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Presentation on the short story project

On April 23rd, 2020, Mark Algee-Hewitt, Anna Mukamal and J.D. Porter presented some of the first results from their project on the short story.

While the insights of the Digital Humanities have revealed new facets of literary form and history that are unavailable through traditional critical methods alone, in the field of literary text mining, the novel has long dominated analyses. As such, the new histories told by computational methods are centered on longer form prose fiction, eliding the ways in which short stories not only have their own evolutionary history throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but, equally as importantly, also differ formally from the novel. How does the language of the short story diverge from that of the novel? How do short stories construct plots differently from longer narratives? Are the events of short stories the same as those of novels, or do short stories have their own logic of events? Do characters appear and serve the same functions in short stories as they do in novels? And finally, how does the form of the short story change as it develops in the periodical publications of the early twentieth century? Length, it turns out, is not only an undertheorized aspect of literary fiction, but also does critical work in differentiating the kinds of stories that can be told in short fiction, as well as how those stories can be told. These questions have all been asked, to a greater or lesser extent, of other literary forms (novels, but also poetry and drama), but a computational approach, one that harnesses techniques from topic modeling to word vectors to named entity recognition, can aid us in better understanding the particular form and history of the short story.