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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of English Language and Literature

Faculty and Staff Directory

Michael Gavin

Associate Professor
Department of English Language and Literature

Phone Number: (803) 576-5960
Office: HUO 310


Ph.D., English, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2010
B.A., English, The Ohio State University, 1999

Areas of Specialization 

   Restoration and 18th-century English Literature and Culture
   Book History
   Digital Humanities

Recently Taught Courses 

SCHC 452    Digital Literary Studies
ENGL 439     Fictional Worlds, Simulation in Theory and Practice from Robinson Crusoe to Civilization IV
ENGL 419C   Celebrity and Spectacle on the Eighteenth-Century Stage
ENGL 717     Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Literature

Current Research Projects 

I write and teach about literature, philosophy, and digital humanities. Broadly speaking, I'm interested in the ways that technology affects communication. My first book, The Invention of English Criticism, 1650-1760, will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2015. It examines the popularization of literary debate over the eighteenth century, when the spread of the printing press, newspapers, and magazines coincided with a global expansion of trade. Writers of the period were deeply concerned with questions about the ethics and aesthetics of reading, and since completing Invention of English Criticism I’ve been studying the way early critics and philosophers defined fiction. The rise of the realist novel reignited a set of old metaphysical debates: What’s real and what isn’t? Why make up stories about pretend people? What good is it to know anything about people who don’t exist? To me, these are the fundamental questions of literature — both for students and for professors. They are the subject of my ongoing second book, Fiction in a Plural World,which examines fiction and unreality as overlapping topics in literary criticism and philosophy, from the eighteenth century to today.

I also teach and write in the field called “digital humanities” or “humanities computing.” While working on the history of “fiction” as category of writing, I’ve become more curious about “simulation” as a category in computing, and my current digital humanities work explores the philosophy and practice of what’s called “agent-based modeling.” I have an essay forthcoming in Digital Humanities Quarterly on modeling’s relationship to history, and right now I’m working on simulations of Adam Smith’s social philosophy, with the hope of better understanding how his ethics and economics relate. This academic year I will present this research at the upcoming Digital Humanities and Computer Science Colloquium (Chicago, October 2014) and at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (Los Angeles, March 2015).

In Spring 2014 I'll teach a graduate course, “ENGL620 Modeling Literary History: The Enlightenment,” on quantitative methods for studying intellectual history.

Selected Publications 

   • “Agent-Based Modeling and Historical Simulation,” Digital Humanities Quarterly (forthcoming)
   • “Real Robinson Crusoe,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction (2013)
   • “Writing Print Cultures Past: Literary Criticism and Book History,” Book History (2013)
   • "Critics and Criticism in the Poetry of Anne Finch," ELH (Fall 2011)
   • "James Boswell and the Uses of Criticism," SEL (Summer 2010)

Recent Presentations 

   • "Agent-Based Modeling and Historical Simulation," Digital Humanities Conference, Lincoln, NE, July 2013.
   • "Mapping TEI to the Metadata Authority Description Schema," with Jennifer D. Miller, Rice University, TEI Annual Conference, College Station, TX, November 2013
   • "Visualizing Drama: Word, Image, Space," with Jennifer Hargrave, Rice University, ASECS Annual Meeting, San Antonio, March 2012
   • "Digital Drama: Archiving Performance," ASECS Annual Meeting, San Antonio, March 2012
   • "Boswell & Co.: Collaboration and the Uses of Scurrility," ASECS Annual Meeting, Albuquerque, March 2010
   • "Books of Letters in 17th-Century France and England: from Correspondence to Publicity," with Mathilde Bombart, Letters as Media Conference, Center for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers University, March 2009