L. Burnard .

International Meeting/AGM of the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing

15 December 78

Kings College, London

The theme of this year's International Meeting was 'Computational Stylistics' and four related papers were delivered. The first, by Prof R Bailey (Ann Arbor, Michigan) outlined three different types of application for computational methoddi in literary studies. The first (data retrieval) was flourishing to the point (Prof Bailey confidently asserted) when all the concordances man could ever need would soon have been produced. The second was in the construction of models, where he felt the computer tended to be used solely in support of the "limited conceptual framework of the New Criticism" without exploring alterative representations of the creative process such as those of the Moscow school of Soviet semioticians. Prof Bailey also made the (to my mind somewhat tendentious) assertion that the study of the Humanities, like that of the Sciences, is cumulative and hierarchic. His third type, the use of statistical and other methods for testing widely-held if unproven hypotheses was exemplified by the third speaker, Dr Kenny. The second speaker was Dr P Boyde (St Johns College,Cambridge) who spoke in rather more general terms about the Computer's Temptations. He made the intresting suggestion that a poetic sensibility, such as his own, was almost of necessity innumerate and also propounded Boyle's Law, viz that three examples of anything were necessary to convince a Humanist - one or two being too few, and four far too many. Unfortunately, since he then proceeded to give some­thing like 5 examples of ways in which computers confused him, I fear I lost interest. Dr A Kenny (Balliol) provided a sharp contrast by distributing three pages of statistical tables derived from his current research into the authorship of the 14 books of Aristotle's Metaphysics, using similar techniques to those described in his recent book on the authorship of the Ethics. After lunch, during which I tried but failed to persuade a representative of the Kraus-Thomson Organisation that the future lay in fiche, Prof James Joyce (no relation) of the University of California described his application of a computational network model to the Mediaeval poem Pearl*s rhyming scheme. Prof Joyce considered that the most frequently traversed nodes in his network corresponded with words of semantic significance in the poem. The argument was somewhat vitiated by Prof Joyce's inability to remember what some of the words in the poem meant, and also by his refusal to recognise the formulaic nature of much mediaeval verse, but the applicability of such a model seemed good.

The AGM of the ALLC which followed consisted of the usual tabling of reports from representatives around the globe, the usual fulsome praise for the officers of the society, and the usual promises that the Bulletin of the Society would appear more regularly in the future. Since Susan was appointed editor at the last committee meeting, it seems probable that this may actually occur.




The Sixth International Meeting/Annual General Meeting will be held in Room 3B20 (3rd basement, new building), King's College, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, England. (The nearest tube station is Aldwych - open only at peak periods - or Temple, Charing Cross and Holborn underground stations are also within easy walking distance). The host will be Professor R. Wisbey.


10.15 - 10.30 Professor R. Wisbey (ALLC Chairman): Introduction 10.30 - 15.00 Computational Stylistics

Chairman: Dr D.S.Brewer (Master of Emmanuel College,Cambridge) 10.35 - 11.05 Professor R.W. Bailey (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

A Survey of Computational Stylistics 11.35 - 12.05 Dr P. Boyde (St. John's College, Cambridge):

The Computer and Stylistics, or Lead us not into Temptation 12.05 - 12.35 Dr. A. Kenny (Master of Balliol College, Oxford):

A Stylometric Study of Aristotle's Metaphysics

- Lunch -

14.30 - 15.00 Professor J. Joyce (San Francisco)

Rhymes and Individual Style in Some Middle English Poetry


The Address will be given by Professor R.A. Wisbey (King's College, London), who will also chair the business meeting, at which reports will be presented by ALLC representatives in various countries and by chairmen of specialist groups.


The party will commence at 17.30 after the close of the AGM. It will be held in the (upper) Senior Common Room, to which all members and guests will be welcome. There will be a charge of approximately £2 per head.


For special travel arrangements, valid from any country of departure, contact Mr M.J. Whiteley or Mrs L. Hill, M.D. Travel Limited, Special Events Division, 19 Old Hall Street, Liverpool L3 9JQ, England (telephone 051-227 3565). Hotel accommodation may also be booked through M.D. Travel, or arranged privately. The Imperial Hotel Group has several hotels at various prices. Reservations may be made for all hotels by contacting The Reservations Managers, Imperial Hotels, Russell Square, London WC1B 5BB, England (telephone 01-278 7871). There are many cheaper hotels in the immediate proximity of Russell Square and no prior reservation would be necessary.