Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Benatti, Francesca; Tonra, Justin
Digital Humanities Congress
“Who Killed Christabel? Can Authorship Attribution Solve the Case?”
University of Sheffield
Conference Paper
Optional Fields
In order to convey a consistent corporate identity, many of the major nineteenth-century periodicals adopted a policy of anonymity for their contributors. Often, the identity of a reviewer was an open secret, but occasionally articles would remain resolutely anonymous, provoking intense gossip amongst the periodical’s readership, and posing problems for later scholars. One such example was a review of Coleridge’s Christabel which appeared in 1816 in theEdinburgh Review. This review was merciless in its criticism of the poem and its author. It succeeded in enraging Coleridge, who thought it was written "with malignity and in a spirit of personal hatred", but to this day it has not earned a satisfactory attribution.   Since the turn of the twentieth century, there have been several attempts to attribute the Christabel review. While they have resulted in an interesting scholarly dialogue, none has inspired a consensus. However, the discussion has identified two leading candidates in critic William Hazlitt and author Thomas Moore. Can the adoption of a digital humanities perspective bring conclusive evidence to this ongoing debate? This paper describes the process and the results of a new examination of the Christabel review based on the use of digital textual analysis and author attribution technology, together with a reassessment of the evidence that can be gathered from a close reading of the original texts.
Publication Themes