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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: April ::
Stylometrics
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0891  Monday, 19 April 2004

[1]     From:   Michael Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Apr 2004 05:55:13 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0886 Stylometrics

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Apr 2004 12:54:50 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0886 Stylometrics


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Apr 2004 05:55:13 -1000
Subject: 15.0886 Stylometrics
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0886 Stylometrics

The responses to key questions have been very unsatisfactory, in some
cases no response at all. The most important for list readers are these:
What are the testable and verifiable data underlying the assumptions of
Stylometrical analysis? Is Shakespeare sufficiently exceptional as a
writer so as not to be amenable to the same analyses as others? Are the
measured stylistic variants in his work indicators of collaboration
and/or non-authorship, or merely of his own evolution as a writer? Is
drama in a different category from other literary genres? -- As
Schoenbaum remarks, 'The cadences of the council chamber may be expected
to differ from those of the boudoir.' (Internal Evidence and Elizabethan
Dramatic Authorship, An Essay in Literary History and Method (
Northwestern U.P) p. 185.)

Numbers are not irrelevant, but ultimately the attribution of a text
must and can only be an aggregate of all the available indicators. Sams
argues for the 'preponderance of probability,' (Shakespeare's Edward
III: A Early Play Restored to the Canon (Yale U.P. 1996) p. 161, and
Schoenbaum agrees:

      The ultimate effect is a cumulative one in which all the internal
evidence--stylistic, bibliographical and linguistic--converges
inexorably upon a single possible author-identification, an
identification compatible with the known external information. (Ibid, p.
195.)

Clearly there is a 'poverty of theory' in Stylometrics, i.e., a lot of
unargued assumptions seasoned with liberal doses of belief. When it
comes to authorial attribution, the technique may provide some
confirmatory data one way or another but absolutely not the finality its
practioners so readily claim.

--Michael Egan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Apr 2004 12:54:50 -0500
Subject: 15.0886 Stylometrics
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0886 Stylometrics

We're expected to believe in Terence Hawkes? And the Easter Bunny and
Santy Claus, I suppose.

I thought that stylometrics had established beyond any doubt that
Terence Hawkes was actually a pseudonym for Hardy - one of his most
brilliant creations, in fact, the indolent and ironical Englishman to
serve as an alter ego to the earnest and hardworking American.

Cheers,
I. Bickerstaff

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