Ted Underwood to discuss literary history

Angelica Cataldo, Entertainment Reporter

English professor Ted Underwood will discuss the understanding of literary history at Eastern as a part of the Center for the Humanities’ guest speaker series at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Lecture Hall.

Underwood teaches mainly British 18th and 19th century English literature at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is also a published author. He is trained in the studies of romanticism and also focuses on informational science studies.

His literature works include the titles “Why Literary Periods Mattered” and “The Work of the Sun: Literature, Science, and Political Economy.”

Romanticism is an era in literature between the 18th and 19th centuries that focuses on individual consciousness and the lessening of strict rules and limitations in writing.

Underwood’s work in informational science studies takes the physical pieces of literature and examines them through a series of digital libraries.

C.C. Wharram, English professor and director of the Center for the Humanities, said that Underwood’s work will discuss analyses of computational technology such as algorithms that have the ability to process large quantities of literary works and produce visual data regarding those pieces.

This technology has been around roughly 10 years, and has slowly been making its way into the hands of other English scholars.

Wharram said studies that research these algorithms allow scholars to analyze aspects such as how certain words have changed over time and other literary and cultural patterns.

“(This technology) allows us to see things we weren’t able to see before,” Wharram said. “We used to think there were very clear breaks in moments of literary history, but (Underwood’s) work suggests that these (changes) happen very slowly.”

Underwood will be speaking about his research and observations and present his work as a way for people to differently view how literary works are studied and taught as separate historical periods in history.

Wharram met Underwood at a romanticism conference and had contacted Underwood over a year ago about lecturing at Eastern.

Underwood was originally scheduled to speak in the spring, but due to the budget impasse the lecture was postponed to this fall.

Underwood’s lecture is free to the public and is presented in conjunction with the Susan Bazargan Graduate Lecture in English and the Lynch Humanities Speaker Series.

“(Underwood) is not that type of dogmatic speaker, he’s open minded to thinking about all the possibilities that exist.” Wharram said. “ He’s sort of the vanguard of this kind of work.”

Angelica Cataldo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].