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Chris Forstall
Graduate Student in Classics
Chris Forstall

Chris Forstall
Research interests: Intertext,
Oral Formulaic Composition
Institutional affiliation: University at Buffalo
Departmental affiliation: Classics Department
Office location:
Membership status: Student member
Digital projects: Becoming Poetics: an online journal
Textual analysis


I've spent time in both the sciences and the humanities. My primary interest is in what makes human beings produce poetry. I like to use text-processing tools like perl, sed and awk to solve problems, but I also have some experience with GIS, remote sensing and digital image processing.

My free time is spent reading Lawrence Durrell and Flann O'Brien, caring for goats and chickens, and otherwise in general indolence.

Digital interests

My broad interest is in using computers to investigate intertextual patterns in poetry, particularly Classical Latin and Greek poetry.

I'm the Tesserae Fellow for 2011-2012 at the Classics Department's Tesserae Project. Led by Neil Coffee, Tesserae is a search engine designed to locate allusion in Latin poetry.

In my research at Tesserae I'm working with Walter Scheirer of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to apply the tools of authorship attribution to influence detection. Our preferred feature sets are character and phoneme bi-gram frequencies; but we're also investigating new methods in metrical n-grams. For pattern matching and classification we have been working with support vector machines, and are just starting to test the power of one-class SVMs in open-set problems.

My long-term project is an examination of the Homeric epos using computer-based stylometric methods. I've compared the Iliad to the Odyssey using a feature sets composed of n-grams at the phoneme level and classification with machine learning techniques. I'd like to look more closely at each poem to try to pick apart intra-poem heterogeneity. My goal is to be able to tie quantifiable observations to current oral-formulaic theory (particularly theory from a cognitive angle).

Recent Work

Forstall, C. and W. Scheirer, “A Statistical Stylistic Study of Latin Elegiac Couplets.” Poster presented at the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science, Nov. 21–22, 2010. View abstract

Forstall, C., S. Jacobson, and W. Schierer, “Evidence of Intertextuality: Investigating Paul the Deacon's Angustae Vitae.” Poster presented at Digital Humanities 2010, King's College London, UK, July 7–10, 2010. View abstract

Forstall, C. and W. Scheirer, “Features from Frequency: Authorship and Stylistic Analysis Using Repetitive Sound,” in Proc. of the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science, Nov. 2009. View abstract/full text

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