Digital Dictionaries

On January 5, 2013, the Modern Language Association Discussion Group on Lexicography sponsored session 562, "Digital Dictionaries," at the MLA's annual convention in Boston. Tweets reporting that session were later assembled at Jennifer Howard interviewed the participants before publishing her article, "In the Digital Era, Our Dictionaries Read Us," in the Chronicle of Higher Education on March 11, 2013.

Five articles have now been published in Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America, volume 35 (2014), which expand on the presentations given at that session:

See also "Notes on Contributors," 398-403.

Doing things with millions of Internet Archive book illustrations

In "Millions of Historic Images Posted to Flickr" (Aug. 29, 2014), Leo Kelion reports, "Kalev Leetaru has already uploaded 2.6 million pictures to Flickr, which are searchable thanks to tags that have been automatically added." The pictures are all book illustrations, mined from the Internet Archive, which have previously been inaccessible to search. The automatic tagging of these images captures words in adjacent text, including captions. "The pictures range from 1500 to 1922, when copyright restrictions kick in."

Leetaru's Internet Archive Book Images photostream can be browsed at:

To search for a particular keyword, enter it at the end of this URL:


For example:

Of course keywords are ambiguous. "Queen Victoria" is not just the name of the British monarch but also the name of several botanical plants. It would take crowd-sourcing or artificial intelligence to distinguish them systematically. Other pictures "about" the monarch show not the queen herself but people and things associated with her, or ornamental images. Similarly for other topics. As with Google Images, a search will cast a wide net.

According to Robert Miller's post to Internet Archive Blogs, eventually some 14 million book illustrations will become accessible with this search engine. In "Welcome the Internet Archive to the Commons," Kay Kremerskothen remarks:

Perhaps what is most remarkable about this collection is that these images come not from some newly-unearthed archive being seen for the first time, but rather from the books that we have been digitizing for years that have been resting in our digital libraries. Through the power of big data we are suddenly able to view the world's books not as merely piles of text, but as individualized galleries of one of the richest and most diverse museums of imagery in the world.

For a different but comparable project see "Doing things with a million British Library book illustrations."

Some digital and/or 19th-century British web sites

The following web sites are generally relevant to EngL 5150, Readings in 19th-Century Literature and Culture: Digital Perspectives (Fall 2014). Proprietary sites marked with an asterisk have restricted access, which is provided by the University of Minnesota Libraries. (Should a link fail, approach via



Library catalogues






History and culture

Economics, science, social science

Law and politics




Visual arts


  • British composers, 19th century (Naxos*; After signing in, click on the Playlist link in the center of the row of links near the top; then on the folder named British composers, 19th century if that folder isn't already displayed; and then on links for individual composers)

Centrum: Working Papers of the Minnesota Center for Advanced Studies in Language, Style, and Literary Theory was published twice a year at the University of Minnesota from 1973 until 1982. In 2014 the journal was archived at the University's Digital Conservancy. Tables of contents and links for each issue appear below.

Centrum 1:1 (Spring 1973)
JONATHAN CULLER / Structural Semantics and Poetics
GERALD PRINCE / On Presuppositions and Narrative Strategy
JULIE CARSON / Linguistics, Stylistics, and Thumper Rabbit
WILLIAM B. STONE / Towards a Definition of Literary Realism
R. J. REDDICK / Grammar and Rhetoric
MONROE C. BEARDSLEY / In Search of Literary Theory, ed. Morton W. Bloomfield

Centrum 1:2 (Fall 1973)
DANIEL L. GREENBLATT / Generative Metrics and the Authorship of "The Expostulation"
ROBERT D. DENHAM / Anti-Anaesthetics; or, The Turn of the Freudian Crews
SUSAN WITTIG / Formulaic Style and the Problem of Redundancy
KATHERINE HAMMER / Searle's Conditions and the Determination of Illocutionary Force
ROBERT BROWN / Some Aspects of Text Grammars, by Teun A.van Dijk
MARCIA EATON / Contestable Concepts of Literary Theory, by Arthur X. Moore
F.R.P. AKEHURST / A Concordance of the Fables and Tales of Jean de la Fontaine, ed. J. Allen Tyler

