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Computational Stylistics and Jonathan Edwards

csgComputational Stylistics is an exciting and pioneering way to engage in literary and semantical analysis by employing statistical research. The Jagiellonian University and Polish Academy of Sciences has developed a website to share the fruit of their many projects employing this kind of research for the humanities. Here’s a brief description from the website about its project:

Computational Stylistics Group is a cross-institutional research team focused on computer-assisted text analysis, stylometry, authorship attribution, sentiment analysis, and the like stuff. The research projects conducted by the team members could be described as an intersection of linguistics, literary criticism, and computer sciences – however the best name here would be “Digital Humanities”. The group is based mostly in Kraków, at the Institute of Polish Language (Polish Academy of Sciences), but also at the Jagiellonian University and the University of Antwerp.

What is stylometry? Stylometry is the process of employing statistical analysis of variations in literary style between one writer and genre and another.

An excellent post from this new website explains its particular value for those interested in Colonial American historical studies. Project managers, including Dr. Michal Choiński, applied stylometry to around 300 sermons from the colonial era. Preachers of these sermons included: Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Jonathan Parsons, Samuel Blair and Gilbert Tennent. The goal of applying this technique of statistical study was to establish the distinguishing features of each of these preachers and to investigate the relationships between them.

The below excerpt explains Dr. Michal Choiński’s conclusions about what light stylometry sheds on understanding the image of God in Edwards’ sermons, particularly the way the semantics of the image of God in Edwards’s sermons changed over time.

The research proves that the image of God in Edwards’ writings is both multifaceted and mutable. The complexity resides in the Almighty being simultaneously portrayed as an object of religious reverence and a dynamic sustainer of the visible world. Statistically, “an angry God” from Sinners or Future Punishment is but an addition to an otherwise deeply devotional and benevolent depiction. Also, central as Edwards’s image of God remains for most texts within the oeuvre, one can hardly claim it to be perdurable. Looking at the rich corpus of the studied texts from a wider comparative perspective and with the help of stylometry, we have been able to discern a stable evolution of the manner in which Edwards talks about God, a movement from the early sermons, towards the style of the treatises and philosophical writings.

This very interesting article goes on to discuss how Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield compare, as well as the relationship between Jonathan Edwards and his editor and literary agent, Thomas Foxcroft.

I recommend reading the full write up here…

Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale: Call for Support

The Jonathan Edwards Center offices can be found on the Quad of Yale Divinity School, but its primary mission of supporting inquiry into the life and legacy of Jonathan Edwards is realized via the Works of Jonathan Edwards Online. The Center operates the digital platform free of charge to anyone interested in the critical appraisal of Edwards’ historical importance and contemporary relevance. Since its launch in 2006, Edwards’s popularity has grown to global proportions thanks to the open-access availability of his writings at edwards.yale.edu. The availability of additional information, better transcriptions and new technology features have skyrocketed in the years since the website’s inception, so that website is at risk of losing its ability to serve the expectations of users.

New Platform Features

A total of $40,000 is required for platform design and development, plus content migration. New website features will offer the most current scholarly and technical standards including:

  • streamlined searchability
  • multiple viewing panes that allow the user to compare manuscript and transcription side-by-side
  • high-resolution manuscript scans and links
  • community-sourcing project portals
  • in-house capacity for upload of new content and revision
  • regular back-up and storage

The Works of Jonathan Edwards by the Numbers

  • 250,000 annual average attendance
  • 100 countries represented by users of the site
  • 75 volumes in the on-line archive, including born-digital material
  • 100,000 pages of material
  • 12 years old (ancient by modern technology standards)
  • $40,000 cost to launch a new digital platform

The Case for Giving

The Jonathan Edwards Center has become a model for digital humanities projects, earning endorsements from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For centuries, scholars and readers of Edwards had to rely on inaccurate and partial versions of his writings. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, the critical edition of Edwards’s writings, was created at Yale University in 1953 to overcome these obstacles and are now free and online.

The quality and amount of online resources has created an international network with affiliate centers in ten countries that enable teaching, graduate advising and research, conferencing, and other activities to drive scholarship and dialogue on Edwards and related topics. This renaissance has made Edwards one of the most consulted and referenced figures in religion today. In order to sustain and expand these growing communities, the Edwards Center must update its technology.

Your financial support is a crucial component to ongoing success.

Please Give Today > divinity.yale.edu/giving

2019 Graduate Student Paper Competition

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity (jecteds.org) is pleased to announce this year’s annual paper competition for graduate students. Papers must focus on Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), his contexts, or his legacies, and must be written mainly in English. They may be submitted, however, by graduate students from anywhere, working in any major academic discipline. Each year’s winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000 (U.S.) and guaranteed publication in Jonathan Edwards Studies. Submissions are due by May 15. The winners will be announced by August 1.

Further details may be found below. Please share this announcement with your colleagues. Queries and submissions should be directed to Professor Douglas A. Sweeney (dsweeney@tiu.edu).

Happy writing, and good luck!

Eligibility

  • All full- and part-time graduate students from anywhere in the world are eligible to participate.
  • Papers must focus on Jonathan Edwards, his contexts, or his legacies.
  • Papers must be original, and not pledged elsewhere.

Guidelines

  • Papers should be of superior, publishable quality, and should follow the Author Guidelines published in Jonathan Edwards Studies, available at: jestudies.yale.edu.
  • Papers must be written in English.
  • Papers must be readable in Microsoft Word.
  • Papers must be received no later than May 15.

Awards

  • Cash prize of $1,000 (U.S.)
  • Guaranteed publication in Jonathan Edwards Studies.
  • The winner will be announced on August 1.

Papers will be assessed by a committee led by Professor Douglas A. Sweeney, Director, Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS, and including the other global Jonathan Edwards Center directors.

Please direct queries and submissions to Doug Sweeney (dsweeney@tiu.edu).

2018 Graduate Student Paper Competition Winner

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We are pleased to announce that the winner of this year’s Jonathan Edwards graduate student paper competition is Ricky Njoto for his paper entitled, “Supper in the Hands of a Sensitive Preacher: Edwards’s Use of the Bible in His Sacramental Sermons on 1 Corinthians 10.”

The essay analyzes Jonathan Edwards’s hermeneutics in his four sermons on the Lord’s Supper from 1 Corinthians 10. The complexity of Edwards’s theology, especially of the Lord’s Supper, is subtly demonstrated in his use of biblical references. The essay demonstrates that, although Edwards’s hermeneutical methods are difficult to understand by modern minds, his biblical references are not mere proof-texts as modern assumption suggests. This is only observable when one inquires more deeply into his other sermons and writings as his references often form a web that connects such writings. Edwards’s use of the Bible is crucial in shaping both his sacramental theology and his homiletical oratory.

Ricky will receive a check for $1,000 and publication of his essay soon in Jonathan Edwards Studies.

Congratulations, Ricky, on a job well done!