Nicholas Paige

Research Expertise and Interest

17th- and 18th-century French literature and culture, history and theory of the novel, quantitative literary history and digital humanities, aesthetics and image theory, cinema (French New Wave)

Research Description

Nicholas Paige is a professor in the Department of French at UC Berkeley. The bulk of his teaching and research concerns the early modern period, essentially the 17th and 18th centuries, but now stretching too well into the 19th. His latest book is Technologies of the Novel: Quantitative Data and the Evolution of Literary Systems (Cambridge, 2021)The study, which was supported by a Guggenheim fellowship, aims to be the first quantitative history of the novel: it traces the incubation, development, and subsequent abandonment of a variety of formal devices via a systematic sampling of the production of French- and English-language novels over the years 1600-1830. Drawing from studies of the evolution of technological artifacts, Paige argues that the novel is not one evolving (or “rising”) entity, but rather a system composed of discrete forms in constant but patterned flux. His previous book, Before Fiction: The Ancien Régime of the Novel (U Penn Press, 2011), awarded the 2013 ASECS Gottschalk prize for best book on the 18th century, offers a history of the novel from the point of view of fictionality (here, the notion that literary characters need not be “real people”); some of the methodological points raised in that study propel the data-driven approach of Technologies of the Novel. He is currently working on a series of interlocking case studies that, taken together, will offer a way of modeling the evolution of cultural artifacts (and the discourses circulating around them) that departs from long-dominant modes of “historicizing.”

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