Interview by Hillary Susz, MFA Candidate at CU Boulder
HS: What is your lab called and where is it?
MA-H: The lab is called “The Stanford Literary Lab,” and it is located at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California.
HS: What sorts of projects and activities form the core of your work? Is there a specific temporal or technological focus for your lab?
MA-H: Our focus is primarily on the quantitative, and computational, analysis of texts in order to speak to questions of Literary critical or historical interest. In terms of our methodologies, we work with a variety of different text mining, NLP and otherwise quantitative approaches depending on the needs of the given project. Chronologically, our work ranges from the Medieval period, to contemporary writing. But, what unites the research of the Literary Lab is our primary focus on the Literary critical questions that we seek to answer through this range of methodologies. That is, our projects and studies are rarely inspired by a technology or method, but rather, seek to find (or create) appropriate methods for the Literary critical and historical concepts that we research. Although most of our work has been on corpora that are specifically Literary (whether prose or poetry), recent projects have begun incorporating other kinds of texts into our analyses.
HS: Can you clarify what you mean by critical or historical interests? What are the critical questions you seek to answer? What are examples of projects that explore these questions and interests?
MA-H: What really drives the lab as a research group are concepts that are important to us as humanists. Most of us are literary scholars, so that takes different forms based on the questions we want to explore. Some of us deal with critical theory—representations of gender or exploring the discourse of race in American fiction. Some of us take a more formalist approach—the shape and form of narrative or how word patterns change across texts. We seek to understand the function of literary texts in a historical context. A lot of our projects deal with synchronic structures in the world, even if they don’t change over time.