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History of Distant Reading in Japan

02/15/2018 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Hoyt Long, University of Chicago

This talk offers a history of quantitative approaches to modern Japanese literature. The impulse to reason about texts quantitatively goes back at least to Natsume Sōseki’s Theory of Literature (1907). More recently, computational techniques and the availability of digital corpora have taken this impulse further, promising new ways of engaging with Japanese literary history. Before diving into this possible future of reading, however, it is worth looking back at its antecedents. To this end, I trace a genealogy of quantitative imagining that begins with Sōseki’s formula for capturing the experience of reading, walks through the psycholinguistic and early stylometric analyses of the pre- and post-war periods, and ends with recent work that borrows from natural language processing and machine learning methods. This genealogy allows us to reflect on why others have previously turned to numbers to reason about words; why we might want to do so now, and generally what it means to distant read Japanese literature in this day and age.

Hoyt Long is Associate Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Chicago. He is the author of On Uneven Ground: Miyazawa Kenji and the Making of Place in Modern Japan (2012), and has published extensively in the field of media history and digital humanities. Most recently, he has co-authored “Literary Pattern Recognition: Modernism Between Close Reading and Machine Learning” (Critical Inquiry, Winter 2016) and “Turbulent Flow: A Computational Model of World Literature” (Modern Language Quarterly, Fall 2016). He founded the Chicago Text Lab with Richard Jean So and now co-directs the Textual Optics Lab.

Time: Thursday, Feb. 15th, 6-8PM

Location: Kent 403



6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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403 Kent Hall
1140 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10027 United States
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