Ryan Cordell’s work focuses on identifying texts that “went viral” in 19th-century American newspapers and magazines — including literary texts like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Celestial Railroad,” but also jokes, news reports, and semi fictional anecdotes. In collaboration with colleagues in English and Computer Science, he is developing tools to automatically identify viral texts in databases of 19th-century print, and to analyze their spread across the nation using geospatial and network visualization. His research promises to foreground long-forgotten texts that were among the most widely read pieces of writing in 19th-century America. Ultimately, however, he hopes to theorize how and why texts spread in 19th-century America, constructing a set of models that can describe nineteenth-century textual virality.
He spoke at Southern Methodist University on February 7, 2013, at an event co-sponsored by the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute, the DFW-Area Digital Humanities Colloquium, Futures for Humanistic Learning, and the SMU Department of English.
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