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Mining the Renaissance

Mining the Renaissance

The “Mining the Renaissance” project, led by James Lee (English, Grinnell) and Paul Dilley (Classics and Religious Studies, Iowa), leverages enormous digital collections of Latin and Early Modern English literature, as well as cutting-edge methods in text mining, to revisit broad historiographical questions about intellectual history and the development of concepts between Antiquity and the Renaissance. In particular, Dilley and Lee will run topic models, an algorithmic procedure which identifies thematic clusters of words that have a disproportionately high probability of existing together in the same text, on key concepts such as oratio (speech/prayer) and scientia (knowledge/science) in both Latin and English.

This work involves several innovative digital procedures, including the topic modeling of terms rather than documents in the pipeline developed by Lee; and comparing topic models of related concepts in Latin and English by translating them, which will make possible basic metrics and visualizations to assess innovation and continuity in the Renaissance reception of classical literature. Assembling an unprecedented collection of electronic texts in Latin is a labor-intensive but necessary preliminary to the large-scale topic modeling, also unprecedented for Latin, which they will undertake in next steps.

Paul Dilley was a presenter at the 2016 Digital Bridges Summer Institute. James Lee was a presenter at the 2015 Digital Bridges Summer Institute and a co-organizer of the 2016 Digital Bridges Summer Institute.

This project was supported by a Digital Bridges Summer Collaborative Grant as well as other awards that supported the work of two graduate students (Sara Hales and Ryan Tribble) and one undergraduate (Noah Anderson) in Classics, as well as three computer science RAs (MA student Chanakya Kumar and undergraduates Kyle Kloberdanz and Spencer Schmalz).