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.

Social Science and Profanity at DH 2014

I recently returned from the DH 2014 conference in Lausanne. I went to give my brief (my brief brief) for getting serious about social science methods in digital humanities under the title “Let DH Be Sociological!” The conference offered plenty to think about on this theme. Also I got accused of wanting to “dumb down” an entire field of study…so that’s got me thinking too.

At DH 2014

Update, July 11: my slides are here: slides.pdf. The R code used to generate material in the slides is available in a gist.

I’m attending the Digital Humanities 2014 conference in Lausanne next week. If you’re around Lausanne next Friday, my talk, titled Let DH Be Sociological!, is part of a panel at 11 a.m. in 415 Amphimax. This paper builds on my work using topic models to analyze the history of literary scholarship, but takes a more polemical tack. I’ll use my ten minutes to argue that the moment of “DH” represents a critical opportunity for bringing literary studies (and perhaps other humanities) closer to the social sciences.

Here’s the panel line-up, a very interesting and diverse group of papers on method:

Scholarly primitives revisited: towards a practical taxonomy of digital humanities research activities and objects
Borek, Luise; Dombrowski, Quinn; Munson, Matthew; Perkins, Jody; Schöch, Christof

Introducing digital humanities through the analysis of cultural productions
Reyes-Garcia, Everardo

Let DH Be Sociological!
Goldstone, Andrew
slides (pdf)
figure code (R)

Literary Canon and Digital Bibliographies: The Case of the United States
Ferrer, Carolina

Beyond the Tool: A Reflexive Analysis on Building Things in Digital Humanities
Couture, Stéphane; Sinclair, Stéfan

The links go through to the detailed abstracts of each paper, available in HTML and PDF. Indeed I am pretty sure I would not be able to read all of my abstract in the 10 minutes allotted.

There are some errors in the web display of my own abstract—my paper does not have the subtitle “[Short Paper]”! Considering that sophisticated text encoding is one of the central achievements of humanities computing you would think we would have solved the problem of exchanging marked-up scholarly text by now. The sciences do just fine with LaTeX. But I digress.

The Quiet Transformations of Literary Studies

My article with Ted Underwood on the long-term history of literary studies is now available in a preprint form (pdf). This essay will appear in NLH, but the publisher has kindly given permission for us to make a submitted manuscript available now. Please keep your eyes open for the final published version. It’s been a long (though enjoyable) journey from our initial exploratory blog post in late 2012 to this essay.

The article’s primary evidence is a topic model of seven scholarly journals in literary studies that span the last century and a bit more. In order to make this form of evidence more accessible, I designed a website that allows you to explore the model. Ted and I spent a long time exploring the many, many different ways you can slice and dice topic models before arriving at the claims we make in the essay. To get a sense of how we might have gotten there, spend some time surfing the model, seeing both its power to reveal and its inevitable froth of randomness and approximation. And, hopefully, you’ll discover patterns of your own.

What I’m most proud of in our essay is our effort to show why our approach responds to central questions in literary history and literary theory. We are interested in topic modeling in itself, but I see our essay as aiming primarily at two things. We try to revise literary scholarship’s conception of its own history. And we argue that quantitative methodologies in literary history, far from dispensing with interpretation, attempt to scale up the interpretation of cultural texts while keeping the major problems of interpretation in view. This scaling-up tends to bring humanistic scholarship into closer proximity to the challenges and methodologies of the social sciences.

I’m planning to expand on that last claim in my talk at DH 2014…. Ted’s and my joint formulations are in the essay. Read it, and browse the website.

After the jump, the rest of this post is all geeking out about programming and workflows.

Fall 2014 Courses

Now that fall 2014 course registration has started, I have put descriptions of my fall courses up on the teaching page. I am offering Twentieth-Century Fiction I, my take on literary modernism and literary modernity in English; for more about that course, take a look at the syllabus of the 2013 version. I’m also very excited to be teaching a literary theory seminar. Here’s the brief description (the full syllabus will be posted in the summer):

The Social Construction of Literature

Where does literature come from? Many discussions about literature proceed as if this question hardly matters: the text, say the teachers and the critics, is there, and we only need to read it closely enough to discover its meaning. But who put the text there, who said that it was literature, and who is this “we” who is doing the reading? Once we ask these questions, we have begun to think of “literature” as a social construction. The goal of the course is to enrich the way we think about literature by understanding the arguments in literary studies’ debates, from the early twentieth century to present, about the relationship between literature and society. Central themes of the course include: literary form and the rejection of social context; literature as socially oppositional force; literature and political power, especially the power of the European empires; the debate over the literary canon and the role of educational institutions; and sociological theories of the literary field. The readings in this course are challenging but highly rewarding. Seminar discussion concentrates on patient engagement with theorists including John Crowe Ransom, Theodor Adorno, Raymond Williams, Edward Said, Pierre Bourdieu, Mary Poovey, John Guillory, and Pascale Casanova. We also work with the theories in literary case studies, which may include poetry by Langston Hughes, W. H. Auden, and Elizabeth Bishop; short stories by James Joyce and R. K. Narayan; an exploration of the history of Rutgers course catalogues; and an analysis of literary prizes. Requirements: active class participation, regular informal writing, two short papers, and a medium-length term paper, which will be submitted in both draft and final forms.

I cannot forbear remarking that this course is also a requirement-fulfilling bonanza: English majors can simultaneously fulfill the theory and seminar (400-level) requirements; they can also fulfill the WCr Core requirement. The course requires English 219 or 220 as a prerequisite.

In Utrecht This Week: The Ethics of Literary Autonomy

This Thursday and Friday, I’m participating in a symposium on The Ethics of Literary Autonomy organized by Wilbert Smulders and Frans Ruiter at the University of Utrecht. The description of the event is here in Dutch; the full program is in English (pdf). I’m giving a lecture on Friday morning which I’m calling “Autonomy without Ethics: Strangers in the Literary Metropolis.” It’s based on my work in Fictions of Autonomy with some bonus material on G. V. Desani, because Desani.

Given that my principal theoretical claim is that artistic autonomy is always defined in relation to particular social and historical contexts, I’m particularly pleased to be discussing autonomy in contexts that will be quite new to me. I’ll try to post some notes on the symposium here after I return next week.

And if you’re in Utrecht, stop by…