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Welcome to .txtLAB, a digital humanities laboratory at McGill University directed by Andrew Piper. We explore the use of computational and quantitative approaches towards understanding literary and cultural phemonena in both the past and present. Our aim is to engage in critical and creative uses of the tools of network science, machine learning, or image processing to think about language, literature, and culture at both the large and small scale.
Text Mining the Novel

Text Mining the Novel

We have been awarded a major Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for $1.8 million towards the quantitative study of the novel. “Text Mining the Novel: Establishing the Foundations of a New Discipline” involves researchers and partners from 21 different academic and non-academic institutions. Our aim...
Digging into Data Award

Digging into Data Award

We learned that we have been awarded a Digging into Data Grant for our project, “Global Currents: Cultures of Literary Networks, 1050-1900.” Our project will undertake the cross-cultural study of literary networks in a global context, ranging from post-classical Islamic philosophy to the European Enlightenment. Integrating new image-processing techniques with...
The Poetic Body

The Poetic Body

What can knowledge of the shape of a poet’s corpus tell us about that writing or indeed about the nature of the corpus as such? In this project we model different poets’ corpuses in three languages from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries as evolutionary networks. Our aim is to...
The Sociability of Detection

The Sociability of Detection

How do communities arrive at the truth? In this project, we are studying the history of imagined social networks within the genre of detective fiction, from the early nineteenth century to the late twentieth. We are interested in how interactions among characters produce different historical understandings of the social construction...
Conversionial Reading

Conversionial Reading

We are interested in studying the legacy of Augustinian conversion in the age of modern autobiography. What happens to a notion of the conversional life in a secular world? We found that the poetics of conversion lives on most strongly in the genre of the modern novel and not autobiography....
The Werther Effect

The Werther Effect

In what ways does Goethe’s Werther live on in eighteenth-century writing? This project seeks to develop new ways of understanding textual circulation across national boundaries. How can we develop maps of affective communities of reading? For an overview of the project, go here. For the project summary, here.
Latest entries
New Course! Big Data and Literature: Intro to Literary Text Mining

New Course! Big Data and Literature: Intro to Literary Text Mining

I’m posting the syllabus to my new course Introduction to Literary Text Mining for those who are interested. The most challenging part is teaching material that I didn’t experience myself as a student — the easiest, and often the best, way to teach is to build on great seminars you had as a student. Well, this...

We’re Hiring! Seeking a project manager.

.txtLAB is hiring a Project Manager to oversee a variety of international and multidisciplinary research projects. Projects involve the application of computational and quantitative analysis to the study of literature and culture in a global context with over 20 partners from across North America and Europe. The position affords the opportunity to develop a dynamic...
Where did all the love go? Feelings in the novel.

Where did all the love go? Feelings in the novel.

I have been increasingly focusing on the history of feeling in the novel, especially as a way of differentiating feeling from sentiment analysis. Emotions aren’t the same as sentiments, as they are commonly defined today (and usually only in binary fashion — happy/unhappy or positive/negative). Instead, I was interested in the ways different kinds of emotions change...
When innovation isn't

When innovation isn’t

Having moved through two models of poetic careers — the compaction of Whitman and the expansion of Goethe — I thought I had found a third model in the case of William Wordsworth. Using the same measures as before, I found that it was Wordsworth’s middle period that registered as the most “innovative” or experimental....
Blue Periods: On Aging and Writing

Blue Periods: On Aging and Writing

As a follow-up to my last post on Whitman, I wanted to explore more examples of how writing develops over the course of a poet’s career. As I wrote there, I’m interested in using network theory to better understand how a poet’s career might have a particular shape or orientation, indeed, how one might visualize...
On Biopoetics: The Evolution of Whitman's Leaves of Grass

On Biopoetics: The Evolution of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

What if the Leaves of Grass was instead called Webs of Grass? I’ve created a series of network graphs that represent the multiple editions of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, in which pages are represented as nodes and the edges represent the lexical similarities between them. The networks are drawn in an “evolutionary” way, so for each page...
M.A. Fellowship in Digital Humanities

M.A. Fellowship in Digital Humanities

The Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at McGill University is offering a 2-year fellowship to an incoming master’s student to participate in the recently funded Digging into Data project, “Global Currents: Cultures of Literary Networks, 1050-1900,” directed by Prof. Andrew Piper. Project Overview This project undertakes the cross-cultural study of literary networks in a...
Digging into Data: Global Currents

Digging into Data: Global Currents

What can you learn from the visual features of a page? This is the question that lies at the centre of our digging into data project, the awards for which were announced yesterday.  A vast amount of our textual heritage has so far been resistant to large-scale data analysis, whether it is non-western scripts or...
MLA Panel on Macroanalysis

MLA Panel on Macroanalysis

I gave a paper at this year’s MLA on combining quantitative and qualitative analysis together with Hoyt Long and Richard So of the global literary networks group at the University of Chicago. My paper was titled “The Wertherian Exotext.” Using corpuses from the Hathi Trust in German, English and French of between 10,000-25,000 texts, I...
Beyond E-Books

Beyond E-Books

A new piece in World Literature Today that urges publishers to start thinking in terms of data sets and not just books.
A Theory of Topological Reading

A Theory of Topological Reading

I have a new piece out on reading topologically instead of bibliographically in a special section on “Reading” in the journal ELH. The following is a brief excerpt. While the term topology covers a variety of fields that extend from graph theory to the mathematics of continuous spaces to thinking about “topos” or space more...
Novel Conversions

Novel Conversions

  What would it mean for a novel to turn us, even as we turn it? How are we not simply moved, but transformed – turned around, converted – through the novel’s combination of gestural and affective structures? How might we think about the correspondences between the novel’s technics and its tropes in its ability...