Digital Oulipo Project


Here you can find information about the Digital Humanities project, “Digital Oulipo,” which was featured as one of the Princeton CDH‘s inaugural projects in 2015-2016. As an official center project, this project is fully documented, passed a design review by the center staff, and is considered peer-reviewed.

Design Review Document

Design Review Evaluation

Later Developments

Two main aspects of the design review document were modified to reflect improved programming knowledge or a greater developments in the dissertation:

  1. The fifth annex, a Tinderbox hypertext version of Italo Calvino’s Le città invisibili — while an excellent tool for keeping notes on this extremely rich text — was cut. The annex is of a fundamentally different nature than the others in that it was not programmed using Python and is less pedagogical in nature. It cannot teach a reader anything about the mathematical constraints that govern the Table of Contents of Le città invisibili, but rather serves as a somewhat interactive critical database.
  2. The first annex, while interesting in scope, would have been of a fundamentally different nature than the other three. While the annexes that accompany chapters 2, 3, and 4 are all digital versions of Oulipian texts (Cent mille milliards de poèmes or Un conte à votre façon by Raymond Queneau) or procedures (S+7, invented by Jean Lescure), creating the first annex would have been an Oulipian gesture in and of itself, which was out of the scope of the project and therefore eliminated.


All annexes are now complete and uploaded to my GitHub repository with a readme file explaining how to operate them. Feel free to peruse the code and play with some Oulipian texts and procedures for yourself! However, I would like to emphasize the fact that the interest in pursuing this project was for me to learn how to code Oulipian texts and procedures in an effort to understand them better. The code itself is less informative than the process I underwent to create it.

In June 2016, this work was presented at the Poetics of the Algorithm conference in Liège, Belgium. An expanded version of this talk has been accepted for publication in Digital Humanities Quarterly issue 11.3 (here). An essay describing this project and its greater implications for the role of the dissertation in graduate studies was recently published on the MLA Connected Academics Blog here.

Summary of Accomplishments

Project Archive


Thanks must be given to the CDH staff for their support in all its forms. Specifically, I must thank Cliff Wulfman, who was my point person, helping me to design this project and structure it as I saw fit, giving me a practical introduction to programming in Python through a series of pointed exercises, and encouraging me to pursue results that I might not have initially expected.