to compare the works of Shakespeare
to the works of various claimants to authorship by various stylistic tests.
These included various tests that had been used before in other studies, plus a
computer-based method called modal analysis, developed by Valenza (a
statistician) based on his work in signal processing. They presented a summary
of their results in an article called "A Touchstone for the Bard" in *Computers
and the Humanities*, Vol. 25, no. 4 (August 1991), p. 199.  None of the
claimants' works matched Shakespeare, and Shakespeare's works showed
considerable internal consistency.  Elliot and Valenza wrote a shorter article
concentrating on the Earl of Oxford's claim, which appeared in *Notes and
Queries* (December 1991, p. 501) as "Was the Earl of Oxford the True
Shakespeare? A Computer-Aided Analysis".  Elliot wrote an article for *The
Shakespeare Newsletter* (Winter 1990, p. 59) called "Glass Houses and Glass
Slippers: The Shakespeare Clinic and its Critics", in which he responded to
Oxfordian criticisms of the study (quite effectively, in my opinion).

Don Foster posted a description and summary of the SHAXICON project on this
list last summer; it was printed in *The Shakespeare Newsletter* this past
fall.

Dave Kathman

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Mullin <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Jan 1996 14:56:50 -0500
Subject: 7.0026  Qs: Cultural Studies; Stylometry
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0026  Qs: Cultural Studies; Stylometry

Hi, Katie,

I'm engaged in a project titled Our Shakespeares: Shakespeare Across Cultures,
a book and CD-ROM to be published by the U of I Press.  So far I've done field
work in East Asia, Europe, Brazil, and of course North America and Great
Britain.

I've worked up a bibliography and would be interested to know what your angle
is--perhaps we could share resources?

Looking forward to hearing from you.
Michael Mullin
 

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