Willa_Cather_ca._1912_wearing_necklace_from_Sarah_Orne_JewettThe Nebraska Literary Lab is currently working on three projects that explore the works of the celebrated  American novelist, Willa Cather.  All of these projects use computational methodologies to mine Cather’s texts, including her fiction, journalism, and correspondences. These projects are exploring questions related to Cather’s style.  One project examines how Cather’s novelistic style differs from that in her letters and journalistic writing.  One objective in this project is to  identify a core or root style that transcends genre–a complication that is often noted in authorship attribution research.  A second Cather project examines the extent to which Cather’s novels exemplify her own novelistic ideals.  In this work, Cather’s prose is held up to the standards of prose style that she articulated in her Ars Poetica “The Novel Démeublé.” Finally, a third Cather project is employing the tools and techniques of computational authorship attribution in order to reassess the attributions given to a series of anonymous journalistic articles that have been attributed to Cather.

You can read more about these projects in an article released by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s press office:

Mr_Collins_didn't_read_novelsThe Lab is also supporting two larger scale projects focused on characterization in the 19th century novel.  One project is developing new methods for the identification, extraction, and measurement of character networks.  A second project is interested in character archetypes and specifically the types of behaviors associated with male and female characters in 19th century novels. These projects are interested in asking questions such as: what are the differences between character networks in 19th century American and British novels? Do male and female authors create different types of character networks? What types of behaviors and actions are associated with male and female characters in the 19th century novel? How do these behaviors evolve over the course of the century?


Recently, the Literary Lab has begun to support projects focused on using computational methods to analyze the concept of “genre.”  This new work dovetails with ongoing work on character while adding genre as an additional facet for analysis and correlation. Here we are exploring questions such as: are there trends in the ways in which female and male characters are portrayed within different genres? Are male and female characters “allowed” to behave and speak differently depending on the conventions of the genre in which they appear?

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