January 28, 2022

Digital Humanities: Princeton Prosody Archive Brings Digital Tools To The Study Of Poetry

From a News at Princeton:

Once upon a midnight dreary, an English professor at Princeton sat in her office, musing over many volumes of forgotten lore about the right way to read a poem.

There were handbooks, essays, letters from one poet to another, and even newspaper articles dedicated to arguments over what rhythms should be used, which syllables should be stressed, and where the reader should pause — all elements of prosody, the study of poetic form.

Meredith Martin, an associate professor and expert on English poetry of the 19th and 20th centuries, had assembled the sources to explore how the thinking about these “rules” for reading poems had changed during the Victorian and early Modernist periods. These rules, found in versification manuals and grammar schoolbooks of the period, sometimes appeared as markings on the poem itself — typically accents on stressed syllables, little u-shaped marks called breves atop non-stressed syllables, and vertical lines to indicate pauses.

The problem Martin faced was how to search across her assembled sources. Although many of the works she had collected already had been digitized by initiatives such as Google Books, others were scattered across databases, and most important, were unsearchable. Letters with prosodic marks are not recognized by typical computer search techniques.

Enlisting the help of computer scientists and librarians, Martin began in 2011 to build the Princeton Prosody Archive, a full-text searchable database of more than 10,000 digitized records published between 1750 and 1923. Currently in beta-testing, the Prosody Archive will be accessible to the public at the end of the year, with full access to the archive by 2017.


This fall, Princeton opened the Center for Digital Humanities, directed by Martin, to enable faculty and student researchers to harness the power of computing for research activities that once were only possible during laborious visits to musty archives and libraries.

Read the Complete Article, Learn More About the Princeton Prosody Archive

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.