Research Agenda

I've written about technology and literary studies and computational methods for the past fifteen years and have just begun a new project addressing the development of computer vision. I'm continuing to work in nineteenth and twentieth-century American literature and with autobiographical texts.


Recent Article Abstract: “Narratives of the Later Life of Frederick Douglass” Common-place 17, no. 2 (2017) [Online Text]
Abstract: This essay examines the late autobiographical texts of Frederick Douglass in relation to his understanding of his own old age. Recasting autobiographical revisions through aging studies enables us to see ambivalences that the dominant aging plot of decline has foreclosed.
Keywords: aging studies, old age, revision, Frederick Douglass, autobiography
Recent Article Abstract: “Can an Algorithm be Disturbed?: Machine Learning, Intrinsic Criticism, and the Digital Humanities,” College Literature 42, no. 4 (2015): 543 - 564. [PDF]
Abstract: This essay positions the use of machine learning within the digital humanities as part of a wider movement that nostalgically seeks to return literary criticism to the structuralist era, to a moment characterized by belief in systems, structure, and the transparency of language. It argues that the scientific criticism of the present attempts to separate methodology from interpretation and in the process it has deemphasized the degree to which methodology also participates in interpretation. This essay returns to the deconstructive critique of structuralism in order to highlight the ways in which numerous interpretive decisions are suppressed in the pre-processing of text and in the use of machine learning algorithms.
Keywords: digital humanities, machine learning, literary criticism
Recent Article Abstract: “Bits of Autobiography: Radical Deindividualization and Everydayness,” Arizona Quarterly 71, no. 1 (2015): 83-99. [PDF]
Abstract: This essay focuses on the autobiographical strategies deployed by Ambrose Bierce in response to shifting conceptions of the literary representation of everyday life. I place Bierce at the transition point between nineteenth and twentieth-century realism, between an understanding of typical experience as comfortably generic and a growing sense that the common story has produced a horrify anonymity. "Bits of Autobiography" are fragmentary and hypersubjective narratives that Bierce uses in his attempt to re-individuate by breaking with the repetitiveness that he associates with this latter understanding.
Keywords: autobiography, realism, subjectivity, daily life / the everyday

© Copyright by James E. Dobson