I will begin my talk with a short account of the making of the Tagore Online Variorum ‘Bichitra’, the world’s largest literary website, outlining its main features. I will suggest the potential significance of Bichitra as the model of a ‘very large textual object’, to be mined and analyzed in innovative ways through sophisticated use of the search and collation functions and the resources of topic modeling.
I will argue that perhaps uniquely, textual data requires attention to the ‘third dimension’ of content analysis normally eschewed in processing big data. At the same time, even the ‘very large textual object’, being small by the measures of big data, is exceptionally amenable to such analysis, whose outcome may then be applied to other categories of data. I would like to suggest that the large textual database can open up a new kind of dialogue between humans and computers, a distinctive contribution of digital humanities.
Sukanta Chaudhuri divided his working life as a Professor of English between Presidency College, Kolkata, and Jadavpur University. At Jadavpur, he founded the School of Cultural Texts and Records for, inter alia, the practice of digital humanities. He personally administered two of the five projects executed by the School for the Endangered Archives Programme of the British Library.
He planned and coordinated the Tagore Variorum website ‘Bichitra’, incorporating all English and Bengali works by Rabindranath Tagore in nearly all versions (nearly 140,000 pages of primary material), with some innovative programs to transcribe and process them. His original specialization is in English and European Renaissance studies, and textual and editorial work.
His last monograph was The Metaphysics of Text (Cambridge University Press, 2010). He is currently editing A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Third Arden Shakespeare. He has also translated widely from Bengali to English and is General Editor of the Oxford Tagore Translations series.