NEH Grant for Textual Geographies Project

map-nations-allI’m pleased to announce that the Textual Geographies Project has been awarded a $325,000 Digital Humanities Implementation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’m hugely grateful for the NEH’s generous support and for previous startup funding from the ACLS and from the Notre Dame Office of Research.

I’m excited to work with project partners at Notre Dame, at the HathiTrust Research Center, and around the world. The grant will support further development of a Web-based front end for the enormous amount of textual-geographic data that the project has already generated, as well as ongoing improvements to the data collection process, new research using that data, and several events to engage scholars and members of the public who are interested in geography, history, literature, and the algorithmic study of culture. I’ll also be hiring a project postdoc for the 2017-19 academic years.

More information on all these fronts in the months ahead!

Postdoc in Computational Textual Geography

london-mapI’m seeking a postdoctoral fellow for a two-year appointment to work on aspects of the Textual Geographies project and to collaborate on research of mutual interest in my lab in the Department of English at Notre Dame.

The ideal candidate will have demonstrated expertise in literary or cultural studies, machine learning or natural language processing, and geographic or spatial analysis, as well as a willingness to work in new areas. The fellow will contribute to the ongoing work of the Textual Geographies project, an NEH-funded collaboration between literary scholars, historians, geographers, and computer scientists to map and analyze geographic references in more than ten million digitized volumes held by the HathiTrust Digital Library. Areas of current investigation include machine learning for toponym disambiguation, named entity recognition in book-length texts, visualization of uncertainty in geospatial data sets, and cultural and economic analysis of large-scale, multinational literary geography. We welcome applications from candidates whose research interests might expand the range of our existing projects, as well as from those whose expertise builds on our present strengths.

Interdisciplinary collaboration with other groups at Notre Dame is possible. The fellow will also have access to the Text Mining the Novel project, which has helped to underwrite the position.


Details and application via Interfolio (free). Letters not required for initial stage. Review begins immediately and continues until position is filled. Salary $50,000/year plus research stipend. Initial appointment for one year, renewable for a second year subject to satisfactory progress. Teaching possible but not required.



My book, Revolution: The Event in Postwar Fiction, is out with Johns Hopkins University Press. OK, it’s been out since October, but still. I’m really excited about it.

Below is the description from JHUP’s site, and I have a related post, “5 Things You Might Not Know About Fifties Fiction,” on their blog as well. In brief, the book is about how one set of literary and cultural forms displaces another, especially as that process played out in the United States after World War II. Want to know why fifties fiction is full of rambling allegories and why no one writes like Jack Kerouac? Or what those facts have to do with the French Revolution or the invention of quantum mechanics? You’ve come to the right place.

There’s a preview of the book available via Google. Should you be so inclined, you can buy the thing directly from the press, via Amazon, or wherever fine literary-critical monographs are sold. Want to review it? The press has your hook-up.

Here’s a fuller description of project:

Socially, politically, and artistically, the 1950s make up an odd interlude between the first half of the twentieth century — still tied to the problems and orders of the Victorian era and Gilded Age — and the pervasive transformations of the later sixties. In Revolution, Matthew Wilkens argues that postwar fiction functions as a fascinating model of revolutionary change. Uniting literary criticism, cultural analysis, political theory, and science studies, Revolution reimagines the years after World War II as at once distinct from the decades surrounding them and part of a larger-scale series of rare, revolutionary moments stretching across centuries.

Focusing on the odd mix of allegory, encyclopedism, and failure that characterizes fifties fiction, Wilkens examines a range of literature written during similar times of crisis, in the process engaging theoretical perspectives from Walter Benjamin and Fredric Jameson to Bruno Latour and Alain Badiou alongside readings of major novels by Ralph Ellison, William Gaddis, Doris Lessing, Jack Kerouac, Thomas Pynchon, and others.

Revolution links the forces that shaped postwar fiction to the dynamics of revolutionary events in other eras and social domains. Like physicists at the turn of the twentieth century or the French peasantry of 1789, midcentury writers confronted a world that did not fit their existing models. Pressed to adapt but lacking any obvious alternative, their work became sprawling and figurative, accumulating unrelated details and reusing older forms to ambiguous new ends. While the imperatives of the postmodern eventually gave order to this chaos, Wilkens explains that the same forces are again at work in today’s fracturing literary market.

As I say, I’m super happy to have the book out in the world. I owe thanks to many, many people for their help along the way. Now, on to the next one!

