DH Speaker Series

Townsend Center, UC Berkeley, Fall 2018

Andrew Piper

Thu, September 20, 2018

Lecture: Corpus Poetics: Thinking the Writer's Career with Data / 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Open Seminar: What Can Machine Learning Teach Us About Literature? / 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Andrew Piper is a Professor and William Dawson Scholar in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at McGill University. He directs .txtLAB, a digital humanities laboratory at McGill, and is editor of the new web-based, open-access journal, CA: Journal of Cultural Analytics. He is the author of over two-dozen articles in major academic and popular journals, as well as the books Dreaming in Books (2009; Winner of the MLA Prize for a First Book), Book Was There (2012), Interacting with Print (2017), and, most recently, Enumerations: Data and Literary Study (2018).

Laura McGrath

Thu, October 4, 2018

Lecture: Corporate Style: The Effect of Comp Titles on Contemporary Literature / 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Open Seminar: Quantifying without Computers / 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

More than bestseller lists of academic consecration via syllabi, "comps" (short for "comparative titles") represent the most significant metric of literary value in contemporary publishing. Comps are identified by editors in the acquisition process to predict a book's performance on the market and are often the deciding factor in a new acquisition. In this talk, McGrath will use large-scale computational methods to analyze comp title data obtained from publishers' quarterly catalogues between 2013-2019. She shows how comps produce and replicate "corporate style," not only limiting what--and who--is published, but defining literary style in the contemporary.

Seminar readings:

Laura McGrath is the Associate Director of the Stanford University Literary Lab and a postdoctoral fellow in English. Her primary interests lie in computational approaches to post45 American fiction. She is at work on a manuscript, a literary history of the agent, entitled Middlemen: Making Literature in the Age of Multimedia Conglomerates. She is also working on a second, trade book called Comps: The Big Data Behind the Book Business.

Ted Underwood

Thu, November 8, 2018

Lecture: Modeling Perspective and Parallax to Tell the Story of Genre Fiction / 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Open Seminar: Characterization and Gender, 1800-2008 / 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

This talk will use science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and the Gothic to explore the advantages of an approach that asks data science to contribute to the humanities by adding perspectival flexibility, rather than sheer scale. Underwood trained predictive models of these genres using ground truth drawn from various sources and periods (19c reviewers, early 20c bibliographies, contemporary librarians), in order to explore how implicit assumptions about genre consolidate or change across time. Contrasting different models also allows us to take a parallax view of individual books, or even paragraphs in books: which passages in 1960s science fiction, for instance, would have been hardest for a pre-war reader to recognize as SF?

Seminar reading:

Ted Underwood teaches in the School of Information Sciences and the English Department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He was trained as a Romanticist and now applies machine learning to large digital collections. His most recent book, Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change (Univ of Chicago, Spring 2019) addresses new perspectives opened up by large digital libraries.


Townsend Center, 220 Stephens Hall (Geballe Room)

Sponsored by the UC Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature, the School of Information, Digital Humanities at Berkeley, The Digital Humanities Working Group, the D-Lab, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, and the UC Berkeley Library