Guest Lecture – 19th Century Literature

Tracking Literary Influence in 19th-Century Novels

Prof. Matthew Jockers, Stanford University

Time: Thursday 23 February 2012, 16.00-17.00 pm. Location: H1313-309.

Abstract: Attempts to demonstrate literary imitation and influence have been mired for too long in the mud of close reading.  To chart influence in meaningful ways, we must go beyond anecdotal cases and look to the macroscale.  Using data extracted from 3500 19th-century novels, I construct a “novel genome.”  Each book in the corpus is defined by measuring 590 distinct thematic and stylistic features. Using euclidean mathematics and network analysis software, I plot the data in terms of “evolving” novelistic signals and literary genealogies.  Using network analysis statistics, I identify the century’s most influential writers and their stylistic/thematic legacies.  The overall result is to provide a macroscopic content in which we may better read and better understand the individual writers and texts that make up the collection.

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