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  • MEAL 1

The Values in Numbers: Reading Japanese Literature in a Global Information Age


Modern East Asian Literature Research Cluster presents Emerging Research on Modern East Asian Literature


The Values in Numbers: Reading Japanese Literature in a Global Information Age


Speaker: Hoyt Long

Associate Professor of Japanese Literature | East Asian Languages and Civilizations | University of Chicago


Moderator: Daniel Poch

Associate Professor in Japanese Studies | School of Modern Languages and Cultures | University of Hong Kong


27 April 2022 (Wed), 10:00–11:30 am (Zoom, HKT)


The recent proliferation of digital archives and data-mining tools has renewed longstanding tensions between numbers and literary study. Where some call for a rapprochement, others insist on their fundamental incompatibility. What can the study of literature, Japanese or otherwise, gain from a more deliberate engagement with numbers and computation? This talk takes up the question from past, present, and future perspectives. I historicize the enduring tension of numbers and literary study within shifting conditions of knowledge production, hinting at what we might learn from earlier attempts by Japanese critics to read literature quantitatively. Next, a case study on the representation of race and ethnicity under Japanese empire helps demonstrate the possibilities for reading offered by today’s newest computational methods, like machine learning. Finally, I speculate on the possible futures of computation within Japanese literary studies, both as a catalyst for new disciplinary formations and as a means to develop critical literacy of the technologies set to define our coming information age.

Hoyt Long is Associate Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Chicago. He teaches in the East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department and also co-directs the Textual Optics Lab. He has published extensively in the fields of modern Japanese literature, media history, and digital humanities. His current research interests include machine translation, computational approaches to world literature, and cultural production in the age of social media platforms.


The series is coordinated by Dr. Su Yun Kim (suyunkim@hku.hk), Dr. Pei-yin Lin (pylin@hku.hk), and Dr. Alvin Wong (akhwong@hku.hk). For the seminar series, check our website www.meal.hku.hk



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