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Computational Stylistics in Poetry, Prose, and Drama

BORIES, A.-S. – PLECHÁČ, P. – FABO, P. R. (eds.) (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter 2023)

This volume responds to the current interest in computational and statistical methods to describe and analyse metre, style, and poeticity, particularly insofar as they can open up new research perspectives in literature, linguistics, and literary history. The contributions are representative of the diversity of approaches, methods, and goals of a thriving research community. Although most papers focus on written poetry, including computer-generated poetry, the volume also features analyses of spoken poetry, narrative prose, and drama. The contributions employ a variety of methods and techniques ranging from motif analysis, network analysis, machine learning, and Natural Language Processing. The volume pays particular attention to annotation, one of the most basic practices in computational stylistics. This contribution to the growing, dynamic field of digital literary studies will be useful to both students and scholars looking for an overview of current trends, relevant methods, and possible results, at a crucial moment in the development of novel approaches, when one needs to keep in mind the qualitative, hermeneutical benefit made possible by such quantitative efforts.

  • Current approaches in Digital Literary Stylistics of poetry, drama and narrative
  • Computational literary analysis and generation
  • Digital Humanities and Computational Humanities applications to literary studies

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Tackling the Toolkit: Plotting Poetry through Computational Literary Studies

PLECHÁČ, P. – KOLÁR, R. – BORIES, A.-S. – ŘÍHA, J. (eds.) (Prague: ICL CAS 2021)

In Tackling the Toolkit, we have chosen to focus on the methodological innovations, challenges, obstacles and even shortcomings associated with applying quantitative methods to poetry specifically and poetics more broadly. Using tools including natural language processing, web ontologies, similarity detection devices and machine learning, our contributors explore not only metres, stanzas, stresses and rhythms but also genres, subgenres, lexical material and cognitive processes. Whether they are testing old theories and laws, making complex concepts machine-readable or developing new lines of textual analysis, their works challenge standard descriptions of norms and variations.

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Versification and Authorship Attribution

PLECHÁČ, P. (Prague: Karolinum / ICL 2019)

Contemporary stylometry uses different methods to figure out a poem’s author based on features like the frequencies of words and character n-grams. However, there is one potential textual fingerprint it tends to ignore: versification. Using poetic corpora in three different languages (Czech, German and Spanish), this book asks whether versification features like rhythm patterns and types of rhyme can help determine authorship. It then tests its findings on two real-life unsolved literary mysteries. In the first, we distinguish the parts of the verse play The Two Noble Kinsmen written by William Shakespeare from those by his co-author, John Fletcher. In the second, we seek to solve a case of suspected forgery. How authentic was a group of poems first published as the work of the 19th-century Russian author Gavriil Stepanovich Batenkov?

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Nerudův verš

ŘÍHA, J. (Praha: ÚČL AV ČR 2019)

Básnické dílo Jana Nerudy je v knižní studii Nerudův verš podrobeno systematickému rozboru, který zahrnuje čtyři základní oblasti versologického výzkumu: metriku, rytmiku, strofiku a rým. Výklad postupuje chronologicky – jeho osu tvoří sled Nerudových básnických knih od prvotiny Hřbitovní kvítí (1858) po dvojici posmrtně vydaných sbírek – Zpěvy páteční (1896) a Knihu epigramů (vydána až 1956). V každé sbírce jsou podrobně charakterizovány veršové struktury a konfigurace, jejich vzájemné vztahy a vazby ke strukturám jiného řádu (žánr, téma, kompozice aj.). Monografii doplňují souborné metrické a strofické tabulky.

Quantitative Approaches to Versification


This volume presents a wide range of quantitative approaches to versification. It comprises various methodological perspectives ranging from simple descriptive statistics to advanced machine learning methods (such as support vector machines, random forests or neural networks) as well as material covering a large span of time and languages: from very ancient versifications (Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittie; Ancient Greek), through medieval (Old English, Old Icelandic, Old Saxon) and Renaissance verse to modern experiments (free verse, concrete poetry); from English and Russian through Spanish and German to Portuguese and Catalan. Not only written, but also spoken poetry has been analyzed.

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Kapitoly z korpusové versologie

PLECHÁČ, P. – KOLÁR, R. (Praha: Akropolis 2017)

Chapters from Corpus Verse Studies are the climax of a long-term project focusing on research into the 19th-century Czech poetry; they build on the academic productions of Miroslav Červenka and Květa Sgallová. Besides analyses of selected rhythmical characteristics and their connections to particular verse schools, attention is paid to a complex treatment of the rhythmical style of versified text. As to the material, the book is founded upon the Corpus of Czech Verse, and deals with measurable text features.


Prozodické spisy raného obrození

ŘÍHA, J. (ed.) (Praha: Univerzita Karlova, Filozofická fakulta 2015)

The books provides an all-in-one edition of four most important prosody treatises of the early Czech National Revival; these shaped the then disputes between the advocates of the syllabotonic and quantitative verse systems. At the head of the ensemble, there is a new Czech translation of Josef Dobrovský's treatise Böhmische Prosodie (Czech Prosody, 1795) and Prosodie (Prosody, 1798; published in Czech for the first time), which put forward the syllabotonic reform of Czech verse. The second item of the set is treatise Počátkové českého básnictví, obzvláště prozódie (Principles of Czech Poetry, Namely of Prosody, 1818) by Pavel Josef Šafařík and František Palacký, which is a passionate counterpoint to Dobrovský's syllabotonic tenet and its practice in the poems of Puchmajer's school, advocating for quantitative verse instead. The set closes with so-far neglected treatise Zlomky o českém básnictví, zvláště pak o prozódii (Notes on Czech Poetry, Particularly on Poetry, 1820) by Šebestián Hněvkovský, which represents an apology of Puchmajer's school and tries to fuse both contradictory attitudes. The published texts are provided with commentaries and explanations, and supplemented with a dictionary of basic symbols and notions used in verse theory.

