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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.
Character Networks
Why are Jane Austen's novels so popular? Her characters are introverts.

Why are Jane Austen’s novels so popular? Her characters are introverts.

As part of the work on characterization in the novel that we’ve been doing recently in the lab, I’ve come across an interesting aspect of the classic nineteenth-century novel. It turns out that female main characters are far more cogitative and perceptive than their male counterparts. However, this appears only to be true for female...
The Constraints of Character. Introducing a Character Feature-Space Tool

The Constraints of Character. Introducing a Character Feature-Space Tool

What is it that we do with characters? And what do they do for us? Different schools of literary theory have provided different answers to these questions. For the Russian formalists, character was above all else a “type,” one that served different narrative functions, a move that has been recently reawakened in the field of...
Detecting Literary Characters

Detecting Literary Characters

We are pleased to announce the acceptance of a new paper in this year’s Conference for Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-15). The paper offers additional methods beyond NER for identifying characters in novels. This work is part of our on-going project of studying social networks in fiction. As we’ve come to realize, just...
Development of a (Semi-) Automatic Character Network Tool

Development of a (Semi-) Automatic Character Network Tool

This is the third post in the series of .txtLAB intern projects. It is authored by Tristan Dahn. The concept of social network analysis – initially rooted in classical sociology and more recently in the social scientific, mathematic, and computer science realms – dates at least as far back as the mid 1960’s [7]. Classically,...
Character Networks

Character Networks

In this project we are working on extracting and analyzing social networks in literature. From detective fiction to the nineteenth- to- twentieth-century novel, how do different social structures of characters relate to the history of genre, plot, or meaning? See our papers in publications related to the study of character.