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Digital Methods and Literary History

Matthew L. Jockers

Publication Year: 2013

In this volume, Matthew L. Jockers introduces readers to large-scale literary computing and the revolutionary potential of macroanalysis--a new approach to the study of the literary record designed for probing the digital-textual world as it exists today, in digital form and in large quantities. Using computational analysis to retrieve key words, phrases, and linguistic patterns across thousands of texts in digital libraries, researchers can draw conclusions based on quantifiable evidence regarding how literary trends are employed over time, across periods, within regions, or within demographic groups, as well as how cultural, historical, and societal linkages may bind individual authors, texts, and genres into an aggregate literary culture.

Moving beyond the limitations of literary interpretation based on the "close-reading" of individual works, Jockers describes how this new method of studying large collections of digital material can help us to better understand and contextualize the individual works within those collections.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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pp. 5-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-x

Without initial support from John Bender, Lois Brooks, Mike Keller, Makoto Tsuchitani, and Ramón Saldívar, this work would not have been started. Without ongoing support from the Stanford University Department of English and ...

Part I Foundation

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1 Revolution

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pp. 3-4

An article in the June 23, 2008, issue of Wired declared in its headline “Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete” (Anderson 2008). By 2008 computers, with their capacity for number crunching and processing large-scale data sets, had revolutionized the way that scientific research gets done, so much so that the same article declared an end to theorizing in science. With so much data, ...

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2 Evidence

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pp. 5-10

While still graduate students in the early 1990s, my wife and I invited some friends to share Thanksgiving dinner. One of the friends was, like my wife and me, a graduate student in English. The other, however, was ...

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3 Tradition

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pp. 11-23

As noted previously, there is a significant tradition of researchers employing computational approaches to the study of literature and an even longer tradition of scholars employing quantitative and statistical methods for the analysis of ...

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4 Macroanalysis

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pp. 24-32

The approach to the study of literature that I am calling “macroanalysis” is in some general ways akin to economics or, more specifically, to macroeconomics. Before the 1930s, before Keynes’s ...

Part II Analysis

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5 Metadata

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pp. 35-62

This chapter offers a first example of how the macroanalytic approach brings new knowledge to our understanding of literary history. This chapter also begins the larger exploration of influence that forms a unifying thread in this book. The evidence ...

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6 Style

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pp. 63-104

In statistical or quantitative authorship attribution, a researcher attempts to classify a work of unknown or disputed authorship in order to assign it to a known author based on a training set of works of known ...

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7 Nationality

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pp. 105-117

The previous chapter demonstrated how stylistic signals could be derived from high-frequency features and how the usage, or nonusage, of those features was susceptible to influences that are external to what might we might call “authorial style,” ...

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8 Theme

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pp. 118-153

A typical complaint about computational stylistics is that such studies fail to investigate the aspects of writing that readers care most deeply about, namely, plot, character, and theme.* In the previous chapter, we saw how stylistic ...

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9 Influence

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pp. 154-168

Examining macro patterns in style and theme allows us to contextualize our close readings in ways that have hitherto been impossible or, at the very minimum, impractical. We see, for example, that while Melville may be ...

Part III Prospects

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10 Orphans

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pp. 171-175

I began this book with a call to arms, an argument that what we have today in terms of literary and textual material and computational power represents a moment of revolution in the way we study the literary record. I suggested ...


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pp. 177-185


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pp. 187-192

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094767
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037528

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2013