About me

I am Junior Research Fellow of Immateriality at King's College, Cambridge, where I study English literature and the digital humanities. My work brings computational methods of text analysis to the study of literature and its 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. I argue that each of these literary forms of abstraction arises as a formal solution to a materialist problem of representation, one brought on by the increasingly impenetrable dynamics within the social and material relations of early capitalism. Through this history and framework, the book also aims to recuperate abstraction as both a method and an object of literary study.

I am beginning work on a second book project: Key Data, an edited collection of essays in historical semantics. Alluding to Raymond Williams’ pathbreaking book, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976), Key Data carries forward the goals of Williams’ semantic histories while also altering their scale and methods. With new methods of computational semantics, the book traces the changing associations of words across historical corpora.

I also work on computational poetics and historical prosody, literary geography, and the theory and methods of the digital humanities more broadly. I recently received my PhD in English from Stanford University, 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, on Github, or by email at rj416@cam.ac.uk.