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Digital technology is giving literary scholars a fresh opportunity to explore phenomena that might once have seemed too small or too large to discuss — minute details of diction, as well as transformations of genre that sprawl across several centuries.

The opportunities for research here are substantial, but so are the barriers to entry. Analytical tools are available, but when large collections of text are involved, analysis may not actually be the most time-consuming part of a digital project. Researchers notoriously spend most of their time organizing and normalizing the collection itself, before analysis becomes possible.

The Uses of Scale in Literary Study is a collaborative project that aims to encourage livelier exploration of literary history, both

  • by demonstrating the substantial literary-historical value of new methodologies, and
  • by reducing barriers to entry for scholars,
  • especially by sharing resources for normalizing large collections of text.

The Uses of Scale is a pilot project for the Humanities Without Walls planning initiative, run by the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The initiative is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with matching funds from the University of Illinois.

The principal investigators most actively involved in Uses of Scale are Ted Underwood (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Robin Valenza (University of Wisconsin, Madison), and Matt Wilkens (Notre Dame).

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