Category Archives: Digital Humanities

The most and least poetic alphabetical ranges in the OED

In my presentation at DH2012 I made a couple of comments on Giles Goodland’s paper ‘OED Online’s Single-Quotations Entries: an Analysis‘, mostly about the sampling method that Goodland employs, and which everyone else has employed so far when trying to say something about the OED that isn’t facilitated by whatever the current online functionality happens […]

Discovery: the most poetic word in the English language

Now that I’ve tagged more than half of the evidence quotations in OED2 for genre [see here and here for a discussion of this process], it’s time to start having a poke around in the data. A question that occurred to me last night was: ‘is there anything interesting about the relative density of poetic vs. […]

Electronic OED, Poetry and Intertextuality :: DH2012 Presentation Slides

Here are the slides for my presentation today at Digital Humanities 2012 in Hamburg: PDF: Electronic OED, Poetry and Intertextuality [de-linked*] At the moment this is for reference or information only, and is presented here without the necessary context and discussion in my conference paper (to be posted at a later date). An abstract with […]

Ways of Looking at “The Windhover”

Gotthold Lessing is credited (among other things) with pointing out that it’s weird for Classical writers to describe the art of poetry in terms of the visual arts, since poetry happens sequentially in time, and painting happens statically in space. But Lessing is wrong, or at least overly categorical. Before a word is read, a […]

Attributions and intertexts: ‘Wrinching and spraining the text’

Recently I posted about my idea to teach a computer to look for allusions to the Oxford English Dictionary in poems. A while ago I came across an instance of intertextual reference in a poem by Geoffrey Hill which illustrates really well several of the issues that arise when dealing with the OED, which is […]

The OED in Poetry

Some poems mention looking etymologies up in the Oxford English Dictionary. Paul Muldoon’s “Cows” does this, near-rhyming ‘protestations of O.E.D.’ with ‘fade’ and ‘jade’ (the rhyme works best if you lexicalize the acronym and pronounce it with its preposition, like ‘of owed’). His “Hedge School” remembers ‘tracing the root of metastasis‘ in the New Shorter […]

Poetical Lexicography

The OED was conceived as a dictionary ‘on historical principles’. The practice employed from the beginning was to illustrate the several sense definitions of a word over time with quotations from published material across the lifespan of that sense. Currently I’m engaged in trying to quantify the extent of poetical sense illustration in the OED.  […]

Poems in the OED

Computer scientists at the University of Waterloo were responsible for digitizing the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (OED2), in the late 1980s. Initially available on CD-ROM, this eventually became the OED Online. The database has quickly replaced the printed dictionary as a first point of call for the word-curious, primarily because the extensive mark-up of […]


In 2011-13, I’m investigating questions about poetry, value, and accident, in the context of a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, intended to ‘enable the development of new research questions, as well as experimentation with new methods, theoretical approaches and/or ideas’. The questions and methods I’m exploring all have something to do with why contingency, or accident, […]