On the Direction of 19th Century Poetic Style, Underwood and Sellers 2015
31 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 25, 2015
Underwood and Sellers have discovered that over the course of roughly a century (1820-1919) Anglo-American poetry has undergone a consistent change in style in a direction favored by editors and reviewers of elite journals. This directional shift aligns with the one Matthew Jockers found in Anglophone novels during roughly the same period (from the beginning of the 19th century to its end). I argue that this change is characteristic of a cultural evolutionary process and sketch a way to simulate such a process as an interaction between a population of texts and a population of writers where texts and writers can be represented as points in a high-dimensional space. I suggest that such directionality is a sign of autonomy in the aesthetic system, that it is not completely coupled to and subsumed by surrounding historical events.
Keywords: digital humanities, cultural evolution, literature, poetry, 19th century
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