All posts by Francesca

A Question of Style Corpus on ORDO

Today marks an important milestone in our A Question of Style project. Our corpus is available to download from ORDO, The Open University’s data repository. The graphs below give an overview of the composition of the corpus. Our presentation from the RSVP/ VSAWC 2018 conference gives more details on the creation and processing of the Corpus. The Corpus is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence, so you are free re-use it for your own research if you acknowledge its provenance.

Number of Articles by Periodicals in A Question of Style Corpus by Francesca Benatti and David King.
Number of Articles by Periodicals in A Question of Style Corpus by Francesca Benatti and David King.
Number of Words by Periodicals in A Question of Style Corpus by Francesca Benatti and David King. CC BY 4.0
Number of Words by Periodicals in A Question of Style Corpus by Francesca Benatti and David King.
Percentage of quotations in A Question of Style Corpus by Francesca Benatti and David King
Percentage of quotations in A Question of Style Corpus by Francesca Benatti and David King.
Number of Non- Quotation Words by Periodicals in A Question of Style Corpus by Francesca Benatti and David King.
Number of Non- Quotation Words by Periodicals in A Question of Style Corpus by Francesca Benatti and David King.

Conference roundup: RSVP/VSAWC 2018

We were honoured to be invited to present at the RSVP/VSAWC 2018 conference, which took place at the University of Victoria on 26-28 August 2018.

We presented a paper on the progress of our research, especially on the issues of OCR correction and treatment of quotations, as part of a panel on Voices on the Page on 26 August. You can view it on ORO, The Open University’s institutional repository.

The following day, we joined six other projects in the Digital Research Showcase, showcasing the breadth of digital research in the field of nineteenth-century periodicals. We hope to develop further links with these projects and thank the RSVP and VSAWC for their generous travel bursary.

Conference roundup: Galway and Dublin, February 2018

Photograph of Francesca Benatti with fellow panelists Derek Greene (UCD) and Karen Wade (UCD) at the Digital Cultures, Big Data and Society conference
Francesca Benatti (right) with fellow panelists Derek Greene (UCD) and Karen Wade (UCD) at the Digital Cultures, Big Data and Society conference

We presented our research at two venues in Ireland last week.

On 14 February, we were at the Moore Institute in NUI Galway at the Digital Scholarship Seminar.  We spoke to an audience of students and staff drawn from the Moore Institute, the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and the School of Humanities active in the area of Digital Humanities .

On 16 February, we took part in the Digital Cultures, Big Data and Society conference, held at the Royal Irish Academy and the UCD Humanities Institute. Organised by the Irish Memory Studies Network, the conference focused on questions of close and distant reading and the critical functions of digital tools in the humanities.  Our paper was well received andparticipated in a lively debate on  how Humanities scholars can use digital tools to analyse data at a new scale but also subject digital data to critical scrutiny.

The conference culminated with the launch of the Industrial Memories project. Led by Prof Emilie Pine, the project represents a striking application of Digital Humanities methodologies such as text mining and data visualisation to enable analysis of the 2009 Ryan Report into child abuse at residential school run by the Catholic Church between 1936 and 1999.

Conference round-up: DHSI Colloquium and SHARP 2017

We presented papers on our A Question of Style Project at two further events: the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) Colloquium on 5 June 2017 and the conference of the Society for the Study of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) Conference on 11 June 2017.

The first short paper was aimed at an audience of Digital Humanities specialists, gathered for the annual Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria (a subsequent blog post will examine our experience at DHSI and lessons learned from the excellent Out-of-the-Box Text Analysis course, taught by David Hoover). At the Colloquium, Francesca gave a succint 5-minute presentation on our work-in-progress, focusing especially on our current work on post-OCR correction and TEI encoding.

The second paper was aimed at an audience of book historian and periodical studies specialists gathered for the annual SHARP conference, which this year focued on the theme of “Technologies of the Book” and was co-located with DHSI. This 20-minute presentation provided our reflections on the theoretical and methodological implications of the process we defined as “assisted close reading” (inspired by Anne Bandry-Scubbi’s article on the Chawton Novels Online corpus) on the study of authorship in the Edinburgh Review.

Both papers were well received and provoked numerous questions and suggestions, which we are gladly incorporating into our practice and reflection. In particular, the issue of untangling the influence of the editor, Francis Jeffrey, merits further reflections, which will be the subject of a future blog post.

In addition to presenting, we met several colleagues, old and new, and learned about exciting research being conducted in ares that are close to our. We were particularly intrigued to discover from Julia Flanders’s plenary lecture that the Women Writers Project has noticed certain patterns in the use of quotations and pronouns that we are also observing in the course of our research.

Seminars in Galway and Dublin, 15-17 February 2017

NUIG Digital Scholarship Seminar logoUCD Humanities Institute Seminar Room

Last week, Francesca presented two seminars on our A Question of Style project at the Digital Scholarship Seminar at the National University of Ireland Galway (15 February) and the UCD Humanities Institute in University College Dublin (17 February).

