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Welcome to .txtLAB, a laboratory for cultural analytics at McGill University directed by Andrew Piper. We explore the use of computational and quantitative approaches towards understanding literature and culture 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 large and small scale.
Poetic Bodies
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...
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 better understand how a body...