26th April 2024

Theme and genre theory in philological and computational literary studies – on the example of nocturne in Polish and Italian poetry of the 20th century
Rozalia Słodczyk (Instytut Języka Polskiego PAN)

Presentation will be dedicated to several issues emerging from the generally outlined subject of the speech. Firstly, the meaning and relations of the concepts of “theme”, “material” (Stoff), “motif”, and “topos” in literary research, and in particular genological research, with reference to thematology. Secondly, a reflection on the concept of genre and the categorization of genre, understood not as a class of texts meeting certain sufficient and necessary conditions, but with reference to the Wittgenstein’s concept of family resemblance (Klaus W. Hempfer), transferred from philosophy to psychology by Eleanor Rosch, and to the category of prototype as distinguished in cognitive linguistics. A category of analogies will also be indicated as important for the genre theory (David Fishelov). Thirdly, the very connection of the theme with the genre creates research problems of, among others, such questions as: can a theme determine the genre in poetry? is it possible to observe the density of topics/genres and how differently they are undertaken in given decades, by specific authors? is nocturne related to a particular historical moment, literary trend, individual attitude (biography, style) of the author? should nocturne be treated as a meta-genre and meta-theme and is it possible to distinguish subgenres/variations of nocturne (e.g. starting from the division into shades of nocturne – positive or negative, or the separation of a realistic nocturne, determined by setting, from a metaphorical nocturne, associated with sleep and dreaming)? What determines the nocturnality of texts – thematic scope, specific mood, painting-like nature of the descriptions? Fourthly, the question about the categorization and ordering of nocturnes – are we dealing here with a genre, text type, discourse mode (Monika Fludernik) or just the theme/motif itself?
Finally, these issues are connected with the second part of the research – philological reading of selected volumes of contemporary Polish and Italian poets (in the close reading and microanalysis approach) is accompanied by the analysis of prepared text corpora using computer calculations (in the distant reading approach of macroanalysis), in particular with the use of topic modeling. Given that, another question arises – do all the indicated aspects of nocturne have specific and measurable linguistic determinants and ranges of words – such that can be captured, i.e. formalized or quantified? The study of nocturne texts in the traditional methodology shows that nocturnes as texts have specific thematic and mood ranges. Therefore, the task here is an attempt to create a model of nocturne. The study attempts to confirm that these topics can be demonstrated (by the visualised result) as a result of topic modelling (in the form of sets of relevant key words).
The project is accompanied by the conviction that studying many texts using the distance reading method can facilitate detecting topics important for nocturne, perhaps also in other texts that are not obvious. Such method should also allow for making connections between nocturne and not only already known topics, but also less obvious thematic areas, as well as objects, moods, elements of scenery, specific types of characters, and linguistic registers.

The meeting will be held in Polish.

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