Scholar to discuss 'Straight Talk' in American literature

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Scholar to discuss ‘Straight Talk’ in American literature

Marissa Gemma, senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Germany, will discuss straight talk in classic American literature during a 5 p.m. March 10 talk at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Gemma’s lecture, “Straight Talk in the American Novel,” is sponsored by the Nebraska Literary Lab. In it, she will bring the scale of evidence offered by computational literary studies to bear on the long-standing hypothesis the narrative stylization of common speech is on the rise in late-19th and early 20th-century American literature.

By analyzing various features of spoken English in about 1,000 novels, Gemma will offer a revised history of straight-talking, colloquial narrative styles in American literature. She argues that “colloquial” styles, far from being an invention of a handful of elite literary authors in the Gilded Age and thereafter, instead play an important role in low-prestige genres earlier in the century, and are significantly linked throughout the century to specific narrative technologies of perspective.

Gemma researches style, digital literary analysis and 19th-century American literature. She is working on a book manuscript, “The Making of Middle American Style,” about 19th-century American fictional styles inspired by common speech. She earned her from Stanford University, where she was a core member of the school’s Literary Lab, and did post-doctoral research at the Sorbonne’s Observatoire de la vie littéraire.

Her article “Operationalizing the Colloquial Style,” recently appeared in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, and her latest collaborative project with the Stanford Literary Lab, “Canon/Archive. Large-Scale Dynamics in the Literary Field,” was published in January.

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