Interview with Boston University Professor & HathiTrust Researcher Cathie Jo Martin

By HathiTrust

"I want to understand how reformers in Britain and Denmark in the 18th and 19th centuries thought about education and I use computational linguistics techniques applied to literature to do so."

In Her Own Words: Research Summary

Despite their nineteenth-century political economies, poor, rural Denmark becomes a leader in public, mass primary education (1814) and secondary vocational training; while rich, industrial Britain creates public, mass schooling in 1870 and embraces unitary, academic secondary education.

I want to understand how reformers in Britain and Denmark in the 18th and 19th centuries thought about education and use computational linguistics techniques applied to literature to do so. The Boston University Hariri Institute funded the project. Ben Getchell and Andrei Lapets wrote code and helped me learn to calculate word frequencies and to implement unsupervised topic modeling.

A close reading of coming-of-age novels in Britain and Denmark demonstrates that authors differ cross-nationally on their views of education as well as on the role of the individual in society. British novels beginning in the early eighteenth century largely portrayed learning as an individualistic activity of self-discovery for the upper classes and novelists later sought to expand the right to education to improve the circumstances of the poor. 

In comparison, Danish novels portrayed education as a tool for building a strong society, and youth were required to submit to the wisdom of elders for the good of society.

I used corpora of British and Danish literature to analyze word frequencies surrounding snippets of text surrounding education words, and demonstrated that my observations about selected novels hold true in the analyses of larger corpora.

On Using HathiTrust Datasets and Services

I constructed lists of classic corpora in Britain (562 items) and Denmark (521 items), using the Archive of Danish Literature and online lists of great works in the two countries. Most of the Danish sources were available from the Archive of Danish Literature; however, HathiTrust was able to supplement the pieces that I did not have. I got all of the full-text files from HathiTrust from Britain.

I [also] looked at Ted Underwood’s extremely helpful list of British literature. This is a great resource; however, the first dates of the publications of the volumes in my corpora are very important to my research design; but many of the works in HathiTrust are later editions of works. Therefore, I had to manually adjust the dates. This motivated me to develop my own lists of important works.   

I am so grateful to HathiTrust for answering endless questions at the beginning of my research. The HathiTrust folks such as Eleanor Dickson have been extremely helpful to me in my efforts to develop this research project.

I have an article that is forthcoming in World Politics, the premier journal in comparative politics and one of the top journals in the field of political science. I simply could not have written the article without the resources provided to me by HathiTrust.

If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why? What would you order?

… It would have to be Johann Sebastian Bach, because of the hours of happiness that he has given to me. Ludvig Holberg would be a close second, because he was the architect of the Danish model of social democracy as well as the early eighteenth-century father of Danish literature. I’m a vegetarian, so dinner might be a bit difficult.

Cathie Jo Martin is Professor of Political Science at Boston University and Director of the BU Center for the Study of Europe. Read her complete bio on the BU website. Boston University has been a HathiTrust member since 2011.