Scholars in the humanities are often characterized as reluctant to adapt to the increasingly electronic nature of information resources, yet it seems clear that the Web offers the potential for exciting new approaches to scholarship, particularly in textual analysis. The ARTFL Project is an excellent example of the power of technology in enhancing scholarship in the humanities.
ARTFL, American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language, is a cooperative project established in 1981 by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. Based at the University of Chicago, the project has developed an impressive database of full-text resources in French as well as a website with a variety of resources for francophiles.
ARTFL's main database includes nearly 2000 texts written between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging from classic works of French literature to various kinds of nonfiction prose and technical writing. The collection covers a broad range of disciplines, including religious, philosophical, political and scientific works. A bibliography of the main database is available for browsing or searching. More specialized databases have been added as well, including databases of Provencal poetry and works by French women authors. In addition, Diderot's monumental Encyclopedie is now available as a separate searchable database.
Users explore the databases using PhiloLogic, a search engine designed by ARTFL for easy yet powerful searching of large full-text databases. Extensive help is available on each of the search pages, including instructions on use of accents and special characters, and database-specific details on problems or idiosyncrasies. Users may search for a single word, a word root, prefix or suffix, or a list of words, in a single text, the full database or a subset. The combination of this powerful software with the breadth of the collection offers exciting possibilities for textual analysis.
Access to the ARTFL databases requires an institutional subscription, but the ARTFL page also includes many freely accessible resources. The ARTFL Reference Collection, in particular, may be of interest to undergraduate students of French, with a searchable collection of classic French dictionaries and a verb conjugator. A list of collaborative projects includes intriguing resources for historians, such as digitized pamphlets and periodicals of the French Revolution.
The ARTFL Project site is well organized and easy to navigate, with quick links to resources and clear paths to background information. Contact information for the authors is readily available. It is difficult to determine the currency of the pages, as dates of updating are not provided; this would be a useful addition to an otherwise excellent site.
University of Oregon