Corporate Style: The Effect of Comp Titles on Contemporary Literature
Laura McGrath
Thursday, October 4th, 2018
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Townsend Center, 220 Stephens Hall (Geballe Room)

Please join us for a lecture on what big data can tell us about the publishing industry and literary styles with Laura McGrath, the Associate Director of the Stanford University Literary Lab. Professor McGrath will also host an open seminar on the same date, "Quantifying without Computers" from 11-12:30.

More than bestseller lists of academic consecration via syllabi, "comps" (short for "comparative titles") represent the most significant metric of literary value in contemporary publishing. Comps are identified by editors in the acquisition process to predict a book's performance on the market and are often the deciding factor in a new acquisition. In this talk, McGrath will use large-scale computational methods to analyze comp title data obtained from publishers' quarterly catalogues between 2013-2019. She shows how comps produce and replicate "corporate style," not only limiting what--and who--is published, but defining literary style in the contemporary.

Laura McGrath is the Associate Director of the Stanford University Literary Lab and a postdoctoral fellow in English. Her primary interests lie in computational approaches to post45 American fiction. She is at work on a manuscript, a literary history of the agent, entitled Middlemen: Making Literature in the Age of Multimedia Conglomerates. She is also working on a second, trade book called Comps: The Big Data Behind the Book Business.

Sponsored by the UC Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature, the School of Information, Digital Humanities at Berkeley, The Digital Humanities Working Group, the D-Lab, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, and the UC Berkeley Library