GCDH Evening Lecture: Hugh Craig (Newcastle, Australia): "Sisters under the Skin: The styles of six hundred characters." GCDH, Papendiek 16, Göttingen

, 6:00 pm to

Abstract: Stylometry allows us to release dramatic characters from their native play worlds and arrange themselves across the wider terrain of an entire tradition. When we do this with the larger characters of early modern English drama, we find some match-ups that are readily understood. A character in a sequel comes out very close to the same character in the original play. Two young women from plays by different authors, who both defy the marriage market, are aligned; so are two garrulous old men from plays by different authors....

There are also more surprising pairings. Protagonists and antagonists within the same play, despite being arch-enemies, share a style. Two queens, and a king, by three different writers, characters who have probably never appeared in the same sentence before, cluster together.

One Shakespeare character is close to the overall dramatic norm in stylistic terms, even though dramatically speaking he is a flamboyant villain.

The mathematics lying behind these observations is simple. The volume of data, though beyond any human capacity to hold in memory, is by other standards modest. What remains challenging is connecting the robust quantitative patterns detected to the individual and collective experience of writers and audiences, and thus to the literary history of this field.

The lecture will take place at the Heyne Haus in Seminar Room 2.