- “Getting Wind of a New Opening”: Joyce in the Digital Age Conference, Columbia University, New York, 1 October 2017
Joyce in the Digital Age,1 a single-day conference held at Columbia University on 1 October 2017, provided a bird’s-eye view of the methodologies and tools of digital/computational humanities as applied to Joyce’s novels. The idea for the conference coalesced around the Open Editions versions of Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man initiated by Jonathan Reeves and subsequent discussions with Hans Walter Gabler of various printer’s errors in the A Portrait text used for the repository.2 The project expanded to include the reading text from Gabler’s Critical and Synoptic Edition of “Ulysses” (CSE) and has grown to encompass computational analysis of both novels.3 The presentations and projects described during the morning session expanded in varying degrees the computationally assisted readings of Joyce. Arguably, many aspects of recent Joycean scholarship are [End Page 195] rooted in this digital turn, from the CSE, which would not have been possible without computational intervention, to the lively debate around Eric Bulson’s “Ulysses by Numbers.”4 A recurring theme of the day was the possibility in digital technologies to reveal patterns in or critical insights about texts that are not necessarily possible with traditional practices. Notably, many of the talks were accompanied by various digital artifacts accessible online.
Ronan Crowley led the morning off with a video presentation “Quote Unquote: Quotation, Allusion and Unmarked Borrowing in Ulysses” that highlighted the frequent moments in the text where there are allusions lifted from other works in Ulysses that cannot necessarily be detected outside of the use of computational tools. Deploying an example from “Scylla and Charybdis”—”[h]ow now sirrah” (U 9.192)—Crowley traced the phrase from its initial appearance in notebooks now held by the National Library of Ireland to a copy-written draft, contending that “material grouping and proximity on notebook page translates to adjacency in the printed version.” Joyce’s notebooks and his processes within the notebooks of crossing out text with colored pencils effectively create a sort of “textual building block” for constructing episodes. The notebooks form a system of organizing and retrieving raw material for the novel. Large-scale digitization projects such as Google Books permit the identification of allusions in the notebook, and ultimately, the digital domain is central to providing access to this research.
In “Character Voice in Ulysses,”5 Reeves provided character-dialogue analysis in the novel based on the Ulysses TEI in the Open Edition project. The character-speech analysis presented was completely mediated by computational methods. Reeves’s talk considered how Joyce distinguishes characters through their speech, delineated as anything with a dialogue dash in the text and marked up in the TEI version using identifying tags. The resulting analysis charts utterances in Ulysses by episode, and a variety of trends emerge; for example, Stephen Dedalus’s speech dominates episodes 1 and 2, followed by Bloom’s utterances. The “Cyclops” episode is notable for its array of ancillary characters with their own statements.
The extracted dialogue was used to perform statistical and stylistic analysis, and clustering methods were used to measure stylistic similarities in declarations in the text. In the resulting graph, for example, the dialogue of Bloom and Stephen occupies similar positions, while Buck Mulligan is situated as an outlier. Similarly, using different tools of semantic analysis, Reeves suggested that the Citizen is the most dissimilar from other characters in terms of semantic-character similarity. Reeves also used speech dialogue for topic-modeling, which indexes clusters of topics to different characters. Many topics appear only in specific characters like, for example, Martin Cunningham. [End Page 196]
Emily Fuhrman reported on a visualization project, “Visualizing Joyce’s Ulysses—Sirens as Graphic Score,” based on Joyce’s overt references to fugal structures in the “Sirens” episode.6 Again, the recurrent theme in the day’s talks regarding the role of computational methods in exposing patterns not necessarily evident from more normalized readings was underscored, and the episode was framed as a dataset that could then be formalized as a linear model...