Graph Blog


14 March 2020: Tracing types of semantic change

Feels strange to post about work stuff, but in my self-quarantine I'm working on more historical semantics for trying to characterize the types of semantic change undergone by certain keywords across the 19th and 20th centuries.

6 March 2020: Measuring anthropomorphism

Vicky Googasian (@v_goog) and I have been measuring the "anthropomorphism" of objects, animals, and humans in fiction, using models trained on their syntactic and semantic footprints.

24 Feb 2020: Posted talk to King's College as scroll-based page

Just posted the talk I gave last week to King's College, with the text synced to the slides: It's a summary of my dissertation work on abstract language in the novel, and explains how that work addresses “immateriality,” the official topic of my postdoc.

29 Jan 2020: A linguistic map of the canon

[A slide, refining on a graph central to my dissertation, for my upcoming talk to King's College.]

16 Jan 2020: Clarissa under the microscope

Catching up on #Clarissa2020, reading it as I've been reading a few novels now: with words colored from orange (most concrete) to blue (most abstract). Striking how thoroughly abstract words narrate social space and actions; concrete words only come in with their violent rupture.


18 Nov 2019: Academic job numbers in English literature (updated)

Updated academic job numbers for English Lit (with data scraped from Academic Jobs Wiki). Since last posting on Oct 13th, 88 new TT jobs have been added. But that still leaves us at an all-time low, pretty far into the season.

13 Oct 2019: Academic job numbers in English literature

Working on scraping the Academic Jobs Wiki to see if it can yield more accurate recent job numbers. Here's what I've got so far. Note that all subfields are declining in jobs besides Ethnic Studies.

28 Aug 2019: Figure 1 of my dissertation

Figure 1 of my diss, "Abstraction: A Literary History." Filing this Friday.

7 Feb 2019: Measuring personification

For my chapter on personification, I'm exploring ways machine learning can help us trace the 'human likeness' of non-human nouns across history. Given only which verbs a noun like 'nation' is a subject or object of, how human-like does the noun appear to the model?


5 Nov 2018: Agency Index

Which nouns are most likely to be the subjects of sentences? And how has that likelihood changed over time—in poetry, a genre where grammatical subjecthood is manipulated by forms of personification? Historically, autumn's agency falls; commerce's waxes and wanes; & child's rises

12 July 2018: Character space in Sense and Sensibility

Two character-spaces in Austen's Sense and Sensibility, visualized. Which words are more likely to appear within the character-space of Elinor ("sense"), and which in the character-space of Marianne ("sensibility")? An experiment using @dbamman's BookNLP (

17 April 2018: Anti-metricality

What happens when you tell a computer to scan lines of poetry for their meter, except you sneak in lines of prose, too? You end up quantifying "anti-metricality," a text's resistance to scansion. This resistance, and the metrical distance between verse and prose, has a history.

30 Jan 2018: Abstraction vs. judgment

As abstract words get more concrete (moving down on y-axis), the range of their moral value (along x-axis) narrows.

23 Jan 2018: Computational Keywords

Computational Keywords, or Modern Abstractions: Using computational semantics to find which abstract nouns changed the most in meaning during the transition into modernity. (= DH work I'm doing now in my dissertation on abstraction in 18th-century literature.)


6 Nov 2017: Abstraction vs. agency

Visualizing the components of personification: which abstract nouns are more likely to be given syntactic agency in 18C literature?

26 Sep 2017: Sociography of the 18th century print market

London's print market doubled between the 1740s & 1790s, with publishers further dividing space of positions. Data: text<>publisher in ECCO.

28 July 2017: Transformation of “labour”

Raymond Williams: "From C17.. labour.. lost its.. association with pain" & became "a general social activity.. a term in political economy"

13 July 2017: Understanding OCR errors

Working toward better understanding how OCR quality affects word frequency results. Here's a micro-experiment showing it does, big lcague.

3 July 2017: Most reprinted 18th century texts

The 30 most reprinted works in the 18th-C? [A is a "reprint" of B if published later and if A&B have a very high degree of textual overlap.]

23 June 2017: Corpus vs. bibliography

How representative of the 18C bibliography is the 18C digital archive? Graphs inspired by @KatherineBode's article and its recent discussion.

15 June 2017: Exponential rise of print market in 18th century

Stepping back from computational formalism and the "doxa of reading" (@goldstoneandrew's term) to look at publishing market trends in ESTC.

28 April 2017: Computational model takes standardized test

Would word2vec get into grad school? A w2v model taking the Miller Analogies Test scores in the 85th percentile:

26 March 2017: World literary trends (part 2)

A literary history of abstract and concrete words in English, French, and German fiction, poetry, and prose, 1700-1900.

25 Mar 2017: World literary trends (part 1)

Abstract words rise in frequency across 18th century, then fall across 19th century—in both French and English fiction.


18 Dec 2017: ELIZA's descendants

To prep for our MLA talk on the 50th anniversary of ELIZA—the first chatbot—my algorithmic colaborator @bardbott is writing (bad) sonnets!

15 Sep 2016: Semantic networks

Semantic networks! top 4000 strongest associations between the 2000 most frequent abstract nouns-> giant component->

16 June 2016: Semantic fields in vector space

The semantic fields from Pamphlet 4 in the vector space models for ECCO-TCP and ECCO.

15 Jun 2016: Diachronic semantic networks

Working now on comparing "semantic networks" between abstract nouns across 18C decade-models


9 June 2014: Reading at meso-scale with Moby-Dick

Distribution of non-dialogue, non-past-tense paras in Moby-Dick shows essayistic mode is broader than cetology chaps.