Centrum 2:1 (Spring 1974)
ROLAND A. CHAMPAGNE / The Resurrection of Thoth
ELIZABETH W. BRUSS / Models and Metaphors for Narrative Analysis
EUGENE R. KINTGEN / Effective Stylistics
ROBERT L. BROWN / Intentions, Context, and Poetry
EDITORIAL / Sermons in Stones
DELL HYMES / Style: An Anti-Textbook, by Richard A. Lanham
ALAN F. NAGEL / Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, by Ulrich Weisstein

Centrum 2:2 (Fall 1974)
JAMES NOHRNBERG / On Literature and the Bible
HAROLD F. MOSHER, JR. / New Methods and Theory of Fiction from France
MARCIA EATON / Speech Acts: A Bibliography
DANIEL L. GREENBLATT / Structuralism and Literary Studies
BRUCE AUNE / Meaning, by Stephen R. Schiffer
PETER HUGHES / I. A. Richards: Essays in His Honor, ed. Reuben Brower, Helen Vendler, and John Hollander
GORDON D. HIRSCH / Charlotte Brontë, by Margot Peters

Centrum 3:1 (Spring 1975)
F. E. SPARSHOTT / On the Possibility of a General Theory of Literature
MONROE C. BEARDSLEY / What Is a Literary Theory?
MARJORIE PERLOFF / "Literary Competence" and the Formalist Model
RALPH COHEN / Litery Theory as a Genre
ANDREW J. McKENNA / History of the Ear: Ideology and Poetic Deconstruction
GERALD GRAFF / Literary Meaning and Augustan Values, by Irvin Ehrenpreis
DEREK PEARSALL / The Interpretation of Old English Poems, by Stanley B. Greenfield
BRUCE BASHFORD / Influence in Art and Literature, by Göran Hermeren
ROBERT J. DI PIETRO / Language and Interpretation in Psychoanalysis, by Marshall Edelson

Centrum 3:2 (Fall 1975)
FORUM/ Speech Acts and Literature
* STANLEY FISH / Speech-Act Theory, Literary Criticism, and Coriolanus
* MARTIN STEINMANN, JR. / Perlocutionary Acts and the Interpretation of Literature
* BARBARA HERRNSTEIN SMITH / Actions, Fictions, and the Ethics of Interpretation
* E. D. HIRSCH / What's the Use of Speech-Act Theory?
KENNETH BURKE / Words as Deeds
BRUCE FRASER / Warning and Threatening
ELIZABETH BRUSS / Manufactured Signs: Semiotics and the Automobile

Centrum 4:1 (Spring 1976)
EARL MINER / Assaying the Golden World of English Renaissance Poetics
WILLIAM KEACH / Verbal Borrowing in Elizabethan Poetry: Plagiarism or Parody?
PETER HUGHES / Originality and Allusion in the Writings of Edmund Burke
NORMAN FRUMAN / Originality, Plagiarism, Forgery and Romanticism
KENT BALES / Generic Expectations and the (In-)Competent Reader
ELIZABETH BRUSS / The Nature of Maps: Essays toward Understanding Maps and Mapping, by Arthur H. Robinson and Barbara Bartz Petchenik

Centrum 4:2 (Fall 1976)
MARJORIE PERLOFF / Symbolism/Anti-Symbolism
BRENDA DANET / Speaking of Watergate: Language and Moral Accountability
BRUCE C. JOHNSON / Communicative Competence in American Trial Courtrooms
ROBIN LAKOFF / Why You Can't Say What You Mean
DONALD ROSS / Style and Structure in Literature: Essays in the New Stylistics, ed. Roger Fowler
STEPHEN C. BEHRENDT / Emblem and Expression: Meaning in Engl1sh Art of the Eighteenth Century, by Ronald Paulson

