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Storytelling in the Spectators / Storytelling dans les spectateurs

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Edited By Klaus-Dieter Ertler, Yvonne Völkl, Elisabeth Hobisch, Alexandra Fuchs and Hans Fernández

The Spectators, also known as Moral Weeklies, were an important magazine genre which came into being in the early 18th century and which shaped European identity by developing the strategies of critical journalism and by popularizing the ideas and values of the Age of Enlightenment. Investigating modes of storytelling in the Spectators is an important starting point for a paradigmatic investigation of our historical, cultural and philosophical evolution since the Enlightenment and the impact of these magazines on issues of identity in today’s Europe. In this collection on ‹Storytelling in the Spectators›, we present a series of contributions which study English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Czech, Polish and Danish-Norwegian periodicals.

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Quantifying Spectators

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As we all know, Spectators resonated with the 18th century public, and therefore they must have had some blockbuster qualities which in my view in itself justifies research of the content of the genre. Until recently, a lot of research on the storytelling in Spectators as well as on the general content, has been of a qualitative nature. Research of a more quantitative approach usually focused on metadata like the number of editions or on the size and nature of the reading public and production and distribution of the genre as such.

This changed in the early nineties of the last century when text mining techniques, rooted in linguistics and data mining were introduced. For intelligence analysts and biomedical researchers, text mining became part of the standard practice. The techniques evolved and improved rapidly, and although focused on texts, text mining as a methodology for literary studies was somewhat ignored. This changed when Franco Moretti coined the term: “Distant reading” and advocated the tremendous potential of electronic texts for literary studies (Moretti 2013). Nowadays, scholars like Mathew Jockers, Mike Kestemont and Jan Rybicki produce outstanding examples of how techniques that computers are ideally suited for, like pattern recognition, can reveal crucial information on literary works (Jockers 2013; Eder 2016). Still, a lot leaves to be desired for historical research of literature.

Identifying general content patterns is extremely interesting for a long-running popular genre such as Spectatorial Magazines. It is also an attractive idea that...

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