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.

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.

For Daniel Albright

Over the winter break came the terribly sad news of the sudden death of Daniel Albright. His own web site has a notice and a brief biography of this remarkable scholar and teacher; the Harvard Crimson also published an obituary. (If I find other notices and memorials I’ll edit this post.) I’m thinking of him and of all the people close to him.

He was my teacher for one semester in my last year as an undergraduate, when I took his seminar on Beckett and Auden (“Early Postmodernism”). I’m sorry to say I didn’t keep in touch after I graduated, but in thinking about Daniel Albright these last few weeks I’ve realized he made a big mark on me, which I wanted to briefly trace here by way of tribute.