Allen Riddell

Visiting fellow at the eHumanities Group in Autumn 2015


Allen Riddell is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Neukom Institute for Computational Sciences and the Leslie Center for the Humanities at Dartmouth College. His research explores the use of modern statistical methods in the analysis of large collections of texts with the goal of examining and supporting claims made by scholars in the humanities and allied social sciences. His primary area of research is the sociology of literature; he is currently finishing a project on the history of the novel which makes use of the texts of a representative sample of the 2,900 novels published in the British Isles between 1800 and 1836 ( Riddell is involved in several collaborations where the methodological challenge of collecting and nalyzing large collections of texts figures prominently. With scholars at Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia Law School, he is working on a project which uses the text of ca. 100,000 judicial decisions to make visible the evolving relationship between the US Supreme Court and US Federal Circuit courts since 1950. Riddell received his MS in Statistics and his PhD from the Program in Literature at Duke University in 2013.

On 15 October Allen will give a talk at the New Trends in eHumanities meeting entitled: Reassembling the Novel, 1789–1914
The success of the British novel after 1740 is traditionally described in terms of the gradual reordering of society under industrial capitalism. Rising literacy rates, declining printing costs, and increased leisure time associated with productivity gains are among the factors offered to account for the success of the literary form. Two subsequent developments, however, lack clear explanations: (1) the sudden increase in the rate of publication of novels in the 1830s and (2) the influx of male writers after 1815. In this talk, I will argue for data-intensive research in the humanities and demonstrate how quantitative methods and probabilistic models of text can help evaluate competing hypotheses related to these two open questions.