Prof. Mark Algee-Hewitt will join us to present:
"The Afterlife of Aesthetics"
In this presentation, Prof. Algee-Hewitt combines quantitative and critical analyses to explore how aesthetic concepts evolved over the course of the long eighteenth century. Focusing particularly on the concept of the sublime, as well as on the related ideas of the picturesque, grotesque and beautiful, his project examines how these central terms emerged from a confluence of discourses into what became the aesthetic theory of the eighteenth century. Using a combination of word embedding analysis and information theory on a corpus of over 320,000 texts written between 1660 and 1860, he traces both the large-scale developments in the discourse that led to the sudden disappearance of the sublime in the early nineteenth-century, and, by tracking its embedding into smaller scale of individual literary texts, he also offers an explanation for its absence from nineteenth and twentieth-century aesthetic discourse even as it became a foundational term in the professional work of criticism.
Mark Algee-Hewitt is an Assistant Professor of English and Digital Humanities, as well as the Director of the Stanford Literary Lab. His work applies computational methods to corpora of texts in order to explore questions of interest to literary studies and the humanities more broadly. His current work focuses on the aesthetic theory of the long eighteenth-century, particularly in the intersections between philosophic discourse and literature. In the Literary Lab, he leads a number of projects on a variety of literary and non-literary topics, including projects on the narrative theory of short stories, the ways in which novels make use of extra-literary discourse, how which literary texts assign, or deny, personhood to human and non-human characters, and the use of harsh language as an enforcement mechanism by the OECD’s working group on bribery.