Digital humanities text analysis tools

Distant Reading & Text Analysis

The Versioning Machine ( is a framework and an interface for displaying multiple versions of text encoded according to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines

Voyant Tools ( web-based reading and analysis environment for digital texts.

Twine ( an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. You don’t need to write any code to create a simple story with Twine, but you can extend your stories with variables, conditional logic, images, CSS, and JavaScript when you’re ready.

Solovyov’s Meaning of Love

While looking for the online text of Beauty in Nature and The Meaning of Love by Solovyov, I found the various online resources maintained by Michael Lee, a professor in the Department of Psychology of the University of Manitoba. I found Michael Lee’s page while looking for essays by Solovyov, and so I will add that Lee mentions him in a page called “Required Reading for Revolters“. This is what he said about Solovyov’s The Meaning of Love:


Solovyov lived from 1853 to 1900. I find him the most profound and prescient Christian theologian and visionary. He believed that romantic love was potentially the instrument for effecting the kind of spiritual transformation that would enable us to attain physical immortality and to realize the Kingdom of God on earth.

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Apr 11, 2007  ]

Bruno Schulz, Witkacy and Jerzy Ficowski

I attended a conference this morning, on the life and work of the writer illustrator Bruno Schulz.

One of the guests at the conference, the wife of the poet Jerzy Ficowski spoke about her husband’s life-long fascination and search for Schulz’ work. Towards the end of her talk, she read a quote from a letter that Bruno Schulz wrote to Witkiewicz (aka Witkacy):

I think that the rationalization of the vision of things rooted in the work of art is like the demasking of actors. It is the end of the game, it is the impoverishment of the question of the work. Not because art is an anagram with a hidden key [and] philosophy is this same anagram–solved. The difference is more profound. In the work of art the umbilical cord is not yet cut that joins it to the whole of the problem. The blood of the mystery is still circulating; the ends of the vessels escape into the surrounding night and return full of dark fluid. 


Sklepy Cynamonowe [Cinnamon Shops] was published in 1934, and is available in English translation as The Street of Crocodiles. The conference included the screening of a film with that title by the Quay brothers that was inspired by Schulz’ work.

After reading Sklepy Cynamonowe, Ficowski sent a letter of gratitude and admiration to Schulz, who likely never received it due to the tragic circumstances of nazi occupation. Bruno Schulz was killed by a Gestapo officer on the streets of the Jewish ghetto in Drohobycz in 1942. Ficowski tried to collect and make available as much of Schulz’ work as possible, but some of his work, such as The Messiah, was never recovered.

The second film screened was a documentary interview with Jerzy Ficowski, Amulety i definicje czyli szkic do portretu Jerzego Ficowskiego. The documentary ends with the following Ficowski lyric:

I’m a poet, I patch the holes in umbrellas with raindrops.

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from  May 05, 2007 ]

Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Vladimir Solovyov

Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov is one of my favorite books. The following is a quote by the Gnostic monk, Father Zossima:

What isolation?” I asked him The isolation that you find everywhere, particularly in our age. But it won’t come to an end right now, because the time has not yet come. Today everyone asserts his own personality and strives to live a full life as an individual. But these efforts lead not to a full life but to suicide, because, instead of realizing his personality, man only slips into total isolation. For in our age mankind has been broken up into self-contained individuals, each of whom retreats into his lair, trying to stay away from the rest of mankind, and finally isolating himself from people and people from him. And, while he accumulates material wealth in his isolation, he thinks with satisfaction how mighty and secure he has become, because he is mad and cannot see that the more goods he accumulates, the deeper he sinks into suicidal impotence. The reason for this is that he has become accustomed to relying only on himself; he has split off from the whole and become an isolated unit; he has trained his soul not to rely on human help, not to believe in men and mankind, and only worry that the wealth and privileges he has accumulated may get lost. Everywhere men today are turning scornfully away from the truth that the security of the individual cannot be achieved by his isolated efforts but only by mankind as a whole.”

