Matthew Jockers presents keynote address at LAS workshop

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Matthew Jockers argues that literary scholars can no longer simply "close read" literature.

The keynote speaker kicking off the Oct. 11 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ workshop "Exploring Data-Rich Environments" will demonstrate how big data is, he explained, "driving, even forcing, new ways of studying literature at the macro scale."

Matt Jockers, assistant professor of English, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will demonstrate how big data is driving new ways of studying literature at the Oct. 11 LAS workshop.

Jockers, a researcher in literary text mining and computational text analysis, speaks at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, to lead off the College of LAS Signature Research Themes workshop at Benton Auditorium in the Scheman Building. His one-hour presentation, titled “Data Driven Criticism: A (Literary) Lab Report,” is free and open to everyone and no registration is required.

Those wanting to participate in the remainder of the workshop, however, need to register by emailing Kristin Doerder ( by noon on Friday, Oct. 4. A free buffet dinner is provided (see the workshop schedule below).

Jockers, an assistant professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will discuss the challenges associated with studying a corpus of 3,500 novels using traditional techniques. He said he will explain how he leveraged machine learning and statistics in order to uncover "latent correlations between literary themes, literary representations of place, and the emotions or sentiments most often associated with these places and themes in the literature."

His talk will conclude with a demonstration of why close reading is impoverished as a means of studying literary history. Jockers will offer a case study related to Jane Austen’s legacy and the more or less forgotten work of Austen’s literary mentor, Maria Edgeworth.

Jockers, also a Faculty Fellow at Nebraska’s Center for Digital Humanities Research, previously was a lecturer and academic technology specialist in the Department of English at Stanford, where he co-founded the Stanford Literary Lab. Jockers is a researcher in literary text mining and computational text analysis. His publications include Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History (University of Illinois Press, 2013), and his research has been featured often in the news media, including The New York Times and NBC News.

Read more about Jockers.

The workshop’s other keynote speaker is Kris de Brabanter, from the departments of Statistics and Computer Science at Iowa State. He will speak after dinner at 7 p.m. on “Challenges in Big Data: Theory and Applications."

Workshop Schedule

1-1:15 p.m. – Benton Auditorium Welcome: Dean Beate Schmittmann, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Open to the public

1:15-2:15 p.m. – Benton Auditorium Opening keynote: “Data Driven Criticism: A (Literary) Lab Report” Matthew Jockers, Department of English, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Open to the public

2:15-2:30 p.m.– Benton Auditorium Update on Iowa State University resources for big-data research Jim Coyle, Information Technology Services, Iowa State University Open to the public

2:30-3 p.m. – 1st-Floor Lobby Refreshments

3-4 p.m. – 004 Scheman Panel discussion: Challenges and Opportunities of Big Data in Many Fields Ray Arritt, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University Laura Hogrefe, John Deere Financial, Johnston, Iowa Emily Kawaler, Pivotal Inc., San Francisco Fred Lorenz, Departments of Statistics and Psychology, Iowa State University Pat Schnable, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University Conference registration required

4-5 p.m. – 004 Scheman Breakout sessions to consider challenges and opportunities Conference registration required

5-5:45 p.m. – 1st-Floor Lobby Social hour: Cash bar, light hors d’oeuvres Conference registration required

5:45-7 p.m. – 190 Stagedoor Buffet dinner Conference registration required

7-8 p.m. – 190 Stagedoor Closing keynote: “Challenges in Big Data: Theory and Applications” Kris de Brabanter, Departments of Computer Science and Statistics, Iowa State University Open to the public


NEWS RELEASE College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University

Contacts: Steve Jones, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communications, (515) 294-0461,