“Obviously, PMLA is not an adequate synecdoche for literary studies. But, as a generalist journal with a long history, it makes a useful test case to assess the value of topic modeling for a history of the discipline.”
As soon as their post went up, other scholars joined in the conversation, including me.
Subsequently I’ve written a long post in which I reflect on the history of literary studies, its origins in philology, the use of corpus linguistics, and the future of literary history:
Corpus techniques, of course, originated in computational linguistics. And, while the study of linguistics was once as aspect of the study of literature, that changed over half a century ago, leaving literary scholars in a poor position to understand the underpinnings of these new techniques. What’s that chance the, once again, students of literature will become interested in the structure of language (that is, beyond such superficialities as binaries, polysemy, and such)? When, if ever, will the Darwinians realize that biological evolution is only the background for cultural evolution, and that it is cultural evolution that is at the heart of literary history, not biological evolution?
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