Centrum 5:1 (Spring 1977)
MARILYN M. COOPER / Implicatures in Fictional Conversations from Days of Our Lives and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
ELLEN SCHAUBER & ELLEN SPOLSKY / The Consolation of Alison: The Speech Acts of the Wife of Bath
JUDITH GENOVA / Fiction and Lies
JESSICA R. WIRTH / On the Necessity of Discourse Grammars
PHILIP FURIA / Bloomburied Stevens

Centrum 5:2 (Autumn 1977)
ROBERT B. MEYERS & KAREN HOPKINS / A Speech-Act Theory Bibliography
GEORGE L. DILLON / There is No Dictionary in the Head
MICHAEL B. KAC / Arguments for a Nontransformational Grammar, by R. A. Hudson

Centrum 6:1 (Spring 1978)
JANET HOLMGREN MCKAY / Some Problems in the Analysis of Point of View in Reported Discourse
PAUL HERNADI / Why We Can't Help Genre-alizing and How Not To Go About It: Two Theses with Commentary
JONATHAN ARAC / The Criticism of Harold Bloom: Judgment and History
WLAD GODZICH / Harold Bloom as Rhetorician
FREDERIC V. BOGEL / Deconstructive Criticism: The Logic of Derrida's Differance
PATRICK MOORE / Interfaces of the Word: Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture, by Walter J. Ong

Centrum 6:2 (Fall 1978)
MARTHA WOODMANSEE / Speech-Act Theory and the Perpetuation of the Dogma of Literary Autonomy
CHARLES ALTIERI / What Grice Offers Literary Theory: A Proposal for "Expressive Implicature"
T. R. MARTLAND / What Does It Mean to Say Literature Represents "Nothing"?
DISCUSSION: Literature as Performative
RICHARD KUHNS / "Performatives" in Linguistic Art
DAVID HALLIBURTON / Doing Someting and Getting Somewhere
MARTIN STEINMANN, JR. / Professor Martland on What It Means to Say Literature Represents "Nothing"
T. R. MARTLAND / Response
PARK HONAN / The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative, by Frank Kermode

Centrum n.s. 1:1 (Spring 1981)
MARY LOUISE PRATT / The Ideology of Speech-Act Theory
STEPHEN PRICKETT / "Types and Symbols of Eternity": The Poet as Prophet
WILLIAM BEAUCHAMP / Riffaterre's Semiotics of Poetry with an Illustration in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson
MARVIN K. L. CHING / Your Choice: A Delightful Sorrow or a Mourning Pleasure
WILLIAM L. BENZON / Computational Linguistics and Discourse Analysis
STEVEN MAILLOUX / The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response, by Wolfgang Iser
PETER J. MANNING / Subjective Criticism, by David Bleich

Centrum n.s. 1:2 (Fall 1981)
SYMPOSIUM / The Place of Letter-Writing in Literary History
* WILLIAM A. MADDEN / Introduction
* NORMAN FRUMAN / Some Principles of Epistolary lnterpretation
* FRANCES FERGUSON / Interpreting the Self through Letters
* S. P. ROSENBAUM / Bloomsbury Letters
J. LAWRENCE MITCHELL / The Language of the Thirties: Some Literary Evidence
SYLVIA MANNING / Dickens's Illustrators
LINDA PETERSON / History and Hermeneutics
MARCIA MUELDER EATON / Expression and Meaning: Studies in the Theory of Speech Acts, by John R. Searle
STEPHEN PRICKETT / Peacock Displayed, by Marilyn Butler

