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A New LitLab Website

Matt Warner, Quinn Dombrowski; Apr 13, 2023

We're pleased to introduce the new website for the Stanford Literary Lab; it's the first overhaul of the site since 2015, and the first time the site has moved off of WordPress. Read more.

Typicality in the US Novel

Erik Fredner, Mark Algee-Hewitt; Jul 18, 2020

For a discipline committed to rejecting reductionism, literary studies relies on typicality more than it would care to admit. For example, Frederic Jameson describes an "unexpected" change in a character’s life in the novel Demos (1886) as something that would “normally generate a properly Utopian narrative” (Jameson 184, emphasis added). Of course, the subversion of his expectation is what interests Jameson. Yet so much literary criticism seeks to explain subverted expectations that critics tend to ignore an equally fascinating question: What exactly is being subverted in such moments? Our project uses computational methods in an attempt to turn away from these transgressions and toward expectations. Read more.

Star Texts: A Case Study in Harper’s and Vogue

Charlotte Lindemann; Feb 7, 2020

Richard Dyer's 1979 *Stars* introduces the concept of a star image or star text as the aggregate of every public appearance of, or reference to a given Hollywood studio actor. Read more.

Finding needles in 34 million haystacks

Erik Fredner; Nov 9, 2019

We are working on a new collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution about the histories of fame and celebrity in the United States. To ground ourselves in public discourse surrounding these topics, we began by analyzing ProQuest’s Historical Newspapers corpus. Read more.

Popularity/Prestige: A New Canon

J.D. Porter; Oct 29, 2018

Shortly after the Lab released my recent pamphlet on the structure of the literary canon, New York magazine ran an article about the 21st century canon, in which a panel of judges pick an early version of the literary canon from the century so far. Read more.

The Space of Poetic Meter

J.D. Porter; Mar 5, 2018

One of the goals of the Techne blog as a whole is to highlight technical issues in Digital Humanities—the kinds of in-the-weeds ideas that are interesting to specialists but don’t necessarily make the cut of a final paper. Read more.

The (weird) distributions of function words across novels

David McClure; Aug 10, 2017

Last week I looked at some of the clusters of words that fluctuate together across narrative time in the Lab’s corpus of ~27k American novels. A lot of these are pretty semantically “legible,” in the sense that it’s not hard to map them back onto the experience of actually reading novels. Read more.

A hierarchical cluster of words across narrative time

David McClure; Jul 31, 2017

I wanted to pick back up quickly with that list of the 500 most “non-uniform” words at the end of the last post about word distributions across narrative time in the American novel corpus. Read more.

Distributions of words across narrative time in 27,266 novels

David McClure; Jul 10, 2017

Over the course of the last few months here at the Literary Lab, I’ve been working on a little project that looks at the distributions of individual words inside of novels, when averaged out across lots and lots of texts. Read more.