The book on the web of the publishing house »

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Báseň a počítač

IBRAHIM, R. – PLECHÁČ, P. (Praha: Academia 2014)

The Poem and the Computer – is it possible to put these together? Computing has its tradition in humanities – it was very fertile especially in the 1960s, where computers helped to process large data sets. A new phase of computer use was brought about by the 1990s, the period of the rise of computing technologies and the starting point of their dominance over the world. Nowadays, literary texts are to be found in digitalized versions, and this is what enables use of computers in literary scholarship. The brochure outlines the ways of treating texts via modern computing. It will introduce readers to text-processing applications, such as the Database of Czech Metres, Gunstick, Euphonometer, Hex, or Frequency Lists.

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The printed version is available for free at Academia bookshops.

Úvod do teorie verše

IBRAHIM, R. – PLECHÁČ, P. – ŘÍHA, J. (Praha: Akropolis 2013)

So far, those who are interested in verse studies have had only Josef Hrabák's Úvod do teorie verše (Introduction to Verse Theory, first edition in 1956) to rely on; however, the book is nowadays old-fashioned in many ways. The new Introduction to Verse Theory by three experts based at the Institute of Czech Literature, CAS, presents, on the other hand, the current research in the field. Verse theory is presented as a bordering discipline between literary scholarship and linguistics; its main methodological standpoint is the constant attention paid to linguistic presuppositions of versified text, to comparisions of verse and non-verse, or of verse and its theoretical model. The book covers all fundamental research spheres of verse theory: rhythmical studies, metrics, rhymes, and strophe studies. Methodologically, the authors build upon the Czech tradition of structuralism and neo-structuralism, while drawing inspirations from Russian formalism and the so-called Russian school of verse, from the articles produced within the Słowiańska metryka porównawcza (Slavic Comparative Metrical Studies) international project, the American school of generative metrical studies, or the French school of strophe studies. The book research was carried out at the same time as the project of automatic analysis of Czech poetry; the authors were thus able to make use of a part of the Corpus of Czech Verse to support their hypotheses by hundreds of thousands of analysed verse units.

The book on the web of the publishing house »

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Nástin dějin evropského verše

GASPAROV, M.; přeložil R. Ibrahim a A. Machoninová (Praha: Dauphin 2012)

Nástin dějin evropského verše (An Outline of History of European Verse) is a unique book – it is the first attempt at a comparative analysis of history of European verse. Not only does the book encompass a large geographical space (30 languages are taken into account), but it is also valuable as to the period it covers – it focuses on European verse from its beginnings in Antiquity, up to the 20th-century free verse production, including the 1950s–70s verse experiments.

History of verse is a discipline in no way circumscribed to a closed milieu of experts – history of verse is history of poetry itself. An endeavour to open this sphere to a widest range of researchers possible (literary scholars, literary historians, folklore experts, linguists, culture experts), but also to all these who are deeply interested in poetry is fuelled by the attitude that by overseeing verse forms we deprive ourselves of a part of the cultural (Pan-European, in this case) heritage.

Gasparov's monograph aims at showing that history fo European verse does not merge with discrete histories of European literatures, but that it is a living, developing organism – a mutually intertwined tissue. Geneses of individual metres is taken by Gasparov as an opportunity of going through centuries of European verse and of putting together the so-far disconnected mosaic of facts.

Furthermore, the book deserves respect for a comprehensive exemplification of ideas and its bibliographical sources concerning national literatures. What is also of interest for Czech readers is chapters on the Czech verse which place our literature in a wide European context.

The book on the web of the publishing house »

Česká literatura 60/3: versologie

IBRAHIM, R. (ed.) (Praha: Ústav pro českou literaturu 2012)
The third issue of this year's Česká literatura (Czech Literature Scholar Journal) is dedicated to verse theory. Given the fact it is published in the year of the eightieth anniversary of the birth of Miroslav Červenka (1932–2005), prominent Czech 20th-century verse expert and long-time editor-in-chief of the journal, we want to pay him homage and underline the permanent importance of his academic production.

The intention of the issue was to demonstrate the continuation of verse research in Czechia and to show the paths of its development. As the content of the issue is limited, the thematic issue does not present Czech verse studies in their diversity and entirety. Verse studies are told to be an exact and descriptive discipline, with articles teeming with numbers, equations, charts, and tables. A struggle for exactness is, to be honest, typical of Slavic and a part of American 20th-century verse studies, but if we take into consideration what tasks and challenges are brought about by the need of processing the huge material, this path was inevitable. Nevertheless, we did not want to create an esoteric, verse experts-oriented issue, which will be read – besides the contributors – by the editorial board only; on the other hand, we wanted to present verse studies as a diverse field of research the results of which may be attractive for a wide literary scholarship. We, therefore, offer – along with theorerical studies (Plecháč) – articles covering historical metrics mostly (Sgallová, Říha, Dobiáš), or a general reflection on methodology (Šapir), and a phonetics-based overview of speech and verse (Palková).

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This website was created with support of the Czech Science Foundation as part of the P406/11/1825 (The History and Theory of the 19th Century Czech Verse) and 17-01723S (Stylometric Analysis of Poetic Texts) projects and with support aiming at a long-term, conception-based development of a research institution (no. 68378068).
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