Historical Digital Analysis of Hasidic Stories Until 1914

Scientific abstract – Historical Digital Analysis of Hasidic Stories Until 1914
Hasidic stories are invaluable sources for the study of Hasidism. Hasidism is a social pietisticmovement that emerged in 18th-century Eastern Europe and gradually evolved into one of the most prominent movements in the Jewish world over the last three hundred years. Stories provided an important vehicle in Hasidic culture by which diverse followers from various social strata could experience and express their Hasidic affiliation. Hasidic stories are thus unique in their constituting a mass corpus that captures the perspective of the rank-and-file followers of the Hasidic movement. Preliminary research indicates that no fewer than 150 collections containing Hasidic stories were printed from 1814, the year of the publication of the first collection of Hasidic stories, up to the First World War. The number of stories is estimated at about 5000 literary units, totaling at about 15,000 for the whole period from 1814 till today. As a mass corpus of texts, Hasidic stories seem to invite digital quantitative research that can be done on its complete corpus. However, thus far, research on Hasidic stories has been done primarily employing qualitative methods and drawing from partial material. This proposed project will employ the approach and methods of “Digital Humanities” (DH) on the corpus of all Hasidic stories published from the emergence of Hasidism in the mid 18th century until 1914. In particular, the project aims to explore textual patterns that can shed light on significant aspects of the stories and culture in which they are embedded: historical changes in emphasis on various topics, personalities, places, and events; networks of people and ideas; and spatial dynamics. This project is expected to produce a volume of studies based on the results of the computational analysis. By applying computational tools on the complete corpus of all the stories, rather than a partial collection, the project intends to draw robust conclusions about the general nature of Hasidic stories. Furthermore, the proposed project’s approach will enable the introduction of, and response to, novel questions that could not have been addressed hitherto within the boundaries of qualitative research. The project personnel comprises a team of research assistants acquainted with Hasidic sources as well as technological experts, such as a DH expert and a data scientist. The project will rely on the personnel, infrastructure, experience, and accumulated resources of the Open Media and Information Lab (OMILab) of the Open University of Israel, a laboratory that is affiliated with the same institution as the PI.


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