The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Periodicals in Motion: Textual Reuse and the Hebrew Journalistic Networks in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century

The second half of the 19th century saw the establishment of numerous Hebrew periodicals that would play a major role in constituting a modern Hebrew “Republic of letters”. While previous studies of Jewish journalistic networks used qualitative research methods, this study uses computational tools to provide a wider perspective on the phenomenon of Hebrew periodical networks. The corpus consists of five Hebrew journals (HaTzfira, HaMagid, HaMelitz, HaLebanon, and Havazelet) published between 1874 and 1883.

The main problem in the analysis of historical networks is detecting the existence and structure of the networks. In this study, we identify and analyze networks through published texts and their similarities in exact phrasing and styles. One direct method of tracing similarity is to identify quoted texts within other texts. This study utilizes a commercial software, Originality, used by Israeli universities to check the originality of academic work, in order to trace textual reuse within the corpus.

A more nuanced connection between texts can be revealed by similarity in style. Stylometry, the statistical analysis of a literary style, is usually used to prove the authenticity of documents. This study uses stylo, an open R package, but instead of using it for authorship detection, it is used as a classification method, differentiating between literary circles and journalistic genres.

The evaluation of the results was conducted in a mixed-methods approach: edge weights and delta-similarity were used to identify proximity between journalistic items, network analysis to identify clusters, and close reading of a smaller sample to develop a typology of similarities.

This paper presents the research, its integration of multiple computational tools, and suggests a categorization of textual similarities and reuse: from linguistic conventions of the Hebrew language, such as reuse of biblical phrases, to outright plagiarism of articles.