Daniel Gordon, professor of history with reserach interest in European history, will be a visiting senior research associate at the University of Chicago’s Textual Optics Lab in the summer of 2019.
The University of Chicago is a leader in the field of “digital humanities,” especially in the area of French studies.
Gordon stated that the fellowship in Chicago will be valuable to his research for two reasons. “First, the University of Chicago has some databases of French texts that are not yet available to the general public. Secondly, I’d like to transition from studying vocabulary to syntax. For example, instead of just focusing on how (Alexis de) Tocqueville used the adjective ‘democratic’ differently from previous political thinkers, I’d like to assess how he uses adjectives in general differently from, say, Marx,” he says.
In addition to summer work on Tocqueville, Gordon plans to complete an article he was commissioned to write for “The Oxford History of International Relations.” The article will cover the eighteenth century and will give special attention to proposals for the creation of an international government along the lines of the current United Nations.
In the 1980s, Gordon was a graduate student at the University of Chicago and worked for Robert Morrissey, professor of French, who founded the American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language (ARTFL).
Gordon also explained how his research involves databases. “Throughout my career, I have paid attention to the emergence and popularization of key terms in political discourse: terms like ‘social,’ ‘public opinion,’ ‘democracy,” and ‘civilization.’ Textual databases allow one to trace the appearance of these terms and to assess how a given author uses the terms differently from other writers,” he says.
Gordon recently edited “The Anthem Companion to Tocqueville,” to be published by Anthem Press in the fall of 2019. In one of his own contributions to the volume, “Tocqueville and Linguistic Innovation,” Gordon focused on how Tocqueville, a writer often portrayed as linguistically conservative, deployed many neologisms, or new terms, such as “individualism” and “decentralization” as well as oxymorons such as “democratic despotism.”