Distant Reading Swiss Literature


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938): Rückkehr der Tiere, 1919

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We are a team of researchers interested in the computational investigation of German-Swiss literature around 1900. Our field is digital humanities, with a focus on the application of sentiment analysis and named entity recognition.

High Mountains Low Arousal? Distant Reading Topographies of Sentiment in German Swiss Novels in the early 20th Century


The Bielefeld-based project “High Mountains Low Arousal?” works in close collaboration with the international COST Action “Distant Reading the European Novel.” By means of a distant reading focusing on sentiment and emotion in the fictional spaces represented in German-Swiss novels, it aims at pioneering comparative historiographical and systematic research on the German-language novel of the early 20th Century, using digital methodologies of advanced sentiment analysis (SA) and namend entity recognition (NER).

This research aims at contributing a new data-driven and philologically reflected perspective on the historiography of Swiss novels of the early 20th Century, situated within the transnational continuum of the German-speaking countries. It examines critically questions of the specificity of Swiss novels as compared to German and Austrian ones, addressing a putative Swiss marginalization, mediocracy, and predominance of anti-modernist realism surfacing in idyllic landscapes and simple plots.

Through this, it will shed a new view on ideas of ‘Swissness’ transported by novels during the period, in between educative mediation (Helvetia mediatrix, Lecoultre) and the enactment of a national myth unfolding in spatial topographies that center around the Alps. Offering the first distant reading of the Swiss novel applying Sentiment Analysis, the project is comparative within Swiss literature as well as at a transnational level.

The overarching aim is to offer a data-driven exploration of the patterns of specificity of Swiss literature (in close collaboration with the CA “Distant Reading the European Novel”) to advance digital resource building, literary theory, and methodological development.