Scholars of contemporary fiction face special challenges in making the turn toward digitized corpora and empirical method. Their field is one of exceptionally large and uncertain scale, subject to ongoing transformation and dispute, and shrouded in copyright. I will present one possible way forward, based on my work for a special issue of Modern Language Quarterly on “Scale & Value” that I’m co-editing with Ted Underwood. My project uses quantitative relationships among mid-sized, hand-made datasets to map the field of Anglophone fiction from 1960 to the present. Some significant findings of this research concern a shift in the typical time-setting of the novel and a concomitant change in the relationship between literary commerce and literary prestige.
See below for a Storify recap of this Digital Dialogue, including links to resources and projects that English referenced during his talk.
Jim English is John Welsh Centennial Professor of English, director of the Penn Humanities Forum, and founding director of the Price Lab for Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent books are The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value (2005) and The Global Future of English Studies (2012). A past editor of Postmodern Culture, he co-edited with Rita Felski a special 2010 issue of New Literary History on “New Sociologies of Literature.”