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Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism (Topics in the Digital Humanities) Paperback – November 30, 2011

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Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism (Topics in the Digital Humanities) + Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History (Topics in the Digital Humanities) + Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (November 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252078209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252078200
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 6.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews



"Reading Machines makes an important and provocative contribution to the fields of literary criticism and digital humanities. With sound scholarship and lucid argumentation, this book will stir up debate among both traditionalists and digital humanities scholars."
--David L. Hoover, author of Stylistics: Prospect and Retrospect

"This significant book by the progenitor of the term 'algorithmic criticism' packs a lot into its slender binding.  Pithy, readable, and full of striking turns of phrase, it reaches for a broader audience for the debates over the application of computers to the critical enterprise."--Literary and Linguistic Computing

About the Author

Stephen Ramsay is an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska and has written and lectured widely on subjects related to literary theory and software design for humanities.

More About the Author

Stephen Ramsay is Susan J. Rosowski Associate University Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Fellow at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. He splits his time between pontificating about Digital Humanities, teaching humanities majors to program, and designing and building text technologies for humanist scholars.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first thing that can be said about this book is that in spite of the title it is not one that discusses how to train a machine to perform textual criticism. Therefore it may disappoint those readers who made that assumption about the content of the book. That being said, the discussions in the book may bring the development of such a machine to fruition, and no doubt the author would appreciate the completion of such a project. He is cautious about the use of scientific inquiry in textual criticism, as brought out in the introduction to the book, and he makes it clear that such an endeavor is not the purpose of the book, but one can argue with some justification that `algorithmic criticism' of the type that could be implemented in an intelligent machine would be in line with what he proposes in the book. Such a machine would be able to "gain entry to the deliberately and self-consciously subjective act of critical interpretation" to paraphrase the author, and such an ability he states is not yet available.

Hence the `algorithmic criticism' as part of the `digital humanities' that the author considers a legitimate method of inquiry is discussed in a different context in this book. All of the discussion is interesting, and will in fact be refreshing for those readers who are fed up or irritated by "deconstructionist" methods of textual criticism that have been popular for the last few decades. It might appear sometimes that the author is making an intersection with these methods, such as when he makes statements about the "estrangement and defamiliarization of textuality", but these are made only for contrast, and the author quickly makes the transition to more sensible and optimistic discussions of algorithmic textual analysis.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stan Ruecker on August 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
Steve Ramsay is one of the pre-eminent theorists in the digital humanities. This work on algorithmic criticism provides both a useful theoretical and a practical perspective on the use of existing text analysis tools in the digital humanities, on the production and use of new one-off tools (his own practice), and on the larger project of the experimental production of new systems for people interested in interpreting our ever-growing body of digital cultural heritage materials. I have taught this book in the classroom, I have applied and published on its ideas in my own work, and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you are already a digital humanist or are interested in knowing more about the burgeoning field of digital humanities, this book should go immediately on your must-read list. As Willard McCarty often says, quoting a friend of his: "read it tonight!"
- Stan Ruecker, co-author of Visual Interface Design for Digital Cultural Heritage
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