QCL was founded in 2014 following a discussion between Joseph Dexter and Pramit Chaudhuri, the project co-founders and current co-directors, at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Classical Studies in Chicago. The discussion centred on current developments in Classics and the Digital Humanities, and on the opportunities for a cross-disciplinary research project drawing on Joseph and Pramit’s shared background in Classics and on Joseph’s principal work in computational biology.
The project grew out of a longstanding collaboration that began in 2009, when as a then-high school senior Joseph enrolled in a seminar on Vergil taught by Pramit at Dartmouth College. In the following years, while an undergraduate at Princeton, Joseph went on to publish two articles in Classics journals based on work done in the seminar. Meanwhile, Pramit was publishing on the classical epic and tragic traditions from Homer to Shakespeare and Milton. Both Joseph’s and Pramit’s work in Classics focused heavily on intertextuality and reception studies, while Joseph’s primary field was computational biology. Over the years, discussions regularly turned to the possibilities for integrating the humanities and sciences in some novel way, but it was only in 2014 that the idea for a true marriage of quantitative methods and literary criticism took shape against the background of the growth of the Digital Humanities.
Thanks to the support of Dan Rockmore, Director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth, the project received start-up funding in early 2014 and was able to recruit a number of Dartmouth undergraduates in Classics and computer science. The practice of recruiting a wide range of collaborators, including high school students, teachers, and non-specialist affiliates, has continued, and the project has benefited from a substantial contribution from rising high school seniors participating in the Research Science Institute.
QCL and its co-directors have gone on to receive substantial funding, totaling nearly half a million dollars, from various institutions, including the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Dartmouth College, and the University of Texas at Austin. 2015 saw the first publication by the project, an article co-written with an undergraduate and appearing in the Classics journal Dictynna, and 2016 the first public release of the project’s tools and the establishment of a physical lab space for QCL at UT Austin. In 2017 a team of 12 QCL affiliates led by Pramit and Joseph published an article about literary stylometry in PNAS, the project’s first publication in a multidisciplinary venue and one of the first pieces of humanistic scholarship ever to appear in a high-profile science journal.