Masterclass and Lecture at Edinburgh

I’m giving a two-and-a-half day masterclass on quantitative methods for humanities researchers at the University of Edinburgh, 19-21 September, 2016. There’s a rough syllabus available now, with more materials to be added as the event draws nearer. If you’re in Scotland and want to attend, there may be (literally) a place or two left; details at the Digital Humanities Network Scotland.

There will also be a public lecture on the evening of Wednesday, September 21, featuring a response and discussion with the ever-excellent Jonathan Hope (Strathclyde).

I’m grateful to Maria Filippakopoulou for organizing the visit and to the Edinburgh Fund of the University of Edinburgh for providing financial support.

Come Work with Me!

Update (20 August 2016)

I wasn’t able to hire anyone for this post, but will rerun the search this fall. More information forthcoming soon. In the meantime, if you happen to know anyone suitable — especially with a strong background in NLP and an interest in humanities problems — please let me know so that I can get in touch. Thanks!

Original post

I’m hiring a postdoc for next year (2016-17) to work on literature, geography, and computational methods. Wide latitude in training and background; interest in working on a very large geographic dataset a big plus. Full details and application via Interfolio. Review begins next week. The position will remain open until filled.

Many thanks to the Text Mining the Novel Project for helping to underwrite the post.

Literature and Economics at Chicago

I’m giving a talk next Friday (5/22) on literature and economic geography as part of Richard Jean So and Hoyt Long’s Cultural Analytics conference at Chicago. (Talking econ at Chicago. That’s not terrifying at all!) The list of speakers is really impressive, present company excluded. If you’re in or near Chicago, hope to see you there.

My talk will be closely related to my recent lecture at Kansas, video of which is available on YouTube (and embedded below). There’s also some enlightening discussion on Facebook; you might need to be friends with Richard So to see it, but you should be friends with him anyway …

Looking forward to seeing folks in Chicago!

NovelTM Grant and Project

Finally for the day, another announcement that’s been slightly delayed: I’m really pleased to be part of the SSHRC-funded, McGill-led NovelTM: Text Mining the Novel project. It’s a long-term effort “to produce the first large-scale cross-cultural study of the novel according to quantitative methods” (quoth the About page). A super-impressive group of people are attached – just have a look at the list of team members!

Our first all-hands project meeting is coming up this week. Looking forward to getting started on things that will keep me busy for years to come. Updates and preliminary results here in the months ahead.

A Generalist Talk on Digital Humanities

Since I’m apparently in self-promotion mode … This past weekend, I gave a talk in the Notre Dame College of Arts and Letters’ Saturday Scholars series. These are public lectures aimed at curious folks who are in town for football games. It was a lot of fun and, apart from spilling water on my laptop because I’m a doofus and a klutz, I think it went well. Video is embedded below; there was also a write-up in the student newspaper.

ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship

I somehow failed to post about this when it was announced last summer, but I’ve received an ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship for the 2014-15 academic year to work on the project “Literary Geography at Scale.”

Things are going well so far; I’ll be updating the site here with reports as the research moves along. Eventually, there will be a full site to access and visualize the data (think Google Ngrams for geographic data). In the meantime, here’s the project abstract:

Literary Geography at Scale uses natural language processing algorithms and automated geocoding to extract geographic information from nearly eleven million digitized volumes held by the HathiTrust Digital Library. The project extends existing computationally assisted work on American and international literary geography to new regions, new historical periods – including the present day – and to a vastly larger collection of texts. It also provides scholars in the humanities and social sciences with an enormous yet accessible trove of geographic information. Because the HathiTrust corpus includes books published over many centuries in a variety of languages and across nearly all disciplines, the derived data is potentially useful to researchers in a range of humanities and computational fields. Literary Geography at Scale is one of the largest humanities text-mining projects to date and the first truly large-scale study of 20th and 21st century literature.

Two Events at Stanford

I’m giving a couple of talks at Stanford next week. Announcements from the Lit Lab and CESTA:

On Monday, May 19th, 2014 at 10am, The Literary Lab will host Matt Wilkens, an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame. His talk, entitled, “Computational Methods, Literary Attention, and the Geographic Imagination,” will focus on his recent work that combines Digital and Spatial Humanities research as he investigates the literary representation of place in American Literature.

For those interested in the role of Digital Humanities within humanities disciplines, Matt will also be leading a seminar/discussion on the institutional place of Digital Humanities, particularly focusing on its role in the classroom. This event, “Digital Humanities and New Institutional Structures” will take place on Tuesday, May 20th at 12pm in CESTA (the Fourth Floor of Wallenberg Hall, Building 160), Room 433A. Lunch will be provided.