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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2018, Issue 224


A report on the reports of the stanford literary lab: A reason why the digital humanities may find it difficult to change literary history

Daniel Candel
Published Online: 2018-08-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2016-0223


The present article studies eight of the twelve reports of the Stanford Literary Lab (SLL) to understand why the revolutionary practices of the lab, and by extension of the digital humanities, have not yet changed literary history, as the lab itself admits. The article examines the reports with two related cultural-semantic tools, each of which is introduced via the Pixar movie Brave. First, the interpretations of the reports are placed within a basic semantic grid organized into four quadrants by a nature-society axis and a past-present axis, which shows that the interpretations are invariably situated in the present-society quadrant. This analysis, while necessary, merely proves that SLL operates within a certain cultural climate. The real test lies in ascertaining whether this cultural climate affects the interpretation of novel data. To do so, the article looks for the reaction of SLL to novel data in two reports. The reports are shown to domesticate novelty by explaining it through standard alethic/deontic patterns, even though the data are novel precisely because the patterns largely fail to explain them. The article closes by asking whether such patterns limit or enable thinking and what this means for the digital humanities.

Keywords: digital humanities; literary history; literary semantics; modal logic


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-08-02

Published in Print: 2018-09-25

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2018, Issue 224, Pages 111–134, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2016-0223.

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