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Dimensions of Scale: Invisible Labor, Editorial Work, and the Future of Quantitative Literary Studies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 October 2020


This essay calls for a conceptual reorientation of how quantitative methods in literary studies are currently framed, arguing for an expansion from a linear model bounded by the endpoints of distant and close to a space defined by multiple dimensions of scale. I explore the axis bounded by visible and invisible as an example of one of the additional dimensions that might constitute this expanded conceptual frame. In demonstrating its potential for producing new knowledge, I examine the editorial work of two women abolitionists, Mary Ann Shadd (1823–93) and Lydia Maria Child (1802–80). I show how topic modeling and statistical analysis can help identify and describe their invisible editorial labor. I thus provide an additional layer of evidence in support of the argument that positions women, and black women in particular, at abolition's vanguard. I also show how both women employed editing as a method of community formation and world building. I conclude by extending the example of editorial work to the labor required to perform quantitative work today, underscoring the importance of expanding the frame in which quantitative methods in literary study are conceptualized and deployed. (LFK)

Special Topic: Varieties of Digital Humanities
Copyright © 2020 Lauren F. Klein

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