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MeMo - Measuring Modernity: Literary and Social Change in Scandinavia 1870-1900

Carlsberg Foundation Young Researcher Fellowships

What

MeMo aims to investigate the mental reflections of societal change in literature. In the latter part of the 19th century Scandinavian societies underwent profound structural changes, encompassing numerous, interlocking areas: demography, infrastructure, morals, culture, etc. Scandinavian literature represented a cultural reflection of these transformations. We aim to explore this so-called “Modern Breakthrough” in Scandinavian literature and to foster new understandings of the dynamics of literary and social change. How did this breakthrough of new ways of thinking and writing actually unfold? Who were the actors? And to what extent did the new relate to literature at large?

Why

The project offers new insights in to how Denmark and Scandinavia became modern, and what the role of literature was in that process. Also, it aims to make us wiser on the possibilities of exploring literary history, by way of combining people and computers, historical interpretation and computational algorithms.

How

We will base the co-ordination of the literary and the social on a new, vast body of empirical evidence. Traditional historiography has focused on selected texts by a few prominent, male authors. Our digital corpus comprises some 900 Danish and Norwegian novels 1870-1900 with rich metadata on texts and authors. We will approach this work through the development of state-of-the-art computational techniques for literary analysis. To make sense of the statistics we intend to combine the digital interventions with critical interpretation, based on theoretical and historical expertise. This allow for the capturing of robust literary and sociological trends and for new insights into the processes of modernization in a formative period in the literary and social history of Scandinavia.

SSR

MeMo offers cultural insight into the birth of modern corporate Denmark and the historic links between literature and society. Also, it connects the Humanities with present-day challenges by developing competencies of big data analysis and alertness.