Brothers Karamazov, Chapter 2 Recollections of Father Zossima’s Youth before he became a Monk.

Reading the Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov felt like discovery.  Solovyov’s influence can be seen in Dostoyevsky’s characters’ discussions about nihilism and its rejection through faith.

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from  Feb 08, 2007]

Miłosz on Herbert Marcuse

Miłosz dedicates an entire chapter of his Visions from San Francisco Bay to Herbert Marcuse. The chapter begins with a quote from One Dimensional Man

The quantification of nature, which led to its explication in terms of mathematical structures, separated reality from all inherent ends and, consequently, separated the true from the good, science from ethics … Then the precarious ontological link between Logos and Eros is broken, and scientific rationality emerges as essentially neutral.


Miłosz originally published the polish version of the Visions from San Francisco Bay in 1969, they are reflections on a particularly significant period in American history which he happened to have spent at University of California, Berkeley. He notices that Marcuse was especially popular among young Americans, struggling with identifying the source of their discontent


It is very difficult to live feeling that reality is covered by a veil or multitude of veils that one tries to draw aside in order to get at something “firm” – but the veils are invisible, moving, slippery; they elude names because their perversity is so great that they are transformed as often as they are named. Comedy and terror flow over them in waves of images of the absurd. Under such conditions, not far from schizophrenia (one of whose symptoms is that a schizophrenic may see a tree but it is not completely real; a real tree is expected to appear any moment, but it never quite does), Marcuse comes forth and says: This happened because you are unfree.


The description of our socialization and knowledege as a source of bondage, as well as the call towards ‘negation’ as a path towards freedom is reminiscient of another sage teaching around California during this time, Jiddu Krishnamurti.


The tyranny oppressing you does not have any command center in any palace or castle, no one has planned it and it need not resort to orders and prohibitions. But the control which is exercised over you is total, for you have been transformed from within – your mind, your emotions, your desires do not belong to you, they have been imposed by society’s rituals. If you want to be free, the first step must be the realization that any of your reflections on daily life, on man, are not independent, since the material at your disposal, the material of your perceptions and ideas, is not your own as you believe. It is not with the world that you are communicating but with your own civilization, which disguises itself and passes itself off as the world. So let conciousness discover how and by what means you are manipulated. That can be done.

The instrument of control employed by the collective is language – spoken, written, pictorial. The information that language transmits can be evaluated with relative ease, but the dislocations of meaning brought about in language by the elimination of certain expressions, the inverting of concepts, even through syntax, are much more difficult to perceive. Marcuse considers the analysis of language to be the principal task, although he seems not to have any doubts about the somewhat daunting dimensions of such an enterprise. He attacks language that breaks the reality we perceive into fragments of “facts”, since that language fully supports a cow-like view of the world – we don’t know what a cow staring at a passing automobile thinks, but we sense that it is something on the order of a pure statement: it’s there, nothing more than that. According to Marcuse, there is a close connection between the colloquial language that fashions everyone imperceptibly and the limitations of the philosophers it has also fashioned.

To the delight of his young readers, Marcuse concentrates his attack on positivist philosophy, powerful in American universities, and especially despised by the students. For that philosophy renders any longing for a coherent world view impossible and derides that longing as well. “Values detached from objective reality become subjective,” to use Marcuse’s words, and what is subjective is not considered philosophical. The young turn away from such linguistic games, which they find sterile – a healthy impulse on their part, for what sort of philosophy would investigate a valueless, cow-like world? But they are then condemned to dangle in the void of their own subjectivity, an all-consuming relativism from which neither hallucinogens nor Eastern religions will save them. According to Marcuse, however, positivist philosophy is not an innocent exercise practiced by armchair sages. In agreement with science in a common contempt for Eros – values, detached and banished – it strives to perfect the language of technological domination

source: Visions from San Francisco Bay, (1985 translation by Richard Lourie) p.187-


Miłosz admits a common tradition and ‘early acquired habits’ with Marcuse, the conviction that a marriage of Logos and Eros is necessary to understanding the human condition. However, Miłosz also struggles with the contradiction in Marcuse, “To consider the citizens of any country, as Marcuse does, depraved creatures, blameless idiots but idiots nonetheless, is to condemn oneself to intellectual arrogance”.

