The Stanford Literary Lab, founded in 2010 by Matthew Jockers and Franco Moretti, discusses, designs, and pursues literary research of a digital and quantitative nature. The Lab is open to all students and faculty at Stanford and to students and faculty from other institutions. The library engages in a variety of projects, ranging from dissertation chapters to individual and group publications, lectures, courses, conference panels, and even short books. The main projects being carried out now are summarized here below:
A Geography of Nineteenth-century English and American Fiction:
This project aims at uncovering the fictional geography of existing corpus of over 4,000 18th- and 19th-century novels in English. First step is creating a geographical database from the novelistic corpus, and then proceeding in order to sort them out into broad general categories – like physical and social entities – while paying particular attention to issues of scale: in the “social” category, for instance, the basic unit will probably be the “city”, but there will also certainly be classes both “below” [streets, buildings, neighborhoods etc] and “above” it [region, nation, continent].
The project will mostly be looking for patterns of variation across time, space [Britain/USA], and genre. However, the group may work on individual texts, their main field of research is supra-textual, and they aim at a type of geographical visualization that will reflect this interest, maps of genres, or tectonic shifts at the level of the generation.
The ultimate aim of the project would be threefold: first, finding a new type of literary and cultural evidence, that may design a new landscape for further historical and interpretive work; Second, producing, as far as possible, a geographical and visual “geometrization” of narrative form; and, third, indulging in morphological and historical speculations on what may have produced such forms.
Towards a Stylistics of the Novelistic Sentence:
The starting point for this project lies in the corpus of all sentences from the 250 novels of the Chadwick-Healey database, divided in the two broad classes of Dialogue and Narration. For each of these classes, investigation over a variety of sentence properties with particular attention to the complexity of syntactic structure and the possible correlation between such structure and the themes emerging from topic modeling research are being performed.
The main aim is to photograph, and understand, the emergence of what is usually recognized as “style” from simpler linguistic units that interesting in themselves for a variety of reasons, though, are not usually considered under such heading. This aspect of this work will put us in touch with existing scholarship on narrative style and part of our work will consist in matching some classic instances of stylistic criticism against the results of this work, to better understand the differences between “qualitative” and “quantitative” stylistics.
Network Theory and Dramatic Structure; a Comparative Exploration:
This project will compare the dramatic networks emerging from over 300 plays from ancient Greece and Rome, Renaissance England and France, 18th-century Germany, and 19th-century Norway. The group is mostly interested in identifying the general properties of dramatic networks, their breadth, density and patterns of growth, how they change according to genre, historical setting, ancient city state and empire, Renaissance court and modern nation state.