March 19, 2016

"Reassembling the History of the Novel"

Attention conservation notice: Only of interest if you (1) care about the quantitative history of English novels, and (2) will be in Pittsburgh at the end of the month.

I had nothing to do with making this happen — Scott Weingart did — but when the seminar gods offer me something this relevant to my interests, it behooves me to promote it:

Allen Riddell, "Reassembling the History of the Novel"
Abstract: How might the 19th century novel be studied and taught if all (surviving) novels were readily available to students and researchers? While many have lamented the fact that literary historians tend to ignore works outside the "canonical fraction" of the ~25,000 novels published in the British Isles during the 19th century, there have been few concrete proposals addressing the question of how surviving novels might productively enter research and teaching and participate in our thinking about the nexus of literature and society. This presentation describes the prospects for a data-intensive and sociologically-inclined history of the novel focused on the population of published novels, the novels' writers, and the writers' penumbra. (A group's penumbra is the set of individuals acquainted with members of the group.) Marshalling evidence from a range of sources and aided by probabilistic models of text data, I will demonstrate how this approach yields insights into two significant developments in the history of the English novel: (1) the rapid influx of male writers after 1815, and (2) the dramatic increase in the rate of publication of novels after 1830. The presentation also features a discussion of Franco Moretti's call, echoing Karl Popper, that literary historians should advance risky---and, in some cases, "testable"---hypotheses.
Time and place: 4:30--5:30 pm on Wednesday, 30 March 2016 in Studio A, Hunt Library (first floor)

As always, the talk is free and open to the public.

Writing for Antiquity; The Commonwealth of Letters; Enigmas of Chance

Posted at March 19, 2016 20:24 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth