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Storytelling in the Tides of Enchantment: Embedding Re-enchantment in Danish, Nineteenth-Century Christianity

Publikation: KonferencebidragKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningpeer review

Entertainment is important. Stories and narration are constants in, if not a prerequisite for, human culture. Running on myths and their recitation in ritual settings, religions hinge on this fact. Nevertheless, this is a circumstance that has been sought glossed over within certain religious traditions dominated by intellectual guilds. Not least within specific Christian traditions. Christianity’s manyfold Protestant variations are, for instance, characterized by an intellectual proclivity for hermeneutically complex and challenging theories, while suppressing straightforwardly enjoyable stories. This proclivity could, further, be said to have fueled a so-called ‘disenchantment’ impetus imbued in processes going by the names of ‘secularization’ and ‘rationalization’. Such terms seek to catch the deep-rooted tendency among changing Christian clerisies to adapt to a naturalist worldview at the expense of stories about the fantastic. That is to say that myriads of theologians, pastors, and poets throughout history have aspired to prune and ‘demythologize’ the core Christian narratives. Though this trend is deep-rooted, it broadened and accelerated remarkably in Europe through the course of the eighteenth century.

But, seemingly, stories and storytelling will out. The rise of the narratively enthusiastic Romantic Movement appears to have run on this hydraulic logic. Affected by this current, the highly influential Danish poet, pastor, and politician N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783-1872) re-enchanted Danish Christianity. At least he aimed to re-introduce an appreciation of wonder and storytelling – of an oral, narrative, fantastical culture – within Danish church life. The manifold fantastic beasts roaming his works are the residue of this aspiration. Word embeddings of these creatures tell the tale of a man laboring to reintegrate agency, plotlines, and narrative engagement into Christianity.

This study combines simple neural embeddings and graph theory to represent the bestiary arising from Grundtvig’s 1073 publications in their tokenized, lemmatized, ‘algorithmifyed’ avatar. It is based on the digital scholarly edition Grundtvig’s Works. We have computed the distance between a set of so-called seed terms and the corpus lexicon. The catalogue of seed terms have been established following the 2538 entries of the so-called Mythological Register developed by Grundtvig’s Works. For each seed, the algorithm excerpted a pre-set number of primary associations of size m. These are the terms with the shortest distance to the seed term. For each of the m-terms the algorithm, furthermore, extracted a pre-set number of secondary associations. The next step was to compute the distance between these respective categories of terms; subsequently they were connected based on their distance under a threshold estimated from the distance variance structure. At the final stage, semantic clusters were unearthed by way of the Louvain method. These clusters are ripe with verbs, agents, and places whispering of glorious deeds and enchanting tales: of a revival of storytelling.
StatusUdgivet - 2022
BegivenhedDARIAH Annual Event 2022: Storytelling - Eugenides Foundation, Athen, Grækenland
Varighed: 31 maj 20223 jun. 2022


KonferenceDARIAH Annual Event 2022
LokationEugenides Foundation

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