Intertextual networks of the French Enlightenment: the ModERN Project

The ERC-funded ModERN Project - Modelling Enlightenment. Reassembling Networks of Modernity through data-driven research – is a five-year project whose primary goal is to establish a new ‘data-driven’ literary and intellectual history of the French Enlightenment; one that is both more comprehensive and more systematic in terms of its relationship to the existing digital cultural record, and one that challenges subsequent narratives of European Modernity. To accomplish this, ModERN is deploying a unique combination of cutting-edge computational technologies, a conceptual framework that merges actor-network theory with data-driven discovery, and traditional critical and textual methods, all of which are used to scrutinise the digital archive of the Enlightenment period in France and its aftermath. Specifically, the project employs new techniques for large-scale text analysis and deep neural network language modelling developed in the digital humanities and artificial intelligence communities to identify and analyse conceptual and intertextual networks over an unprecedented collection of 18th- and 19th-century texts. In the context of this seminar, project PI Glenn Roe will present the initial stages of the project, including corpus construction, large-scale text alignment, noise reduction using BERT and other Large Language Models (LLMs), and preliminary network analyses.

Glenn Roe is Professor of French Literature and Digital Humanities in the Faculty of Letters at Sorbonne University. He has written several books on the Enlightenment and Digital Humanities, including The Passion of Charles Péguy: Literature, Modernity, and the Crisis of Historicism, Oxford University Press (2014), the edited volume: Digitizing Enlightenment, with Simon Burrows, Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment (2020), Voltaire’s Correspondence: Digital Readings, with Nicholas Cronk, Cambridge University Press (2020), and the forthcoming L’Encyclopédie, chantier des humanités numériques.