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Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (Champaign, IL 61801-3620)
William Underwood (Project Director: October 2012 to August 2016)

Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants
Digital Humanities

[White paper][Grant products][Media coverage]

$57,163 (approved)
$54,577 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2013 – 11/30/2015

Understanding Genre in a Collection of a Million Volumes

The continuing development of software that would allow users to classify digitized literary works by genre, including allowing for the changing definitions of genre over time.

Large digital collections offer new avenues of exploration for literary scholars. But their potential has not yet been fully realized, because we don’t have the metadata we would need to make literary arguments at scale. Subject classifications don’t reveal, for instance, whether a given volume is poetry, drama, fiction, or criticism. Working with a hand-classified collection of 4,275 English-language works, we have discovered new perspectives on the history of genre. But to flesh out those leads (and permit others to undertake similar projects) we need to move to a scale where manual classification would be impractical. We propose to develop software that can classify volumes by genre while allowing definitions of genre to change over time, and allowing works to belong to multiple genres. We will classify a million-volume collection (1800- 1949), make our data, metadata, and software freely available through HathiTrust Research Center, and publish substantive literary findings.