Cultural Analytics and the Book Review: Models, Methods, and Corpora

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Matthew J. Lavin

    University of Pittsburgh

  2. 2. Kent Chang

    Carnegie Mellon University

  3. 3. Yuerong Hu

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  4. 4. Wenyi Shang

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  5. 5. Aniruddha Sharma

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  6. 6. Shubhangi Singhal

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  7. 7. Ted Underwood

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  8. 8. Jessica Witte

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  9. 9. Peizhen Wu

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  10. 10. Dan Sinykin

    Emory University

  11. 11. Melanie Walsh

    Cornell University

  12. 12. Maria Antoniak

    Cornell University

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In 2013, Peter Boot highlighted the merits of a corpus of online book responses. “If reading responses are important for the study of literature and its effects,” he argued, “it follows that we need to understand them better.” A corpus of book responses would also help us see “relationships between the responses and the works that they respond to, in terms of topics and narrative”; for example “what characters and plot developments do reviewers respond to?” Boot called for a sufficiently large, representative corpus that included many book genres, and relevant contextual metadata meeting the standards of open data access and usability. Six years later, scholarship by James F. English, Allison Hegel, Andrew Piper & Richard Jean So, Dan Sinykin, and Jordan Sellers & Ted Underwood (among others) has shown the range of insights that can be drawn from a corpus of book reviews and/or sets of book review corpora. Simultaneously, prominent voices in digital humanities have called on the scholarly community “to consider the nature of ontological gaps and epistemological biases,” including the “infrastructures of knowledge-making” on which large scale, computational studies often depend. This panel will present four papers at the forefront of cultural analytics methods and analysis of book reviews.In “Modeling Bibliographical Information in Historic Book Reviews: Large Scale Applications with Proquest’s American Periodicals Series,” Matthew J. Lavin evaluates computational methods to classify items as likely book reviews, differentiate single-work reviews from multi-work reviews, and extract from reviews information about the book and author being reviewed.“Book Reviews and the Consolidation of Genre” (Kent Chang, Yuerong Hu, Wenyi Shang, Aniruddha Sharma, Shubhangi Singhal, Ted Underwood, Jessica Witte, Peizhen Wu) addresses a common doubt about the significance of text analysis by showing that measurements of similarity between literary texts correlate with similarities between their reviews. It then uses this method to trace the consolidation of genre.In “Reconstructing Consecration in US Literary History, 1965-2000,” Dan Sinykin uses social network analysis methods on book reviews to evaluate novels’ centrality in a network. It analyzes the publishers most or least likely to offer an author literary success, the impact of gender and race on reception, and the changing literary value of genre.In “The Crowdsourced ‘Classics’ and the Revealing Limits of Goodreads Data,” Melanie Walsh and Maria Antoniak analyze more than 100,000 Goodreads reviews of the most popular “classics” in order to reveal the widespread use of “classic” as a colloquial literary critical term that is related to but distinct from the “canon.” Through the lens of these reviews, the authors investigate how online readers and institutions both old and new collaboratively construct the highly lucrative category of the “classics.”Collectively, these four papers offer new perspectives on corpus development, modeling the book review as an object of study, and analyzing large sets of book reviews using natural language processing, machine learning, and social network analysis methods.

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Conference Info

In review

ADHO - 2020
"carrefours / intersections"

Hosted at Carleton University, Université d'Ottawa (University of Ottawa)

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

July 20, 2020 - July 25, 2020

475 works by 1078 authors indexed

Conference cancelled due to coronavirus. Online conference held at Data for this conference were initially prepared and cleaned by May Ning.

Conference website:


Series: ADHO (15)

Organizers: ADHO