The seminars introduced A Question of Style and discussed progress so far as well as the longer-term goals of the project. The audiences, which included staff, postgraduate students, librarians and information technology specialists, showed particular interest in our work to develop tools for semi-automated OCR correction and TEI encoding. Several questions were also asked about the nature of “operationalisation” and the relationship between quantification and the study of literature, followed in both venues by lively discussions.

The NUI Galway seminar was broadcast on Facebook Live and is available to watch at this link:

Stylometry and corpus stylistics: suggested readings

Style, by Dr Case from Flickr. CC BY-NC
Style, by Dr Case from Flickr. CC BY-NC

Some members of the audience at yesterday’s seminar at The Open University asked us about the methods we are employing in our research. As an answer, we include here some of the key works that are inspiring our research.


Burrows, John. 2002. ‘“Delta”: a Measure of Stylistic Difference and a Guide to Likely Authorship’. Lit Linguist Computing 17 (3): 267–87. doi:10.1093/llc/17.3.267.

Burrows, John. 2007. ‘All the Way Through: Testing for Authorship in Different Frequency Strata’. Lit Linguist Computing 22 (1): 27–47. doi:10.1093/llc/fqi067.

Hoover, David L. 2002. ‘Frequent Word Sequences and Statistical Stylistics’. Literary and Linguistic Computing 17 (2): 157–80. doi:10.1093/llc/17.2.157.

Collaborative Authorship
Lang, Anouk. 2016. ‘Stylo and the Stevensons’. Anouk Lang. July 13.

Rybicki, Jan, David Hoover, and Mike Kestemont. 2014. ‘Collaborative Authorship: Conrad, Ford and Rolling Delta’. Literary and Linguistic Computing 29 (3): 422–31. doi:10.1093/llc/fqu016.
Hulle, Dirk van, and Mike Kestemont. 2016. ‘Periodizing Samuel Beckett’s Works: A Stylochronometric Approach’. Style 50 (2): 172-202.

Corpus Stylistics

Mahlberg, Michaela. 2012. Corpus Stylistics and Dickens’s Fiction. Routledge.

Mahlberg, Michaela. 2007. ‘Clusters, Key Clusters and Local Textual Functions in Dickens’. Corpora 2 (1): 1–31. doi:10.3366/cor.2007.2.1.1.

Style and meaning

Pennebaker, James W. 2011. The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

Herrmann J. Berenike, Dalen-Oskam Karina van, and Christof Schöch. 2015. ‘Revisiting Style, a Key Concept in Literary Studies’. Journal of Literary Theory 9 (1): 25–52. doi:10.1515/jlt-2015-0003.

Ongoing projects

The Riddle of Literary Quality, Huygens Institute
Stanford Literary Lab

Upcoming seminar, 9 February

Jennie Lee Building, Open Univeristy

We will be in the Jennie Lee Building presenting the results of our research so far at the Open University’s School of Computing and Communications Research Seminar series on Thursday 9th February.

Here is our description:

In a collaboration between FASS and STEM, we present our project, A Question of Style: individual voices and corporate identity in the Edinburgh Review, 1814-1820, which is funded by a Research Society for Victorian Periodicals Field Development Grant running from January 2017 to October 2017.

The Edinburgh Review was the main literary journal in early 19th-century Britain, including among its contributors some of the most prominent contemporary authors and politicians. Yet all its articles were published anonymously, their authority stemming exclusively from their presence in the Edinburgh and not from the name of their author. In 2016 we undertook a proof-of-concept project, employing methods from periodical studies, book history, computational linguistics and computational stylistics to assess the assumption that early nineteenth-century periodicals like the Edinburgh succeeded in creating, through a “transauthorial discourse”, a unified corporate voice that hid individual authors behind an impersonal public style (Klancher 1987).

We will discuss how we are now taking forward this work through “operationalising” our definition of style in order to select features that can be measured empirically (Moretti 2013) at the level of words and sentences, using methods such as term frequency: inverse document frequency, Burrows’ Delta and Zeta methods, Moretti’s Most Distinctive Words Method, and Principal Component Analysis.

Finally, we will qualitatively describe the results of our preliminary stylistic analysis.



Klancher, Jon P. The Making of English Reading Audiences, 1790-1832. University of Wisconsin Press, 1987.

Moretti, Franco. “Operationalizing”: or, the function of measurement in modern literary theory” Stanford Literary Lab. Pamphlet 6. Stanford Lit. Lab, December 2013.

Conferences: BARS ECR and DHC 2016

We have not officially begun our funded period yet, but we have been busy spreading the word about A Question of Style at two conferences this past summer.

On 22-23 June we were at TORCH in Oxford presenting at Romantic Voices 1760-1840, the 2016 BARS Early Career and Postgraduate Conference.

On 8-10 September, we were in Sheffield at the Digital Humanities Congress 2016 conference. The tweets below capture some of the central questions of our project.