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jan  16, 2007]

Czesław Miłosz 

Czesław Miłosz begins his 1980 Nobel lecture by referring to the Polish series Biblioteka Laureatów Nobla [The Library of the Nobel Laureates].

In the Captive Mind, Miłosz writes about totalitarianism from his experiences of the nazi occupation of Poland, the tragic Warsaw uprising and subsequent communist Poland. The book recounts the stories of four Polish artist intellectuals. Although their names are disguised with Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta; it is common knowledge that they refer to Jerzy AndrzejewskiTadeusz BorowskiJerzy Putrament and Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński.

The Captive Mind opens with a reference to Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz‘ novel Insatiability and the pill of Murti Bing. Miłosz describes the communist totalitarian system fighting against religion in an attempt to establish a system based purely on ‘reason and science’. With religion out of the way, the authorities hoped to have the ability to justify morally unjust acts through appeal to the objective, inevitable and reasonable course of history. Czeslaw Miłosz described scientific laws and theories as bridges of understanding; bridges over an infinite abyss that is our own mortality. Faced with the realization of that mortality, many turn to prayer and artistic representations of spirituality.

In the 1960s, Miłosz became a professor of slavic languages and literatures at the University of California, where he wrote a real gem of a book that blends and weaves the history of philosophy, politics and literature The History of Polish Literature.

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from May 05, 2006 – Feb 28, 2007]

Halina Poświatowska

When I read Halina Poświatowska’s poetry for the first time was the first time that I truly felt touched by someone’s writing. It was not until much later that I learned that she died at such a young age of 32. Fortunately, she left us much extaordinary poetry that is filled with images, thoughts and sensations all wrapped in what has always seemed to me like some sort of cosmic onomatopoeia.

Her poetry can be found online . Marek Lugowski published his translations of her work online, which is where I found this one:


untitled (“the sidewalk quilted with flowers…”)
——————————————————the sidewalk quilted with flowers has turned green
and Kant himself is as the radishes fresh and fragrant
I am biting their flesh apart and testing on my tongue
the sharp taste of the argument

I swallow philosophy
someone once warned
that wisdom is to be chewed into single strands
I drink love in gulps
and when it is called for
I have more tears than an oceanful

whiteness — the alchemy of water and soap
greenery — the tangled nerve conduits of plants
in two clenched fists I hold the not understood world
meanwhile outside the window the dawn rises like a river
and in the market the stands are taken into heaven by the row.

Polish text Copyright 1989 Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków, Poland:

***(“zazielenil sie chodnik haftowany w kwiaty…”)

zazielenił się chodnik haftowany w kwiaty
i Kant jest jak rzodkiewki świeży i pachnący
rozgryzam miąższ i na języku czuję
smak ostry argumentu

połykam filozofię
ktoś ostrzegał
że mądrość należy przeżuwać na pojedyncze włókna
haustami piję miłość
a gdy trzeba
mam wiecej łez niż ocean

biel — alchemia mydła i wody
zieleń — splątane nerwy łodyg
w obydwu zaciśniętych dłoniach trzymam świat niepojęty
a tymczasem za oknem świt wzbiera jak rzeka
i na rynku stragany w niebo wstępują rzedem

