Daniel Shore of Georgetown University speaks on language beyond the lexicon as a part of the Material Texts Colloquium of the UW Textual Studies Program.
Popular authors lament that Google Search is making us “shallow,” “stupid,” or “dumb.” Distinguished humanists dismiss digital search as a shortcut that circumvents intensive reading, learning, and discovery. Digital humanists, urging us to take up quantitative methods, warn against search as an unsystematic tool capable only of reinforcing our biases and telling us what we already know.
This talk mounts a defense of search. Challenging the inherited assumptions about language that have limited our understand of what search can do, it argues for advanced search tools as legitimate instruments of inquiry that have the potential to expand the scope of philology beyond words and phrases to include the rich histories of abstract and complex linguistic units. Realizing the potential of search, however, will require humanists, individually and as a discipline, to develop new methods of inquiry. We will need to learn how to employ pattern matching languages and part-of-speech tagsets, read search results, tell new kinds of linguistic stories, and, perhaps most challenging, understand the nature of the archives we are searching.
Daniel Shore, Provost's Distinguished Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University, is completing his second book project, Cyberformalism (under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press). His first book, Milton and the Art of Rhetoric, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012, and he has articles published or forthcoming in journals such as PMLA, Critical Inquiry, Modern Philology, Shakespeare Quarterly, Milton Studies, and Milton Quarterly.
Reception to follow.