Richard Jean So

Assistant Professor, English; Co-Director, Text Lab, University of Chicago

Metaknowledge Interests

For the Metaknowledge project, he is working on computational and quantitative approaches to the study of cultural and aesthetic forms.  He is particularly interested in using new social-scientific methods, such as Social Network Analysis and Natural Language Processing, to study the emergence, diffusion, and reproduction of ideas and literary styles within modern U.S. culture.  He combines this approach with traditional humanist modes of textual explication and archival research to model a form of analysis that mediates between close and distant reading. One specific project he is developing (1) maps the different ideological and literary schools of modern U.S. culture, such as African-American literature and conservative "Ayn Rand" thought, on a macro-scale; (2) empirically identifies their respective patterns of rhetoric and language; and (3) examines their competitive modes of interaction through the exchange or rejection of "memes."  The major question he is interested in is: how do rhetorical and ideological forms induce broader social affiliations or cliques? 


Broadly speaking, Richard's teaching and research interests center on modern American literature in a transnational context. Within this area, he is interested in theories of cultural transnationalism, the history of media and communications, and the “Pacific” (which includes U.S., Asian American, and East Asian cultures) as a coherent area of study. Richard also does substantial work in the digital humanities. In particular, he is interested in the use of new computational and social scientific methods, such as text mining, to model a form of textual criticism that mediates between distant and close reading approaches.

Current Projects

Concept Lives

Schools of Thought