Category Archives: Literary & Cultural Criticism

Muldoon’s Northern Ireland

Was clearing up some files just now, and came across this old undergraduate essay. Plenty of stutters in it, but it’s either here or the recycle bin…

Despite having lived in Belfast throughout the height of the troubles, Paul Muldoon has always refrained from outlining his position in relation to the complex political situation in Northern Ireland. In 1985, while still living in Belfast, Muldoon remarked:

It doesn’t matter where I stand politically, with a small “p” in terms of Irish politics. My opinion about what should happen in Northern Ireland is no more valuable than yours. (Donaghy and Muldoon 85) Continue reading

What makes an author?

A colleague and I applied stylometric methods to the work of the world’s best-selling author, James Patterson, in order to form an impression of how much he contributes to the writing of his co-authored books. The results of the study show that, in each of the collaborative novels (we checked all where there was a relevant sample to test against – where the co-author had written individual texts), the dominant style is that of Patterson’s co-authors. This is quantitative evidence that, when collaborating with a junior party, Patterson’s contributions to the literary process are more concerned with plot than style. This isn’t a “gotcha!” moment: Patterson has always given the impression that he’s more about the plot. But it is confirmation that the world’s bestselling author may not principally be a writer. Read more in The Conversation.

The magic that is literature

This morning, I was proofreading an introduction that I recently finished, and wanted to share the following passage with the community:

“An analogy which jumps readily to mind can be traced back to a particular exchange at one of the community’s largest annual gatherings, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, hosted by the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Each year, DHSI instructors welcome participants with an outline of what materials they will be covering throughout the Institute. Typically collegial and informal, this particular welcome session took on a Harry Potter theme, with the majority of instructors promising to teach students new bouts of computational wizardry. When the turn of David Hoover came, there was a change in the theme. Professor Hoover, an eminent figure in the field of computational stylistics, was quick to point out that his participants would not be doing anything magical with computers, but rather, using computers to assist their understanding of the magic that is literature.”

It’s a sentiment which I believe we would all do well to remember as we go about our work as digital humanists.

Using stylometry to weigh in on the Finn’s Hotel debate

For a more detailed account of this topic, see the article, “Finn’s Hotel and the Joycean Canon”, which appeared in Issue 14 (Spring 2014) of Genetic Joyce Studies.

Finn's Hotel analysis

Ithys Press controversially published Finn’s Hotel in June 2013, describing the collection as “almost certainly the last unpublished title by James Joyce”.[1] Ithys and Rose contend that the fragments warrant consideration as a standalone collection, the style in which they are written suggesting that such was Joyce’s intention: “The prose pieces of Finn’s Hotel … are written in a unique diversity of styles, much more so than Ulysses. Taken together, they form the true and hitherto unknown precursor to the multi-modulated voices of the Wake—but these first utterings from Finn’s Hotel are far easier to understand.”[2] This view is not unanimously accepted, with some scholars countering that the writings are merely early drafts for what would later become Finnegans Wake, and thus should not be published as an independent addition to the Joycean canon. Terence Killeen notes, in The Irish Times, that “the pieces scream of Finnegans Wake itself”.[3] He states: “It is true that one or two of them did not end up in the final text, but it is quite normal for a writer to draft and then abandon various passages in the initial stages of a major work.”[4]

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A walking interrogation of Irish history: Thomas Kinsella’s “Nightwalker”

Throughout “Nightwalker”, Thomas Kinsella conducts an interrogation of both Irish history, and the period’s dominant nationalist ideology  an interrogation facilitated through the journey that the poem narrates. This journey offers a dual manifestation, co-extending both physically and mentally in the form of the actual quest that the speaker literally undertakes, and those realisations that are the progeny of this quest. This journey of both body and mind has, in varying editions of the poem, culminated in differing ways, but in the context of this particular examination, I will focus on the ending that is of greater relevance to my purposes (as one does): the speaker’s 1968 summation of Ireland as a “sea of disappointment”, found in Collected Poems, 1956 – 1994. Continue reading