The Five College Faculty Seminar in Digital Humanities and the Amherst College Library welcome Amanda Henrichs for a talk called "Computational Approaches to Shakespeare's Sonnets."
Henrichs is a postdoctoral fellow in English (next year, visiting assistant professor of English) at Amherst College.
This talk brings together Shakespeare's sonnets and topic modeling (a popular digital humanities process) in order to propose that word clouds are poems. As an author steeped in the humanist educational system of late-16th-century England, Shakespeare relies on the forms of his poetry to perform communicative functions; and in fact, early modern conceptions of shaped language help us understand word clouds. What unites humanist poems and digital humanities word clouds is an abiding concern with form, and particularly form as endowed with social meaning. Taken together, theories of early modern poetic form and modern digital humanities topic modeling practices emphasize that digital humanities products are not transparent keys to the text: they are generative, and are best when read like poems, a shaped remediation of language.