Dr. Ryan Heuser

About me

As of September 2022, I am Research Software Engineer in Princeton’s Center for Digital Humanities (CDH). As part of that position I collaborate with faculty on longer-term research projects supported by the CDH, as well as advise faculty, graduate and undergraduate students on other research projects involving digital methods.

My research brings computational methods of text analysis to the study of literature and its history. I work on changes in literary language across the modern period; on historical semantics; computational poetics; literary geography; and the theory and methods of the digital humanities more broadly.

From 2019-2022 I was Junior Research Fellow in in King’s College, Cambridge; I received my PhD in English from Stanford University in 2019, where I was a founding member of the Stanford Literary Lab and its Associate Research Director from 2011 to 2015.

You can also find me on Twitter; Github; Google Scholar; or by email at rj416@cam.ac.uk.

Book projects

Abstraction: A Literary History

My first book project, Abstraction: A Literary History, traces a slow-moving rise and fall in abstract language across centuries of literary history. Mixing close and distant reading, the book uncovers how these changes in literary semantics mediate changes in social organization. I focus on three literary forms of abstract language: ‘abstract style’, in the syntactic symmetries and semantic formulae of the periodical essay; ‘abstract persons’, in the personified abstractions of the mid-century ode; and ‘abstract realism’, in the “tell, don’t show” narration of the early realist novel. Through this history and framework, the book also aims to recuperate abstraction as both a method and an object of literary study.



I am working with Arto Anttila and Paul Kiparsky, metrical phonologists at Stanford, to design tools to evaluate the ‘antimetricality’ of a text: the degree to which its stress patterns depart from any known metrical pattern. Such measurements of metrical ‘tension’ or ‘ambiguity’ have a history: prose most distances itself rhythmically from verse at the height of the eighteenth century. We have a pre-print of a paper available here.

Other writing

Word Vectors in the Eighteenth Century

This page is meant as a set of links and resources related to my work using word vectors to study eighteenth-century literature. This work asks the question: how can new vector-based models of semantics reveal the historicity of specific configurations of meaning in eighteenth-century literature? Most of this work is published serially as blog posts, linked below. The later of these are “slideshow essays”-experiments with the forms of visual rhetoric that work so well in the digital humanities-rather than traditional blog posts. There is also a video of a talk I’ve given about this work. Lastly, I’ve uploaded several word2vec models I’m using, trained on a corpus of eighteenth-century literature; and linked to some relevant code (more code will be coming soon).



Occasionally I post graphs and brief summary results to Twitter of my DH work as it proceeds.

Other resources