In their 2014 New Literary History essay “The Quiet Transformations of Literary Studies: What Thirteen Thousand Scholars Could Tell Us,” Andrew Goldstone and Ted Underwood explore the question of what kinds of histories of literary criticism might emerge if instead of relying on the clash-of-ideas model to explain changes in the way we do what we do, we used the methods of computational humanities to track those changes. In this suggestive essay, they demonstrate the promise of this mode of inquiry to turn up the slower, longer, not publicly argued changes (and continuities) in assumptions and concerns that are often left out of the standard histories in favor of explanations focused on schools of thought or the influence of great men.

One of the examples Goldstone and Underwood cite is a chronological trend in the career of violence as a topic in literary studies,...

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