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Thomas Lebarbé is a Professor of Digital Humanities. After having conducted his work at Lidilem (Laboratory for Linguistics and Didactics of Foreign and Native Languages) at the Université Grenoble Alpes, he joined the Litt&Arts Joint Research Unit in December2016.


Question box

What is the relationship between the digital edition and the paper edition? What makes digital publishing useful for researchers?

Thomas Lebarbé : Digital publishing is a way of making our working data available to the public. It is also a way of working that is different from paper publishing. Paper editions are still being produced from authors’ source material, which are then kept in libraries and, at some point, halt the progress of knowledge. But digital publishing means we can progress further, offer other views on this information and target other audiences, while also having the opportunity to update what we cannot update in a paper book.

You are a computational linguist. What made you focus on authors’ rough drafts?

T. L.: My thesis was on the computer analysis of written language while also establishing a connection with spoken language. Being one of the few researchers working in computational linguistics within the Faculty of Arts, a colleague reached out to me hoping to publish Stendhal’s manuscripts online. When I saw those manuscripts, above all else I saw linguistic material, while the material she saw was literary. Together, we have built a corpus of material that is both linguistic and literary.

In what ways does the linguist’s approach differ from the literary approach when analysing an author’s rough draft?

T. L.: The goals of the linguist are to describe how language works based on phenomena observed. My phenomena are authors’ rough drafts. We try to describe how an author reworks, rewrites and reformulates their text. The literary approach, on the other hand, focuses more on the work itself and the author. Linguistics adopts more of a phenomenon-based approach, whereas literature takes a wider view of the work and its creation, which we call genetic criticism.

Are you interested in any authors in particular?

T. L.: I began my work on Stendhal at Stendhal University in the town of Stendhal. But I am interested in various authors, from various periods – those who have left behind a handwritten trace. These range from the early 19th to the late 20th century. I work on contemporary authors such as Jean-Philippe Toussaint, as well as authors like Marcel Proust and Jules Michelet, who is recognised as the historian of the French Revolution and whose manuscripts have also survived.

Nowadays, most writers write on a computer. What will you do once all the rough drafts are gone?

T. L.: Authors today write using digital tools that leave no trace of their writing process. A few years from now, they will stop leaving rough drafts behind altogether. Our objects of study will cease to exist, but we have centuries’ worth of source material from authors behind us, which should give us enough work to be getting on with for the next fifty years!
Publié le January 10, 2017
Mis à jour le February 20, 2017

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