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Wednesday Noon Digital Scholarship Series


The “-Re-“ of Victorian Poetry


October 8, 2023 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EST

via Zoom-Only


Dr. Adam Mazel, Digital Publishing Librarian,

Indiana University Libraries,
Indiana University Bloomington


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My presentation for IU’s Wednesday Noon Digital Scholarship (DS) Series will test drive my digital-scholarship-based presentation for the 2023 North American Victorian Studies Association (NAVSA) conference, whose theme is “Revision, Return, Reform.” Both presentations play on the NAVSA conference theme by exploring, through two DS projects, the use of “-re-” as prefix and rhyme in Victorian poetry.

The first DS project uses computational text analysis to visualize trends in how “-re-“, as prefix and rhyme, is used in selections of Victorian poetry. One visualization will show how and why the Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne used “-re-” and “-er-“ in his 1883 A Century of Roundels to create “rhymes” that are discerned more the eye than the ear. Another visualization will explore trends in the use of “-re-“ by such Victorian poets as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Thomas Hardy: which “-re” words did they rhyme most frequently? When in their careers did they most often rhyme “-re” words? Another will show whether they preferred such spellings as “theater” or “theatre” and whether / when one gave way to the other in their verse, which can point to wider trends in the history of the English language.

The second DS project is the creation of a user-searchable MySQL database of rhyming dictionaries published in England / English, 1775 – 1900. This project is apt for inquiry into the use of “-re” rhymes because these historical dictionaries often categorize their rhymes under headings such as “-re” and “-are” (e.g., “care,” “howe’er,” etc.), the letters that comprise the end of a word, where the rhyme is. This database, when complete, will enable users to query a word to return its rhymes from one, some, or all the database’s dictionaries. The database therefore enables one to compare a word’s rhymes over time: one can see which words were thought to rhyme with “care,” for instance, in 1775, 1870, and 1900. Users can then both learn what contemporaries considered legitimate rhyme and compare the rhymes of dictionaries across the long nineteenth century to trace the changes and returns of rhyme. So doing can provoke questions about and enable insight into the histories of rhyme, poetry and orthometry, pronunciation, the standardization of English, and social class.

My hope is to share my progress on these projects, how I am making them, and the historical questions and insights they make possible. I very much welcome feedback that will help me improve my presentation for the NAVSA conference.


The Wednesday Noon Digital Scholarship Series is held Wednesdays from12:00-1:00 pm EST. The complete schedule, including abstracts, is available at: https://libraries.indiana.edu/wednesday-noon-digital-scholarship-series. Register for each session for more information, including access to the Zoom link. 


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