What did distant reading show us about literary change? And what happens next?
Abstract: From roughly 2005 to 2022, computers were useful for large-scale questions about literary history, but couldn't add much to conversation about a single author or work. It made sense, in that period, to organize methodological debate around a divide between "close" and "distant" reading. The rise of generative AI may render that divide meaningless, but this also means that 2023 is a good moment to look back and ask what we actually learned from distant reading. This talk will focus especially on questions about change and periodization and end by looking forward to reflect on possible futures for the computational study of culture.
Bio: Ted Underwood is Professor of Information Sciences and English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His most recent book is Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change (Chicago, 2019), and he's currently working on questions about the relation between generative AI and cultural change.