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Presentation from the Personhood project

On June 2nd, 2020, Mark Algee-Hewitt, Charlotte Lindemann, Sai Ma, Laura McGrath, Lisa Mendelman, Nichole Nomura, Casey Patterson, J.D. Porter, Alex Sherman, Hannah Walser, and Matt Warner presented on Personhood.

A number of recent Literary Lab projects have addressed issues of personification and depersonification, from an analysis of stories with animal protagonists to a survey of racialization in nineteenth-century fiction. This project intends to bring these investigations, along with others led by a wide range of field experts, together in the service of a common goal: mapping the space of literary techniques that construct textual personhood. We pursue this goal without imposing a false coherence onto our research questions or our results: indeed, we start from the assumption that personhood is a fuzzy category and that texts may signal personhood through diverse and sometimes contradictory means. Our methods and corpora are therefore eclectic, ranging from classification on the scale of tens of thousands of texts to collocate analysis on the scale of a few hundred. Key to the project, however, is a desire to let the results of these different scales of analysis inform each other, an approach we model in this presentation by spotlighting a number of corpora built on different principles to test different local hypotheses about personhood.