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Professor Hugh Craig

Professor

School of Humanities and Social Science (English and Writing)

Figures of speech

As unlikely as it sounds, literary scholar Professor Hugh Craig has enhanced his appreciation of Shakespeare through statistical analysis.

figures of speech

Renaissance literature expert Professor Hugh Craig is a man of letters. But the computational stylist is equally a man of numbers.

Craig is the Director of the Centre for Linguistic and Literary Computing. He has been an advocate of computer-assisted analysis of language in literature since the controversial field began to emerge in the 1980s.

He has devoted decades of research to proving that statistics can help us analyse and appreciate literary texts.

Craig says computational analysis has two applications in the field of literature: it can help authenticate authorship that is unknown or suspected to have been wrongly attributed and it can be used to build a profile of or define a writer's particular style.

"It is still controversial because people in the literary world don't like numbers, they don't trust numbers, and they don't understand how you can do something as banal as counting things in a literary context," he says.

"That is why it is fun; because it does challenge people and threaten some people. As you can imagine, I get in some pretty heated discussions."

Craig's work is based largely on frequency data and has led to several breakthrough findings in regard to Shakespearean works. Using his computational techniques he found that Shakespeare was the likely author of a number of scenes from the play The Spanish Tragedy that had previously been attributed to the playwright Ben Jonson. The results are presented in his 2009 co-edited book Shakespeare, Computers and the Mystery of Authorship.

He has also established that Shakespeare did not have the wide vocabulary many credited him with."There was a myth that Shakespeare had an extraordinarily large vocabulary, but our analysis shows that he didn't. His talent was in the way he used regular, ordinary words," Craig explains.

"What we did was look at the words he used and the frequency with which he used them and compared that to what other playwrights of the time were doing. Our research showed the difference in vocabulary was not striking."

Craig's research builds on the work of the centre's founder, Emeritus Professor John Burrows, who was the first to establish that simple function words such as "he", "and", "but" and "if" were rich in stylistic information when analysed using computational techniques.

Ina novel cross-disciplinary exercise, Craig employed the expertise of Professor Pablo Moscato, who heads the University's bioinformatics program, to assist in the analysis of texts. The pair undertook a joint project comparing the structure of language in Shakespeare's plays and poems, which returned interesting evidence of a vast disparity in style between the two literary disciplines.

He has also linked with University speech pathology researchers to study how computational linguistics can be applied in the health sphere.

"We are looking at how people's language changes with ageing but there are other researchers using the techniques to investigate how people's language changes with the onset of Alzheimer's. This could in turn lead to early detection if you could find a way to pick up on those changes in language use," he says.

Craig says computational analysis is not only applicable to the work of great writers. It can be used just as effectively to identify the idiosyncrasies of any individual's language.

"The miracle of language is that we all make something individual out of a common resource. Computer analysis allows us to detect those word patterns more accurately than simply relying on intuition."

figures of speech

Figures of speech

As unlikely as it sounds, literary scholar Professor Hugh Craig has enhanced his appreciation of Shakespeare through statistical analysis.

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News

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Professor Hugh Craig retires after 40 year career

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Mentor program supports Early Career Researchers

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The Centre for 21st Century Humanities has kicked off a program to nurture early career researchers (ECR’s).

New Federation to bring together stylometry experts from around the world

June 1, 2017

UON’s Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing (CLLC) is behind a move to create a new partnership between stylometry labs from around the world.

Postdoc uncovering the hidden meanings in religious texts

May 25, 2017

Postdoctoral researcher Ahmad Alqurneh has commenced work withe Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computingon a project related to translations.

Centre for 21st Century Humanities leads funding bid to develop ground breaking software platform

May 9, 2017

C21CH is Humanities is leading a bid for funding to build a powerful software platform called the ‘Time-Layered Cultural Map of Australia’.

Leading Shakespeare Scholar wows audience in public lecture

March 10, 2017

The Centre for 21st Century Humanities had the privilege of hosting Merton Professor Lorna Hutson recently.

UON researcher plays leading role in ground-breaking new Shakespeare edition

October 28, 2016

UON researcher plays leading role in ground-breaking new Shakespeare edition.

Professor Hugh Craig awarded 2016 Discovery Project

November 3, 2015

Professor Hugh Craig has been awarded a Discovery Projects grant by the ARC for his project: 'Folio Shakespeare texts and their Quarto and Octavo antecedents'

Power of the Humanities Publication

September 18, 2015

University of Newcastle researchers featured in the Power of the Humanities Publication

Humanities accolade

December 2, 2014

Professor Hugh Craig from UON's Centre for Linguistic and Literary Computing has been elected as a Fellow to the Australian Academy of Humanities.

Mining the creative mind

June 24, 2014

This week international researchers will gather in Newcastle for the Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing Beyond Authorship Symposium.

Research Directions 2013/2014

May 16, 2014

The new edition of Research Directions from the Faculty of Education and Arts is now available.

Letters and numbers

May 15, 2014

The Director of the Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing at the University of Newcastle knows it's not every English scholar's cup of Twinings...

Shakespeare and cancer diagnoses: how bard can it be?

July 22, 2013

Shakespeare’s plays and cancer: two seemingly unrelated topics with an underlying common thread.

Professor Hugh Craig

Positions

Professor
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Emeritus Professor
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area

English

Contact Details

Email hugh.craig@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 5769
Fax (02) 4921 7818

Office

Room Mc102
Building General Purpose
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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