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.