My current research uses computational methods (including network analysis, machine learning, stylometry, and data visualization) to explore the cultural function of poetry within Victorian print culture. I was the Project Director for an NEH-funded project to develop VisualPage, a software application to identify and analyze visual features in digitized printed books. I am also a Co-Director and Technical Director for the Periodical Poetry Index, a research database of citations to English-language poems published in nineteenth-century periodicals and I’m editing the poetry of Augusta Webster for a forthcoming digital edition. My research on Victorian poetry and print culture has appeared in journals such as Victorian Studies, Victorian Poetry, Yale Journal of Criticism, Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, Essays and Studies, and Studies in the Literary Imagination, as well as in The Blackwell Companion to Victorian Poetry.
Current Research Projects
Each of my three core projects addresses a different aspect of how printed texts communicate their cultural value:
The Field of Victorian Poetry 1840-1900 analyzes the bibliographic codes conveyed in books understood as material objects. For this research, I have been collecting bibliographic metadata for single-author books of poetry published in England between 1840-1900 and creating a relational database of this information that allows me to explore large scale patterns in the production and distribution of poetry within Victorian print culture. To do this, I use network analysis techniques to examine the forces and relationships among poets, publishers, and reviewers that constituted part of what Bourdieu calls the field of cultural production for Victorian poetry.
The Visual Page as Interface uses image analysis software to examine the graphic codes of page layout. I began this work by using bio-medical imaging software to analyze digitized page images. More recently, under a grant from the NEH, I collaborated with Neal Audenaert of Texas A&M University to develop VisualPage, a prototype software application for the computational analysis of digitized page images. I have been conducting exploratory data analysis of features extracted from the page images, such as line length, line indentation, and the ratio of text to white space in books of Victorian poetry. This analysis can be used to identify unique or representative items in large document collections, to identify historical trends in page design, and to locate items with particular visual features.
Understanding Victorian Poetic Style examines the linguistic codes of poetic form.
I am currently developing computational approaches to analyzing vocabulary richness, repetition, enjambment, and rhyme as features of Victorian poetic style, as part of a larger project that examines how text analysis methods can be adapted to the study of poetics at the large scale. Stylometric analysis has largely been focused on identifying the distinctive linguistic patterns used by particular authors; I’m interested in extending these methods to examine poetic genre and form as shared historical, cultural practices. This work also is directed towards understanding how well text analysis methods developed for use with prose texts can be applied to poetry.
Based on these three projects, I am currently writing a book entitled Digital Reading: Poetry and the New Nineteenth-Century Archive. Access to the breadth and diversity of nineteenth-century publishing through digitization now makes possible a truly large-scale sociological poetics. This book draws on the three research projects above in demonstrating the value of digital reading for examining the bibliographic, visual, and linguistic codes of Victorian poetry.