Visiting Speaker, 17 Mar 2020: Giles Bergel on machine learning and textual studies

Giles Bergel (University of Oxfordwill be presenting his paper, ‘Computer Vision, AI and Textual Studies: The State of the Art’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 17 March 2020. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.01.

2019.04.bergelComputer vision has made significant progress in recent years, thanks in part to developments in machine learning (or ‘AI’), and is now beginning to make an impact on textual studies. Computers can, for example, reliably match the same printed page or illustration, or visualise variant typesettings or images. More challenging applications, such as OCR for handwriting, or segmenting documents into meaningful classes, are areas of active research. This presentation will give an account of the state of the art in this area, including several challenges and critical issues for the development of a truly humanistic AI. It will also demonstrate free and open source software tools that researchers can use to make their own images searchable, and will include time for attendees to experiment and learn more about the capabilities and limits of this technology.


Speaker, 10 Feb 2020: Joanna Taylor on digital mapping and Dorothy Wordsworth

Joanna Taylor (University of Manchesterwill be presenting her paper, ‘Fitpoet: Walking with Wearables and Dorothy Wordsworth’, at 5.30pm on Monday, 10 February 2020. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.01, and will be followed by a wine reception.

2019.05.Taylor—and not simply by the fact that this shading of
forest cannot show the fragrance of balsam[.]

The message at the heart of Eavan Boland’s poem, ‘That the Science of Cartography is Limited’, is a straightforward one: that maps are good at representing where something is, but not at showing why it matters. Digital maps exaggerate these limitations. Notwithstanding attempts to represent digitally the experience of standing in a location (Google’s Street View being the most obvious example), digital maps – like their analogue precursors – cannot comprehend an embodied sense of place. This paper seeks to demonstrate incorporating embodied data alongside a literary text in a mapping environment might transform both how we read, and how we understand the role of embodiment in historical and contemporary place-making.

To do so, it takes as a case study one particular text: Dorothy Wordsworth’s epistolary account of her pioneering ascent of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, on 7 October 1818. It reads this letter alongside data gathered from a recreation of this walk—precisely 200 years later—by a party of researchers, artists and mountaineers who followed in Wordsworth’s footsteps. In part, this was a recreation of an important moment in British Romantic literature and mountaineering history. But, as this paper claims, the recreation was also an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between active reading and digital technologies, wherein the maps created by walking this route might transform the ways we read and respond to the texts the initial ascent inspired. The paper’s ultimate claim is that bringing these two types of data—those generated by author and by reader—together can foreground a phenomenology of place that induces new readings both text and map. (more…)

Speaker, 19 Nov 2019: Anna Mercer on the Shelleys and their Manuscripts

Anna Mercer (Cardiff Universitywill be presenting her paper, ‘Manuscripts as Evidence of Collaboration: The Shelleys in 1819’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 19 November 2019. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 0.31, and will be followed by a wine reception.

2019.02.mercerThis paper considers two texts produced by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley as evidence of a highly collaborative moment in their literary relationship, and therefore looks beyond their most famous collaboration on Frankenstein (1818). Percy Shelley’s The Cenci and Mary Shelley’s Mathilda are, I argue, ‘sister-works’, particularly in terms of subject matter (dark stories of incest) and with regards to the circumstances of their composition in Italy in 1819. Both productions are influenced by the Shelleys’ mutual fascination with the real history of the Italian Cenci family. My paper shows that by examining the provenance of The Cenci, looking to the manuscript sources and the Shelleys’ process of composition of that drama, a clear case can be made for Mary Shelley’s involvement in her husband’s literary toil during this period. This understanding confirms the reciprocal nature of the Shelleys’ creative exchange, rejecting the (antiquated but persistent) idea that Percy Shelley imposed his ideas on his wife’s first novel Frankenstein, and exploring a more nuanced understanding of the Shelleys as collaborators. In doing so, the paper also seeks to mark 200 years since the composition of The Cenci and Mathilda in 1819. (more…)

Visiting Speaker, 12 Nov 2019: Nathalie Saudo-Welby on Women and Parody

Nathalie Saudo-Welby (Université de Picardie, Amienswill be presenting her paper, ‘Women and Parody in the British Isles’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 12 November 2019. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 0.31, and will be followed by a wine reception.

2019.01.saudoWomen scholars are well-represented among theorists and analysts of parody, but the engagement of women authors with parody has been neglected. However, the British literary tradition includes many highly respected – and parodiable – female authors while, for many women, writing has meant ‘revision […] an act of survival’ (Adrienne Rich). Women’s writing has indeed often been judged secondary in intention, scope and even literary value. So, how can women’s engagement with parody be read? This research paper will work towards an interpretation of the under-representation of women writers in anthologies of parody, both as parodied authors and as parodists. In order to do so, this talk will also consider the place assigned to women involved or caught in literary hoaxes or situations involving parody. (more…)

Visiting Speaker, 26 Mar 2019: Nicola Wilson on The Book Society

Nicola Wilson (University of Reading) will be presenting her paper, ‘Authors Take Sides: Britain’s First Book-of-the-Month Club in the Shadow of War’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 26 March 2019. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.01, and will be followed by a wine reception.

2018.05.wilsonThe Book Society was set up in 1928 to boost book-buying in a time of mass library-borrowing. By 1930 it had over 10,000 members receiving a new, full-price book each month. The club’s Choices and Recommendations made a huge impact on a book’s sales and circulation and publishers of all types were keen to receive what Harold Raymond called ‘the Book Society bun’. The book club was fronted by a line-up of popular writers, literary celebrities and the odd academic: Hugh Walpole, J. B. Priestley, Clemence Dane, Sylvia Lynd, Edmund Blunden. Priestley called themselves ‘broadbrows’. In the turbulence of the late 1930s, Popular Front spokesman Cecil Day-Lewis was brought on to help the club navigate the growing threat of fascism, at home and abroad. This paper, based on new work from my book on The Book Society, looks at debates among the selection committee in the run-up to WW2 and how the Book Society News sought to navigate a world at sea. Focussed on literary and political debates among the judges in the context of appeasement, and particularly the tension between Day-Lewis and WW1 poet Edmund Blunden, it considers how Britain’s first book-of-the-month club sought to keep readers informed during the chaos of the late 1930s and how individual personalities clashed in its monthly periodical to produce a dynamic, contested read. (more…)