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.

Programmatic Lecture Slides Made Even More Difficult with R Markdown

In Easy Lecture Slides Made Difficult, I showed how to use markdown to make slides while still retaining some aesthetic flexibility. All that was required was a handful of TeX Macros, a little python script, a few Makefiles, and a maniacal commitment to automation. That was an enjoyable trip into the abyss, but what if your slides regularly include the results of calculations, data visualizations, or computational examples? Then it is time to, how do they say it these days, dive deeper. Thanks to R Markdown and knitr, it is possible to build on the pandoc/beamer system I described before to incorporate program code and its results. Call it, uh, Presentationally Literate Programming.

I am spurred to describe my approach by two things: first, I have had a whole semester of teaching Literary Data to work out the kinks; in that graduate course I regularly used R markdown-based slides to present new material. (Here are a couple examples: slides on network visualization, April 23, 2015; slides on topic modeling and PCA for literary texts, April 16, 2015.) Second, I was just at a conference where almost everyone’s presentation had slides with R output in them, but it seemed like people might…benefit…from an example showing how to make the aesthetics of the R output and the slides more consistent with one another. I’ll also show how the same R markdown can be the basis of slides, speaker notes, and a handout for audience members to take notes on. And I’ll show the settings for incorporating program code into the slides, which I used in my teaching. At the end of this post, I imagine you will question my sanity. The whole setup can be found in this repository subdirectory on github.

At Temple This Week

I’m giving a talk at the Center for the Humanities at Temple tomorrow, Wednesday, April 8, in their Digital Humanities in Practice Series.

Quiet Transformations of Literary Study, 1889–2013

The history of literary scholarship is usually presented as a succession of conflicting ideas. Yet gradual, distributed change is equally significant, and often less visible to practitioners, who remember recent dramas better than the unspoken norms of eighty years ago. Understanding such change requires new methodologies. I present an analysis using probabilistic topic modeling to reveal broad trends in more than 21,000 literary-studies journal articles. As literary and cultural studies confronts the interpretive challenges posed by topic modeling and other quantitative methods, we increasingly enter the methodological domain of the social sciences.

It’s at 4:00 p.m. in the CHAT Lounge (details on the CHAT website). I can promise at least 300 words on tokenization1 and the phrase “post-Marxist Mechanical Turk” used as sincere praise.

  1. Or 294, depending on how you count.

Terry Pratchett: “Not having battles, and doing without kings”

I don’t think any writer did more to form me than Terry Pratchett. That might be a bit of a dangerous thing for a professional literary scholar to say. It would be easier to recount how much Ulysses, say, meant to a budding adolescent highbrow. In fact, though, I suspect that as a teenager, and not only as a teenager, I had a Pratchettian reading of the novel: Joyce’s Dublin as Ankh-Morpork, puns and pastiche as the engine driving the narrative language forward, the library of culture as an interdimensional transit zone, and no icon left unsmashed. In any case, I’m certain I would be a very different person if my elementary-school librarian hadn’t read Truckers to us and started me on a Pratchett kick that never stopped.

At Harvard This Week

I’ll be in Cambridge (in the Dave Barry sense of the word) on Wednesday, March 4, to give a talk to the British Studies Colloquium of the Harvard English department. Here’s my abstract:

The Modernist Period Concept: Threat or Menace?

The early twentieth century is the modernist period. Or so we say. Does this idea, codified in the institutions of modernist studies, limit our understanding of literary history? In this talk, I use a study of thousands of MLA Bibliography entries to argue that the modernist period concept is regulated, in practice, by an all-too-familiar canon of authors (Joyce, Eliot, Woolf, Pound), in spite of efforts to expand modernism culturally, geographically, and historically. These names stand for the equation of formal-aesthetic innovation, as it was practiced in Euro-American avant-garde scenes, with the literary culture of modernity. The menace of the modernist period concept is that this equation is tenacious but wrong. It conflates the whole of the literary field with its most consecrated part, precluding the study of the structural transformation of literary production and reception in the first half of the century. That transformation gives rise, not to a legible Zeitgeist, but to a system of hierarchically organized genres with non-synchronous histories. By way of speculative conclusion, I briefly compare histories of several popular fiction genres and suggest that the study of literary classification systems is a necessary complement to the study of that single high-literary genre we call “modernism.”

The talk is at 5:15 p.m. in Barker 114.

It has come to my attention that while I am quantifying literary studies in Boston, Franco Moretti will be giving the Goldstone lecture at NYU. If you are racing to my talk and tell your phone, “Take me to the Goldstone lecture, double-quick!” check that you are not being directed to New York City.