My name is Laura B. McGrath. I am a fifth-year doctoral candidate (ABD) in the Department of English at MSU. I am very excited to be a CHI Fellow for 2015-2016. I study literary modernism and digital humanities. My dissertation, tentatively titled Modernish: Modernism and Literary Distinction in the 21st Century, uses traditional, ethnographic, and digital methods to explore modernism’s symbolic capital in the field of contemporary publishing. I have also served as Project Manager for the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition lab (DHLC) in MSU’s English Department. In my capacity as Project Manager, I have written and received a number of grants (including the ACLS Digital Innovations Grant), mentored our undergraduate student researchers, and taught DH methods with the aim of developing our centerpiece project: a study of the neuroscience of reading Jane Austen. I have been fortunate to represent our work at the Literary Lab at Stanford University, and was invited to be a member of the Graduate Student Caucus at the University of Chicago’s Cultural Analytics conference, hosted by the Neubauer Collegium.
I am very much looking forward to my year as a CHI Fellow. I am looking forward to launching a large-scale, text analysis project on the Armed Services Editions. The Armed Services Editions are a collection of ~1,500 novels, repurposed for American soldiers during WWII. These texts were collected by the Council on Books in Wartime, a short-lived (and scary-sounding) office in the Department of Defense. The idea, so the CBW’s story goes, was to select only the most “democratic” novels in order to help American soldiers “fight the war of ideas.” Through a literary-sociological corpus study, I want to figure out what a “democratic” novel or style is– at least, according to the Department of Defense in 1942. This project has the potential to open up some fascinating questions about the intersection of politics and literary form, and hopefully give some insight on the literary field during a crucial period in American culture.
My written work has appeared in Symbolism, Perspectives, and Books and Culture.