Machine Reading

For your final projects, you will use one of a set of tools (e.g. Many Eyes, TAPoR) to perform a “machine” reading of Henry James, In the Cage. For a complete list of tools available for this assignment, see Alan Liu’s Toy Chest.

Throughout the term we have been considering the changes in everyday reading practices.  For the final, we will turn our attention to what we might call professional reading practices – more specifically, academic literary criticism as it has been re-imagined by the digital humanities.  Put another way, we are now shifting our attention from the solitary to the computer-aided reader.  As you saw in Geoffrey Rockwell’s overview of the work of text analysis, researchers are now able to run sophisticated syntactical queries and perform machine-assisted searches of large textual corpora.  Instead of working with a database – e.g. the Internet Shakespeare Editions – you will work with a single text, in this case the novella by Henry James, the full text of which you can download from Project Gutenberg.

Our basic question is this:  how does text analysis enhance human interpretation?  We will also consider how and to what extent the traditional modes and methods of humanist inquiry can be supported by machine reading.  How can they be mutually productive?  In what sense does machine reading ask us to reconsider our governing assumptions about what a text is, what is involved in “proper” reading, and what knowledge production looks like?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of adopting what we might call a computational perspective on a literary text?

Your assignment is to use the tool or tools of your choice to analyze the James novella and then to reflect on these questions in a 4-5 page critical commentary on the data that results from your machine-assisted text analysis.

Other resources:  W. Bradford Paley, TextArc


Reno Botelho, “Reading by Machines: Friend or Foe?
Stacey Church, “Critical Analysis of Many Eyes Machine Reading
Alex Congrove, “Textual Analysis Using Psychoanalytic Categories
Kimberly Floyd, “Throw the Text Analysis Back in the Oven, It’s Not Done Yet
Karan Gogri, “Up-close Look at Distant Reading
Sierra Hennings, “Machine Reading: the Upcoming Digital Aide to Literary Studies
Jonathan Jiang, “Can Computers Read?
Celia Katz,
Morgan Livingston, “Machine Reading and In the Cage
Scott Morley, “Machine Reading: Dehumanizing the Humanities
Bao Nguyen, “Imperfect Reading
Max Oakley,
Gina Paradiso,
Laurie Piña, “Machine Reading: A Supplement to Literary Analysis
Erika Reyes, “Machine Reading: Only Supplementary
Stephanie Ross, “Machine Reading…The New Way of Reading?
Patrick Scott, “Machine Fantasies: an RID-based analysis of a novella and reflection on the methodology of machine reading
Sara Stivers, “Machine Reading: In the Cage
Zoe Williams, “Machine Reading as Literary Criticism

13 Comments to “Machine Reading”

  1. Heres my project. I ended up having to use google docs. The link works, but if it stops working, please alert me so I can fix it.

  2. Here’s a link to my project, which I posted on blogspot. The results are in the earlier entries.

    And here’s a Google Docs of the critical analysis part of the project:

  3. Google doc’d:

    The upload looks like jagged garbage, though. I want to know how you all are getting your .pdfs hosted on the LCM website. I’d prefer that. E-mail me!

  4. Uploaded to mediafire. Hopefully it works.

  5. Uploaded via my fraternities domain and hosted on my MobileMe:

    Hope Everyone has a good spring break!

  6. here is my google docs project
    I had a great quarter thanks everyone!

  7. I also google Doc’d my project! I’m not 100% won over to machine reading, but I’m curious to do my testing with Jane Austen novels…I used Gender Genie.


    If there are any issues with the link just let me know! I really enjoyed this class and I hope we continue on with our discussions and threads about the future of the books and literature!


    Google Doc’d! I’m not savvy enough to convert the file to a pdf (and I think Adobe Reader won’t do it, anyway). Let me know if there are any problems with the links within the document. This was a great class!

  10. Here is the link for my machine reading, hope it works, I’ve never used google docs.

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