Centrum n.s. 2:1 (Spring 1982)
BRUCE FRASER / On the Status of Speech-Act Strategies
JOHN R. MAIER / The "Truth" of a Most Ancient Work: Interpreting a Poem Addressed to a Holy Place
MICHAEL KLEINE AND JOANNE LIEBMAN / The Philosophy of Composition, by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
JOHN HAGGE / Constructing Texts: Elements of a Theory of Composition and Style, by George L. Dillon
GEORGE T. WRIGHT / English Versification, 1570-1980: A Reference Guide with a Global Appendix, by T. V. F. Brogan
PAUL ALKON / Of Speech and Time: Temporal Patterns in Interpersonal Contexts, ed. Aron W. Siegman and Stanley Feldstein
JOHN REICHERT / Act and Quality: A Theory of Literary Meaning and Humanistic nderstanding, by Charles Altieri

OED, digital lexicography, in Dictionaries 34 (2013)

Dictionaries 34 (2013) includes nine authoritative articles about the history and use of the Oxford English Dictionary, and also accounts of digital lexicography and digital dictionaries. For the table of contents see Online access is available via institutional subscription to Project Muse (, as well as directly to members of the Dictionary Society of North America, who also receive print copies.

Three (now four) takes on #DH

Published yesterday:

A more philosophical account:

A more positive view:

P.S. A retrospect:

Three IBM-initiated DH conferences half a century ago

  • Sept. 9-11, 1964. Literary Data Conference. Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY. Proceedings. Ed. Jess B. Bessinger and Stephen Maxfield Parrish. White Plains, NY: IBM, Data Processing Division, 1964. 329pp. OCLC 3974156.
  • Dec. 4, 1964. Conference on the Use of Computers in Humanistic Research. Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. Conference on the Use of Computers in Humanistic Research. N.p.: n.d. 40pp. OCLC 40992490. Initiated by "Mr. Edmund A. Bowles of the International Business Machines Corporation" (5).
  • Jan. 22-23, 1965. Computers for the Humanities? Yale University, New Haven, CT. Computers for the Humanities? A Record of a Conference Sponsored by Yale University on a Grant from IBM, January 22-23, 1965. Ed. G. W. Pierson. New Haven: Yale University, 1965. ix+170 pp. OCLC 2084331. Initiated by "Edmund A. Bowles, Manager, Professional Activities, Corporate Education, of the International Business Machines Corporation" (v).
A few years later Bowles edited Computers in Humanistic Research: Readings and Perspectives, Prentice-Hall Series in Automatic Computation (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1967). A musicologist, he was also the author of several books and articles on musical iconography.

Crowdsourcng in the Great Depression

Robert C. Binkley, Manual on Methods of Reproducing Research Materials (Ann Arbor, MI, Edwards, 1936: 199:

Binkley 1936 199.jpg

Deconstructing the New Humanities

I like the New Humanities. It takes me back to the New Criticism, where I started, and it has something of the vitality of the New Historicism. It also neatly re-brands the Digital Humanities, for which there has long been a call for re-branding. But does it exist? Is it a Thing?

Noel Jackson named the New Humanities interrogatively in his blog posting "A new humanities?" (Feb. 1, 2014). The opening sentence of this posting was actually assertive, not interrogative, and indeed it capitalized the phrase: "MIT has begun to promote something it calls the 'New Humanities,' and to advertise the 'Initiatives' associated with this field." Then Jackson went on to speak, more casually but several times, of "the 'new humanities.'"

Trouble is, there is no clear sign in the web page that he cited that it is the "humanities" that are now denominated "new," and not just the "initiatives" that would promote them. Maybe "the new humanities"--or even "the New Humanities"--is a phrase to conjure with at MIT; but the cited web page seems to identify new initiatives.

If that's so, Jackson has created a field, or renamed one, by reading a web page with Empsonian ingenuity. A search on Twitter s.v. "new humanities" (at least tonight) will find a half dozen people ready to consider if not embrace the new label.

I'm one of them; I do like the New Humanities. I also like to know where ideas come from.