Halina Poświatowska, Polish, d. 11 oct 1967.
translation by Marek Lugowski


I remember trying to write a translation of this poem myself, and found it very difficult because the sound of Poświatowska’s words in Polish resonate for me with some mysterious rhythm and harmony which seems subdued when tranformed into English… Many of her expressions seem untranslatable; I would have translated “splątane nerwy łodyg” as “tangled branch nerves”, instead of Lugowski’s choice of “the tangled nerve conduits of plants”… Here is one more:


untitled (“when they put down pavement everywhere”)
————————————————————-when they put down pavement everywhere
trim and explain every tree
jasmine as jasmine and maple as maple
hope is of color green
and does blossom prettier than a flower

never again will I comprehend what the symbols denote
the plaza is all paved now
there is no room left for the literal
in words
in formalized signs
in gestures

when they put down pavement everywhere
silent will go
my enduring heart

Polish text Copyright 1989 Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków, Poland:

***(“kiedy juz wszedzie poloza bruk”)

kiedy już wszędzie położą bruk
przytną i wytłumaczą każde drzewo
jaśmin na jaśmin i klon na klon
nadzieja ma kolor zielony
i kwitnie piękniej niż kwiat

już nigdy nie zrozumiem co przedstawiają symbole
cały plac dokładnie zabrukowany
nie ma miejsca na dosłowność
w słowach
w sformalizowanych znakach
w gestach

kiedy już wszędzie położą bruk
uciszy się
moje wytrwałe serce

Halina Poświatowska, Polish, d. 11 oct 1967.
translation by Marek Lugowski

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Sep 23, 2006 ]

Przybyszewski’s Moderna

Naturalism was a dominant idea in 19th century Europe, with its vision of man as a subject to biological and social rules. The turn of the century saw aliances between art and political anarchists, a lament over what was perceived as a general stage of decadence in Western civilization and a return to a revolt against the hope of naive confidence in unlimited progress. The French review, Le Symboliste published works inspired by Rimbaud, Verlaine, MallarméLaforgue,showed an appreciation for the role of symbols after Baudelaire and Emanuel Swedenborg. Arthur Symons’ book on symbolists, quoted in Miłosz’ History of Polish Literature:


Here then, in this revolt against exteriority, against rhetoric, against materialistic tradition; in this endeavor to disengage the ultimate essence, the soul, of whatever exists and can be realized by the consciousness; in this dutiful waiting upon every symbol by which the soul of things can be made visible; literature, bowed by so many burdens, may, at last, attain liberty, and its authentic speech. In attaining this liberty, it accepts a heavier burden; for in speaking to us so intimately, so solemny, as only religion had hitherto spoken to us, it becomes itself a kind of religion, with all the duties and responsibilities of the sacred ritual.


In Poland, the publication titled Życie [Life] printed translations of Edgar Allen PoeBaudelaireVerlaineSwinburne and others. The editor, Zenon Przesmycki, was known for a translation of Rimbaud’s “The Drunken Boat”. Young writers were more likely to relate to Schopenhauer’s appeal to withdraw from fatalistic determinism and Nietzsche’s re-definition of the individual as a self-sustaining value-creating entity than to the positivists of the last decade. The positivists were seen as a reflection of defeat to utilitarianism. Religion was on the decline, yet science could not provide any foundation for value. Arthur Górski is quoted by Miłosz as a spokesman for “Young Poland”, describing the dark pessimism of a continued search for meaning in a universe increasingly seen as mechanistic without room for pity or compassion:

Over all souls a terrible darkness is spreading in which even doubt is extinguished; nothing is certain but horror and pain; all walls between the real and the incomprehensible are broken. There is nothing but a dust of souls tossed by fate and crashing against each other over the abysses. 


Górski also describes the revolt against the trite meaningless life of a ‘philistine/bourgeois’ that later became the ‘organization man’ or simply a ‘bureaucrat’:


As disillusionment with the life of society and with its typical product, a modern philistine, grew, ties between the individual and that society loosened; disgust and protest against the banality and soulless existence of the organized mass increased . . . More sensitive and profound minds, after having lost their respect for the philistine and their sympathy with social movements, began to withdraw from life and look for its other, more durable values…


Stansław Przybyszewski became the editor of Życie [Life] and “Young Poland” became known as Przybyszewski’s Moderna. In 1899, he published a manifesto called Confiteor (original Polish full-text)*, an exerpt from this is found in Miłosz:


Art has no aim, it is aim in itself; it is the absolute because it is a reflection of the Absolute – the Soul. And since it is the absolute, it cannot be enclosed within any frame, it cannot serve any idea, it is dominant, it is a source from which all life comes.

