The Infectious Texts project, which seeks to develop theoretical models that will help scholars better understand what qualities—both textual and thematic—helped particular news stories, short fiction, and poetry “go viral” in nineteenth-century newspapers and magazines. Prior to copyright legislation and enforcement, literary texts as well as other non-fiction prose texts circulated promiscuously among newspapers as editors freely reprinted materials borrowed from other venues. What texts were reprinted and why? How did ideas—literary, political, scientific, economic, religious—circulate in the public sphere and achieve critical force among audiences? By employing and developing computational linguistics tools to analyze the large textual databases of nineteenth-century newspapers newly available to scholars, this project will generate new knowledge of the nineteenth-century print public sphere.
Infectious Texts is sponsored by Northeastern University's NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks and generously funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities' Office of Digital Humanities. The project team includes Professors Ryan Cordell, Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, and David Smith, as well as Ph.D. students Abby Mullen and Matthew Williamson.