Postscript (2/4/14): Jackson has since pointed to another URL,, where it's more obviously the humanities that are new, not just the initiatives. Which means that the Empsonian in this scene of reading is me--which I guess is OK. In any case, as I said, I like the phrase, partly because it responds to calls to "drop the digital." It may be too soon for that, or it may be time.

Post-postscript (3/2/14): That link, which Jackson cited in his first response to his original posting, no longer works--as he points out in his second response there today. Apparently someone changed the URL, and also changed the name to "21st-century humanities at MIT." So, "New Humanities" had a shelf life of 28 days. What's in a name? Partly the power of the (re)namer--in this case, whoever maintains the news page at It used to be said, with some point, that "Littera scripta manet." Now, not so much.

Doing things with a million British Library book illustrations

On December 12, 2013, the British Library announced that it was publishing online about a million book illustrations gleaned from the digitized archive of many of its books that Microsoft had prepared. (The Microsoft Live Search Books project, which digitized books from many research libraries, ceased in 2008.) The books in which these illustrations appeared were mostly published in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries--especially the latter half of the nineteenth century. Each illustration is accompanied by basic metadata that identifies the book in which it appeared; and each image can be displayed, by drilling down, in relatively high resolution.

For the announcement see Ben O'Steen, "A Million First Steps." "We plan to launch a crowdsourcing application at the beginning of next year, to help describe what the images portray." O'Steen had previously described technical aspects of the project in "Peeking behind the curtain of the Mechanical Curator."

The images are now available to the public at Flickr, where users have already prepared topical image collections.

Every hour an image is selected at random from the collection and displayed by The Mechanical Curator--for which there is a corresponding Twitter feed, @MechCuratorBot. Each Friday 100 of these are collected and published at Random Selections made by the Mechanical Curator. A special set, selected by the British Library Digital Research Team, is titled "Highlights from the Mechanical Curator."

To encourage the enrichment of the basic metadata associated with each image, the British Library has established a British Library Wiki for curating public domain digital content, which includes information about Crowd-sourcing projects currently under way. One of these is a Wikimedia Commons project, British Library/Mechanical Curator collection, which includes advice about how to perform basic searches of the collection.

Right now you can do keyword searching within title pages of archived book illustrations. Copy, adapt (replacing keyword in the string below with the word that you want to search for), and paste the following string in the search window of your browser:


For example, copy and paste this URL into your search window:

The result should be hundreds--thousands--of book illustrations associated with Rome.

A full list of the books that are involved in this project can be seen or downloaded as a zip file via the Wikimedia Commons page British Library/Mechanical Curator collection/Full list of books 1.

The project has attracted popular attention; for example:

Two years ago George Oates, who designed the institutional Flickr Commons platform that the British Library is now using to publish these images, spoke about the merits of such image-sharing and the crowdourcing of image annotation in a presentation that she gave at the Institute for Advanced Study, University of Minnesota, titled "Social Seeing: Images Online." Incidentally, and near the start of her presentation, she offered an attractive definition for the Digital Humanities: "humans understanding humans with the aid of computers."

On Feb. 9, 2014, the Cardiff University Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research announced that, with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), it would "devise methods that will enable the collection of illustrations to become fully searchable online." At about the same time the Department of History at the University of Sheffield invited applications "for a Collaborative PhD Studentship on the topic of 'A History of the Printed Image 1750-1850: Applying Data Science Techniques to Printed Book Illustration' ... This innovative project seeks to complement art and cultural history approaches by applying data science techniques to the history of printed images and by evaluating the utility of such methods of enquiry. The research will focus on the circa one million digitised images held in the British Library Microsoft Books collection (containing circa 65,000 volumes) which offers unrivaled opportunities to explore the use and re-use of very large numbers of images."

For an undergraduate seminar at the University of Minnesota, "The Image on the Page" (spring semester 2014), I've based a student exercise on this British Library resource.