ATNU/IES Virtual Speaker Series 2020/2021 #2

If ‌you couldn't join us for the live event, you can watch the lecture here.

Professor Ted Underwood, from the University of Illinois, joins us for the second event in our Visiting Speaker Series, now co-organised with our friends at the Institute of English Studies (IES) in London. Ted's brief talk is going to focus on how computational methods have affected literary theory in what promises to be a lively debate with the audience. Join us on the 30th of October at 19h00 (GMT) from wherever you are in the world. See the abstract below for more information, and don't forget to register to receive the joining link.


Have We Learned Anything about Literary Theory from Computers?

Ted Underwood

Friday, 30th of October

19h00 (GMT)


Digital humanists have spent a lot of time demonstrating that computational methods can reveal new patterns in literary history: connections between authors, broad trends we hadn't described, and so on. These claims were initially controversial, but in 2020 it is widely conceded that recognizing historical patterns is a thing computers can do. That particular controversy seems to be subsiding, and in its place, a new one is beginning to emerge. Many scholars (including some who have used computers extensively) worry that quantitative methods are encouraging literary scholars to lose sight of the literary forest while measuring its trees. We may be able to describe specific trends, but are we learning anything general? Are we getting new theoretical insight into literature—the nature of literary language, how it affects readers, how (and more importantly why) it changes? I'll explore this controversy, propose a tentative answer, and open for discussion.

Last modified: Fri, 06 Nov 2020 11:39:33 GMT