Andrew Goldstone

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. I study and teach twentieth-century literature in English. My research interests include modernism and non-modernism in English and French, the sociology of literature, literary theory, the history of genre fiction, South Asian literature in English, and the digital humanities, especially computational text analysis. I also have a long-standing interest in digital systems for document preparation and typesetting, especially LaTeX.

My book, Fictions of Autonomy: Modernism from Wilde to de Man (2013), is published by Oxford University Press. For information about the book and ordering links, see my webpage for the book.

Of Literary Standards and Logistic Regression: A Reproduction

This post is a discussion and partial replication of Ted Underwood and Jordan Sellers’s fascinating essay “How Quickly Do Literary Standards Change?” (available in preprint and discussed on Ted’s blog). Hats off to Ted and Jordan, who have contributed something really remarkable here, not just in their provocative arguments but in the data they have made usable by others. It’s one thing to circulate data and code so that someone can in principle re-run your scripts—though that is already a lot—and quite another to make the data accessible enough for fresh analyses. The latter is a very demanding standard, too demanding for everyone to meet, I think. But it is what is required to let others build directly on your results. Even more importantly, it’s what’s needed to make research results pedagogically available. As I argue in an essay I’m working on now, any quantitative methods pedagogy should—must—lean heavily on the results of research. In the immortal words of Miriam Posner, “It’s just awful trying to find a humanities dataset”: one of the best ways to address this challenge would be to make good research data available in recirculable, easily accessible form.

So consider this post partly pedagogical in intent: I want to show that Ted and Jordan’s replication repository is already an excellent dataset and could be the basis for a lesson in automatic classification. What I want to emphasize here is that their work allows us to breeze right past the data-wrangling and straight into the analytical substance. This may not be entirely obvious from their python code, so I’m going to try to make it clearer by doing the whole thing in R instead.

Rather than give all the technical detail, I’ll only show the R code where it makes a point about the analysis. The full R markdown source for this post is in this repository. Feel free to skim right past the R listings anyway. This is a literary theory and data analysis post that happens to have some software details in it, not a programming post. Here we go…

Autonomy in the Journal of Dutch Literature

Last year I participated in a symposium at the University of Utrecht on The Ethics of Autonomy. Many of the contributions to that symposium now appear in revised form in a special issue of the Journal of Dutch Literature, edited by the symposium organizers, Frans Ruiter and Wilbert Smulders. I contributed a response to the whole, Autonomy Proliferates. The issue is in English, but all the titles have Dutch versions as well, and I particularly appreciate the rather more poetic-sounding version of mine, “Autonomie bloeit.”

Most of the essays discuss the work of the Dutch novelist W.F. Hermans, a writer for whom literary autonomy was, as Ruiter and Smulders argue in their own contribution, a central concern. But the journal issue is really very wide-ranging, both in terms of approaches and in terms of the subject matter which the pretext of autonomy makes possible. A number of essays take up the cultural theories of Pierre Bourdieu: Ruiter and Smulders draw close parallels between Bourdieu and Hermans; Thomas Vaessens makes a provocative argument against accepting what he calls Bourdieu’s “faith in autonomy”; Laurens Ham complicates Bourdieu’s framework in his study of the continuing struggles over autonomy in contemporary Dutch literature from Multatuli to the present; and as for me, well—no surprises about my theoretical touchstones, if you know me for the fanboy I am.

That’s not to say that the contributors are all in lockstep. In addition to the controversy between Ruiter and Smulders and Vaessens about autonomy and responsibility, strikingly different views of autonomy emerge in the other essays, by Derek Attridge, Aukje van Rooden, Marc de Kesel, and Arnold Heumakers.

Hermans was a new writer for me and a great pleasure to explore, even if only in translation. His output is mostly unavailable in English; Ina Rilke has translated two of his novels, The Darkroom of Damocles and Beyond Sleep. I glance at the latter in my contribution to the special issue. The JDL special issue also includes English translations of two short pieces of Hermans’s writing: a biting manifesto, “Unsympathetic Fictional Characters” (trans. I. Rilke), and an enigmatic early story, “An Emancipation” (trans. M. Hutchison).

[Edited 12/27/15: Ham’s essay, “The Specialism of Unspecificity,” is not only about contemporary writing—nor, of course, is Bourdieu his only theoretical interlocutor, any more than he is for any of the other scholars here.]

At MSA This Week

I’ll be at the Modernist Studies Association in Boston this weekend. I’m looking forward to a lively discussion of modernist disciplinarity in the seminar Jonathan Goodwin and I have organized.

On Sunday 11/22 I’m on a roundtable, “The New Institutionalism in Modernist Studies,” organized and chaired by Robert Higney (CCNY/CUNY), with Merve Emre (American Academy/McGill), Lisi Schoenbach (University of Tennessee), and Lisa Siraganian (SMU).

H1. The number of definitions of “institutionalism” is at least as large as the number of scholars asked to define it.

H2. The amount of monomaniacal insistence on the importance of genre fiction increases linearly (at least) with the amount of time you let Goldstone speak.

It’s at 10:30 a.m. in St. George A. Since we’re a five-cornered roundtable, there should be plenty of time for wider discussion, especially if the chair draws the correct conclusion from H2. Should be fun.

At NYU this Thursday

I’m speaking at NYU this Thursday afternoon, at the invitation of the NYU Digital Experiments group:

Corpus or Field? A Challenge for Quantitative Methods

One of the most promising prospects for quantitative methods in literary studies is that of rigorous and empirically wide-ranging accounts of the relations between literature and society. Yet the boundary between textual interpretation and a sociological analysis of literature has proven surprisingly hard to cross. In this talk, I retrace some sociological traditions of quantitative textual study, from postwar content analyses of political opinion to contemporary field theory, and I argue that they offer literary scholars alternatives to the doxa of “reading” that dominates and limits methodological discussion in our discipline. The sociological traditions turn us from corpus to field, from text collections to social spaces of symbolic competition and collaboration. I will discuss (and exemplify) the many challenges and pitfalls of this shift, technical and conceptual, in my own attempts to quantify the changing status of “reading” in the history of literary scholarship.

If you’re around, the talk is in Bobst Library (2nd fl., Avery Fisher Center, East Room) at 4:30. Come accuse me of naïve positivism, I dare you.

What Might Have Been

Pierre Bourdieu, pioneer of quantitative literary analysis:

Pour vérifier la correspondance entre l’espace des positions et l’espace des prises de position, nous avons recensé 537 textes de 510 auteurs publiés par les éditeurs retenus dans notre étude, qui ont été traduits en français entre juillet 1995 et juillet 1996 et retenu, pour chacun des titres, les variables suivantes : genre (roman, nouvelle, récit, conte), éditeur d’origine et et d’arrivée, langue d’origine (pour l’anglais on a distingué entre «anglais» et «américain»), nom du traducteur, nom et sexe de l’auteur, année de parution de l’édition originale, de la traduction française (1995 ou 1996), jugements de la critique, prix, nombre de pages, nombre total d’auteurs étrangers publiées par l’éditeur concerné, nombre d’auteurs ayant la même langue d’origine nationale. L’immensité des recherches nécessaires pour le mener à bien nous a conduits à abandonner ce projet.

In order to verify the correspondence between the space of positions and the space of position-takings, we took a census [survey?] of 537 texts by 510 authors translated into French between July 1995 and July 1996 which were published by the publishers in our study, considering the following variables: genre (roman, nouvelle, récit, conte [novel, short story, (non-fiction) narrative, (fantastic) tale]), original publisher and French publisher, original language (for English we distinguished between “English” and “American”), name of translator, name and sex of the author, year of publication of the original edition, of the French translation (1995 or 1996), critics’ judgments, prizes, number of pages, total number of foreign authors published by the publisher in question, number of authors having the same original national language. The immensity of the research necessary to carry this project off led us to abandon it.

(“Une révolution conservatrice dans l’édition,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 126, no. 1 [1999]: 3–28; here 18n31.)

Nothing beside remains….


(thanks to @rania_tn on twitter for help translating genre terms; I alone am responsible for errors in translation above)