Beginning to End: Literary and Corpus Linguistic Analyses of Openings and Endings in LiteratureBeginning to End
A cooperation between the chairs of English Linguistics and English Literature, the research project aims to find regular structures in openings and endings of literary texts and, in a second step, to establish to what degree the structures found are based on cognitive universals. The attempt to do so at the same time addresses central methodological problems in all the contributing disciplines.
The question by means of what textual markers and structural patterns highly complex literary texts succeed in attracting a reader’s attention in their opening passages and manage to bring about a sense of closure in their endings has always fascinated literary scholars, and yet until recently, all their research efforts in this field suffered from a typical weakness of their traditional, purely hermeneutic methodology: Thus, many interesting types of openings and endings were spotted and analysed in individual texts, but due to the impressionistic and arbitrary selection of these texts, it remained impossible to distinguish the relevant, more frequent types from those that are singular and exceptional. For the same reason, it was hardly possible to give reliable statements on the frequency of the various types with respect to different literary periods and use them as indicators of literary and cultural change. To overcome this methodological deficiency, we will design a large repertoire of corpus linguistic and data mining techniques for analysing the textual markers and structural patterns of narrative openings and endings in a truly systematic and empirical fashion. This promises not only to add a new digital and quantitative perspective to the traditional hermeneutic and qualitative orientation in Literary Studies, but also to prove useful for the further development of data mining techniques in the contributing disciplines, such as Corpus Linguistics and Information Management.