Conferences Modern Language Association ACH Sessions

ACH Sessions at the 1997 MLA Convention

The Association for Computers and the Humanities is sponsoring two sessions at the 1997 convention of the Modern Language Association, in Toronto, Ontario, from 27 through 30 December.

We also offer a guide to all computer-related sessions at the convention.

Although the 1997 convention is now in the past, this information will
remain available, as a record of what went on. Similar information for many other years is available via the main page on ACH MLA sessions.

Computers and Theory

Sunday, 28 December 1997, 1:45 to 3:00 p.m., Toronto Room, Royal York Hotel

Presiding: John Lavagnino, Brown University

How computers and their uses illuminate, substantiate, motivate, challenge, energize, rejuvenate, undermine, or refute literary theory.

There has been a great deal of recent work in literary studies on the nature of electronic textuality, often drawing on various bodies of literary theory. But how appropriate to the new medium is theory that was developed when earlier writing technologies were dominant? Are there pitfalls in using theory this way? Does theory have things to learn from the world of electronic texts, or is there in truth nothing in the new world that poses a challenge for theory?

  • “Hypertext Theory Post-Poststructuralism,” Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, University of Virginia
  • “Storytime: Temporal As Well As Spatial Metaphors for Hypertext,” Michael Groden, University of Western Ontario
  • “Out of Praxis: Textual Ontology, from Below,” Allen Renear, Brown University

Spatial and Geometric Metaphors for Text

Tuesday, 30 December 1997, 10:15 to 11:30 a.m., Room 203B, Toronto Convention Centre

Presiding: C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, University of Illinois at Chicago

Considerations of existing metaphors, proposals for new metaphors, and their implications for the theory of texts and for the practice of text processing by computer

In attempts to understand and describe the nature of text, spatial or geometric metaphors often play a critical role, by making concrete and perspicuous what might otherwise be abstract and opaque. Spatial models also have practical significance because they can influence the design and behavior of text processing software. Text has been visualized — inter alia! — as a one-dimensional linear stream of words; as a two-dimensional rectangular array of words and annotations; as a tree; as a network or directed graph; as a torus or doughnut. Other metaphors are surely possible.

What are the implications of these geometrical models, for theory of text and for practice of text processing by computer? What happens to our thinking — or to our software — if we assume that text is a linear stream? Or a landscape viewed from above? What are the hidden implications in current software systems? What assumptions might be inherent in the computational treatment of text as such? What geometric metaphors are built into particular programming languages used to write text-processing software?

We solicit papers for this session treating any aspect of textual space or textual geometry, including but not limited to: detailed descriptions of a particular model of text; proposals of new geometric models; comparisons of two or more models; discussions of geometric metaphors in the work of particular critics or theorists — or in particular software systems; surveys; concrete applications of geometric metaphors to particular works of literature.

Organizer: C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, University of Illinois, Chicago; (Postal address: 1155 S. Wisconsin Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60304-1838, USA.)

  • “Texts as Animaps: Genre Transformation in the Early Nineteenth Century”, David C. Lipscomb, Columbia University
  • “Pushing the Landscape Metaphor: Textual Variation Keyed to Topographic Values”, James Connor, Saint Louis University
  • “Applied Virtual Reality: Mapping Texts in Three Dimensions with VRML”, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, University of Virginia

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