Art stands above life; penetrates the essence of the universe; reads to the ordinary man a secret, runic writing; interprets all that exists from one eternity to the other; it knows neither limits nor laws; it knows only the duration and power of the soul; it binds men’s souls to the soul of the universal nature and considers the soul of the individual as a phenomenon of that other soul.

Tendatious art, art-pleasure, art-patriotism, art possessing a moral or a social aim ceases to be art and becomes a biblia pauperum for those who do not know how to think or who are not educated enough to read proper textbooks. For such people, wandering teachers are necessary – not art.

To act upon society in an instructive or moral sense, to foster patriotism or social instincts through art means to humiliate art, to throw it down from the summits of the Absolute into the miserable accidentality of life, and the artist who proceeds that way does not deserve the name of artist. A democratic art, an art for the people, is even lower. An art for the people is a hideous and platitudinous banalizing of the means used by the artist; it is a plebeian act of making accessible what, by the nature of things, is not easily accessible. The people need bread not art; when they get bread, they will find their path themselves…

Art so conceived becomes the highest religion, and the artist becomes its priest. He is personal only by an internal power with which he re-creates states of soul. Besides that, he is a cosmic, metaphysical force through which the absolute and eternity express themselves. He is holy and pure, regardless of whether he presents the most terrible crimes, uncovers the most hideous dirt, or raises his eyes toward heaven and penetrates the light of God. 


Przybyszewski shared the naturalist vision of man as a product of the blind forces of evolutionary determinism that shapes our thoughts through instincts; he turned to concepts that ‘have no definition in human language”, that of the ‘naked soul’ expressing itself through art and creating value. Przybyszewski called for the artist to explore the very essence of reality and to create value through art, in a world deprived of values.



[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Sep 10, 2006  ]

Tadeusz Konwicki

One of the first books that I read in Polish which was not a required reading for school was a novel by Tadeusz Konwicki – “Mała apokalipsa” – A Minor Apocalypse. This story, narrated in the first person, is captivating from the very first scene in which Konwicki wakes up in a state reminiscient of Charles Bukowski, to have drink; and he is soon being asked by some old friends to set himself on fire that evening in front of the party headquarters in Warsaw as an act of protest. Reluctantly he accepts, the rest of the book follows his adventures of the fateful day. A Minor Apocalypse is a hilarious look at the absurdity around us from a first-person perspective.


DS: A British poet, Philip Larkin, said once that he quit writing novels because novels are about other people whereas poetry is about oneself. If we go with this distinction, can we call your books poetic?

TK: Technically, yes. I write about myself because I came to the conclusion that I am most competent in this sphere. Even if I create various characters, make a plot, some chain of events, everything is saturated with me. I am present all the time, to formulate, mold, remind the reader that it’s me. I staked my writing on that. I think that, in the terrible chaos we have now, objective, transparent prose has to perish because it will be replaced by more perfect forms, like film or television. Only a person can arouse other people’s interest in societal relations. Some people are fascinating, others are old bores. We want to be with some, and we run away from others. So I charm the reader all the time and satiate him with myself, and in this way I use poetic technique. And that’s the only thing worth doing, as opposed to describing the world that we get every day from millions of TV programs, journalists, photographs, newspaper reports. We know this world inside out. We have enough dead bodies in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Palestine, or anywhere else. Finally we are haunted by a thirst to find some universal sense in all that happens. And that’s what poetry likes.

source: An Interview with Tadeusz Konwicki By Dorota Sobieska


Konwicki is also a film director and screenwriter.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from May 20, 2006 ]