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Department of English Language and Literature


Michael Gavin

Title: Associate Professor
Department: English Language and Literature
College of Arts and Sciences
Office: HOB 310

English Language and Literature



Ph.D., English, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2010
B.A., English, The Ohio State University, 1999


Digital humanities; computational and quantitative research methods; British literature; language and geopolitics.

Honorary Positions

Peter and Bonnie McCausland Faculty Fellow, 2020-2022
College of Arts and Sciences Innovative Teaching Associate, 2020-2022

Recent Courses 

ENGL 102: Researching and Writing About Language and Human Rights
ENGL 280: Literature and Society
ENGL 282: Literature and Ethnic Conflict
SCHC 383: Mathematics for Shakespeare
ENGL 804: Digital Humanities
ENGL 382: The Enlightenment

Current Research Projects 

I write and teach about literature, intellectual history, and digital humanities. Broadly speaking, I'm interested in the ways that technology affects communication. My current research investigates how new forms of digital writing and computational analysis make possible new ways of thinking about language and history.

I usually am juggling several ongoing digital humanities research projects. Any students (undergraduate or graduate) who would like to work on DH research for course credit as an independent study should apply by emailing me directly at the address above.

Recent and Ongoing Publications 

   • Literary Mathematics: Quantitative Theory for Textual Studies (Stanford University Press, 2023)
   • The Invention of English Criticism, 1650 - 1760 (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

   • “Why Distant Reading Works,” New Literary History 53, 4 / 54, 1 (2022 / 2023): 613-633.
   •“The Conceptual Structure of Ossianic Space,” Eric Gidal and Michael Gavin, Literary Geographies 9, 1 (2023): 161-84.
   •“Literatures of the New Realism: Anil’s Ghost, Half of a Yellow Sun, and the Problem of Ethnic Conflict,” Intertexts 25, 1-2 (2021): 27-62.
   • “Infrastructural Semantics: Postal Networks and Statistical Accounts in Scotland, 1790-1845.” Eric Gidal and Michael Gavin. International Journal of Geographical Information Science (2019).
   • “How to Think about EEBO,” Textual Cultures 11, 1-2 (2017 [2019]): 70-105.
   • “Spaces of Meaning: Vector Semantics, Conceptual History, and Close Reading,” Michael Gavin, Collin Jennings, Lauren Kersey, and Brad Pasanek, Debates in Digital Humanities 2019, ed. Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019), 243-67.
   • “Distant Reading the Body, 1640-1700,” Rachel Mann and Michael Gavin, Review of English Studies (January 2019): 1-21.
   • “Vector Semantics, William Empson, and the Study of Ambiguity,” Critical Inquiry 44 (Summer 2018): 641-73.
   • “An Agent-based Computational Approach to the ‘Adam Smith Problem’,” Historical Social Research 41, 1 (2018): 308-36.
   • “Scotland’s Poetics of Space: An Experiment in Geospatial Semantics,” Michael Gavin and Eric Gidal, Cultural Analytics (November, 2017) doi:10.22148/16.017.
   • “Historical Text Networks: The Sociology of Early English Criticism,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 50, 1 (Fall 2016): 53-80.
   • “Agent-Based Modeling and Historical Simulation,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 8, 4 (2014).

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.