Interview by Mitch Ingraham
Dr. Matthew L. Jockers is the Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln where he currently acts as a faculty fellow in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities and Director of the Nebraska Literary Lab. In addition to teaching courses, conducting seminars and workshops, and authoring numerous articles, his publications include: Text Analysis With R for Students of Literature (2014) and Macroanalysis: Digital Methods & Literary History (University of Illinois Press, 2013).
Together with Franco Moretti, he co-founded and directed the Stanford Literary Lab, where he worked from 2010 to 2012. Dr. Jockers received his B.A. from Montana State University (1989), a M.A. from the University of Northern Colorado (1993), and his PhD. from Southern Illinois University (1997). His areas of interest/specialties include: Digital Humanities: text mining/text analysis, Irish and Irish American Literature, 20th Century British Literature, and Literature of the American West.
MI: When did you first become involved and interested in digital humanities: specifically as related to English literature?
MJ: Well … long before DH was ever a term, that’s how. I probably discovered that there was a field of people doing computational quantitative work in the humanities in around 1990. Between ‘90 and ‘93 really, just before the birth of the Internet. And, of course, there was no term ‘digital humanities,’ that doesn’t come along until about 2005. The people at that point called themselves computing humanists, and I certainly wasn’t part of that crowd until quite awhile later. In fact, I didn’t even really discover that there was such a crowd or organization at that point. I was in my MA program at that point. I was a literature grad student who was sort of fascinated by computers and had that as a side hobby. I got pretty savvy with the computer during my master’s program and when I went to do my PhD, my dissertation advisor learned that I had some computer savvy and he didn’t. So, he asked me to be his RA and basically bought me out of my teaching for the last two years of the four years of my PhD program. So I started working for him in 1995. Just prior to that, of course, the internet is born in about 1993. I started dabbling in HTML and those kinds of things. One of the first projects I did for him was to create a digital archive.