Ted Underwood

SlytherinBustI teach both in the School of Information Sciences, and in the English Department, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I was trained as a Romanticist, but at this point my research is as much about information science as literary criticism. I’m especially interested in applying machine learning to large digital collections. Because “large digital collections” don’t quite exist yet in the form we would need for interesting literary research, a lot of my work involves correcting and enriching them. I recently finished a book about the new perspectives opened up by large digital libraries, called Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change (Univ of Chicago, Spring 2019).

When I’m not messing about with computers and text, I sometimes mess about with flowers.

Why Literary Periods Mattered: Historical Contrast and the Prestige of English Studies. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013.

The Work of the Sun: Literature, Science, and Political Economy, 1760-1860. New York: Palgrave, 2005.

Journal Articles and Papers

Ted Underwood, David Bamman, and Sabrina Lee. “The Transformation of Gender in English-Language Fiction.” Journal of Cultural Analytics. February 13, 2018.

“A Genealogy of Distant Reading,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 11.2 (2017): http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/11/2/000317/000317.html

Ted Underwood and the NovelTM Research Group, “Genre Theory and Historicism,” Journal of Cultural Analytics (2016).

Ted Underwood and Jordan Sellers, “The Longue Durée of Literary Prestige,” Modern Language Quarterly 77.3 (2016): 321-44.

James F. English and Ted Underwood, “Shifting Scales: Between Literature and Social Science,” Modern Language Quarterly 77.3 (2016): 277-95.

“The Life Cycles of Genres,” Cultural Analytics (2016).

“The Literary Uses of High-Dimensional Space.” In Assumptions of Sociality: A Colloquium of Social and Cultural Scientists, a special issue of Big Data and Society, edited by John W. Mohr, Ronald L. Breiger, and Robin Wagner-Pacifici. 2015.

David Bamman, Ted Underwood, and Noah Smith. “A Bayesian Mixed Effects Model of Literary Character.” Proceedings of the 52st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL’14). 2014.

Andrew Goldstone and Ted Underwood. “The Quiet Transformations of Literary Studies: What Thirteen Thousand Scholars Could Tell Us.” New Literary History 45.3 (2014): 359-84. A site that allows you to explore the underlying model.

“Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago.” Representations 127 (2014): 64-72.

Ted Underwood, Michael L. Black, Loretta Auvil, and Boris Capitanu. “Mapping Mutable Genres in Structurally Complex Volumes.” Proceedings of the 2013 IEEE International Conference on Big Data. ArXiv preprint. Associated workset of HathiTrust metadata, paired with classification probabilities.

Ted Underwood and Jordan Sellers. “The Emergence of Literary Diction.” Journal of Digital Humanities 1.2 (2012).

“If Romantic Historicism Shaped Modern Fundamentalism, Would that Count as Secularization?” European Romantic Review 21.3 (2010): 327-43.

“Stories of Parallel Lives and the Status Anxieties of Contemporary Historicism.” Representations 85 (2004): 1-20.


“Romantic Historicism and the Afterlife.” PMLA 117 (2002): 237-51.

phragmipedium“Historical Difference as Immortality in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Novel.” Modern Language Quarterly 63 (2002): 443-469.

“Skepticism and Surmise in Humphry Davy.” The Wordsworth Circle 34 (2003): 95-103.

“The Science in Shelley’s Theory of Poetry.” Modern Language Quarterly 58 (1997): 299-321.

“Productivism and the Vogue for ‘Energy’ in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain.” Studies in Romanticism 34 (1995): 105-123.


Sarah Bond, Hoyt Long, and Ted Underwood. “Digital is Not the Opposite of Humanities.” Chronicle of Higher Education. November 1, 2017.

Ted Underwood, Hoyt Long, and Richard Jean So. “Cents and Sensibility.” Slate. December 10, 2014.

Book Contributions

Matthew L. Jockers and Ted Underwood. “Text-Mining the Humanities.” In A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. 2016.

“Discontinuity and Culture (in the 1840s and in Foucault).” Philosophy and Culture. Ed. Rei Terada. Romantic Circles, 2008.

“How Did the Conservation of Energy Become ‘The Highest Law in All Science’?.” Repositioning Victorian Sciences: Shifting Centers in Nineteenth-Century Scientific Thinking. Ed. David Clifford, Elisabeth Wadge, Alex Warwick, and Martin Willis. London: Anthem Press, 2006. 119-130.