At Penn This Week


This Thursday, I’ll be visiting Penn’s Digital Humanities Forum to discuss topic modeling and the sociology of literature. It’s a “Tools and Techniques” session, which means an informal discussion focused on method. I wonder if I will get in trouble for carrying my personal MALLET on Amtrak. Description:

This workshop introduces probabilistic topic modeling for humanists, focusing on applications in literary studies. Using my own work on the history of literary study as an example, I’ll give an informal introduction to the algorithm, survey the nuts-and-bolts technical choices involved in modeling, and discuss the challenges of interpreting the algorithm’s output. Strange and novel as this technique may seem, I’ll argue that it may be surprisingly well-suited to investigating some of literary studies’ central questions about the relation between literary history and social phenomena—and to rediscovering the methodological concerns the humanities share with the social sciences.

If you’re in Philly, it’s at noon in Penn Library, Seminar 627. Register by e-mailing

Update, 10/16/14: slides