Keeping the Reader Close: A Computational Look at Narrative

March 15, 2023 - 5:00pm

​358 Cathedral of Learning

Gabi Kirilloff (Washington University, St. Louis)

This talk draws from my current book project, which uses computational methods to explore how authors from the Victorian era to the present have addressed their readers. Direct address can evoke sympathy, foster guilt, even spark fear. Drawing on a database of 60,000 instances of address, I argue that the history of address is the history of fictional closeness; address demonstrates an ever-present tension between pulling the reader into the world of fiction and keeping the reader at arm’s length. This tension complicates demarcations between literary periods and movements. As part of the talk, I will also discuss the challenges, benefits, and limitations of using computational tools to address literary questions.