From one Riddle to the next

The project The Riddle of Literary Quality officially ended on December 31st 2019. The project was funded by the Computational Humanities Programme of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Project summary: The attribution of literary value is an intriguing social process, and difficult to grasp. What is ‘high-brow’ literature, and can we measure it? That was the key question of the Dutch computational humanities project The Riddle of Literary Quality (2012-2019). The project combined computational analysis of writing style with the results of a large online survey of readers, completed by almost 14,000 participants. Correlating readers’ opinions and stylometric analyses makes visible which linguistic features play a role, but also which cultural biases are in place. Why are some authors and some works attributed with more literary prestige than others? What about translations? And what does this tell us about contemporary Dutch society?

Plenty of articles and small follow-up projects are still in the pipeline, however. It is worth-while to keep on following the work and the new publications of the now dispersed but still collaborating team.

A large follow-up project is currently in preparation: The Riddle of the Literary Canon. It will apply the results to originally Dutch and translated into Dutch novels from the last 200 years in search of changing conventions of literariness. More information will follow in due time.

For information please contact the principal investigator, Karina van Dalen-Oskam.

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