Program in Comparative Literature

Matt Cohen

Associate ProfessorPh.D., 2002, College of William and Mary

Associate Professor of English
Matt Cohen



Matt Cohen is an associate professor in the Department of English. He is the author of The Networked Wilderness: Communicating in Early New England (U of Minnesota P, 2010), a study of intercultural communication interactions in colonial America. He is a contributing editor at the Walt Whitman Archive, where with Rachel Price he edited a digital version of the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into Spanish, Álvaro Armando Vasseur's Walt Whitman: Poemas. He has published translations and critical essays on American literature in Spanish translation in PMLA and Modern Language Studies.


Cohen Lab Web Page

Below are brief descriptions of the latest work in Matt Cohen's humanities laboratory.  For fuller accounts, white papers, samples of the projects, and a full list of the research assistants who make all of this possible, see

Cohen Lab advises or serves several external projects, as well. Current projects include Civil War Washington (Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln); "Reading the First Books" (UT Austin and Texas A & M);  Melville's Marginalia Online (Boise State Univ.); and the Lapidus Digital Scholarship Initiative at the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture. Past projects include the Our Americas Archive Partnership (Rice Univ.) and Nineteenth-Century Studies: Resources for an Interdisciplinary Curriculum (Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln).

Creating Digital Versions of Walt Whitman's Marginal Annotations

Whitman's marginal annotations--his annotations and other scribblings on or about other writers' printed works--show the poet responding to a broad swath of literary, historical, philosophical, and scientific antecedents, and sometimes take extraordinary physical shapes. They've never been edited as a group before, and most have never even been reprinted in any form. They are an astonishingly rich resource for students of Whitman, of nineteenth-century American literature, and of textual studies more broadly.

In 2007-08, Cohen Lab received a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop software tools and protocols for digital representation of static multimedia documents. We built prototype tools for marking up such documents as well as for displaying interactive search results for such documents using images and text.

Supported by an NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant from 2012-2014, we have built a demonstration site gathering scans from the archives that hold large or particularly rich collections of Whitman's annotated material, including Duke University's Special Collections, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and Middlebury College Special Collections; and transcribed and encoded 800 pages' worth of these documents for free public web-based access.

Current staff:

  • Alejandro Omidsalar, Project Manager, Assistant Editor
  • Ty Alyea, Editorial Assistant


Nicole Gray, Senior Assistant Editor, Project Manager, 2010-2012
Elizabeth Frye, Editorial Assistant, 2012
Laura Beerits, Editorial Assistant, 2013
Mike Speriosu, Developer, 2013
Brett Barney, Consultant, 2011-2014
Lauren Grewe, Senior Assistant Editor, Project Manager 2011-2014
Ashley Palmer, Assistant Editor, Project Manager 2015-2016

Whitman's Poetry Reprints

We are making a bibliographic hand list of the reprints of Walt Whitman’s poetry that were issued during his lifetime (1819-1892). The list will include first appearances of his poetry in periodicals, as well as reprints in newspapers, magazines, advertisements, reviews, anthologies, occasional publications, and other venues. Currently the list is maintained in a spreadsheet; the latest version of it may be downloaded at the Cohen lab website or, with data visualization, be seen at

As the project proceeds, we will make available our findings both at the lab site and by way of a website that will allow us to display several different visualizations of the data.

Project Participants:

  • Matt Cohen, University of Texas at Austin
  • Ashley Palmer, Indiana University Bloomington
  • Stephanie Blalock, University of Iowa
  • Alejandro Omidsalar, University of Texas at Austin

Whitman in Translation

In the summer of 2011, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Iowa hosted a Research Seminar, “Walt Whitman International: Literary Translation and the Digital Archive.” Whitman scholars and translators working in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Polish gathered to consider Whitman's poems in comparative translation and to speculate about what an electronic edition of such a comparison might look like.

The group decided to find all translations of one poem, Whitman's "Poets to Come," and present them online. Cohenlab completed a set of Spanish translations in the fall of 2011, published at the Walt Whitman Archive in Fall 2012.


  • Nicole Gray, Project Manager and Assistant Editor
  • Rey Rocha, Assistant Editor


TextGrounder is a system that processes texts to identify the places and times that are mentioned in them and disambiguates them to points on Earth or on the historical timeline. We're trying to make it easy to pull geolocations from literary texts, focusing on frequently taught texts from nineteenth-century American literature. The system uses a number of natural language processing components, plus unsupervised machine learning methods for disambiguation. The output of the system can be used to create various geotemporal visualizations of texts and text corpora, for example, on Google Earth.

Textgrounder is the brainchild of Jason Baldridge (Linguistics, UT Austin), and is supported by the New York Community Trust. Matt Cohen and Jason Baldridge were co-PIs of a grant to develop Textgrounder for pedagogical uses from Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services at UT Austin in 2011-12.

See or for more information and a glimpse of the state of the project.

With Walt Whitman in Camden: A Digital Edition

In summer 2012, we completed a digital edition of Horace Traubel's nine-volume work, With Walt Whitman in Camden. This set of books is a treasure trove of Whitman's opinions on all things both trivial and important. Making them available in an electronically searchable form will advance Whitman studies, since few libraries have a complete set and they are cumbersome to use because of their inadequate indexing.  This edition combines fully searchable electronic text of the nine volumes with selected facsimile digital images of the ephemera (letters and poetry drafts, for example) that were reproduced in the original books. We are currently at work on an introduction sketching the literary and material contexts from which Traubel's text emerged.

For full credits, see the links to the individual volumes here. In 2015, Ian Faith and Alex Ashland of the University of Iowa performed important fixes to both the text and layout of vols. 1 and 4.

Walt Whitman's Poemas: A Digital Edition

The first known edition of Walt Whitman's poems in Spanish translation, titled Poemas, appeared in 1912 in Valencia. Translated by Uruguayan poet and socialist Álvaro Armando Vasseur, the text was based largely on a previously published Italian translation and other foreign editions.

This digital edition is freely available at the Walt Whitman Archive (, offering both the opportunity to teach Whitman's poetry from its first widely distributed Spanish translation and to consider the larger questions of translation, both literary and cultural, raised by its complex translation history. An introduction by Rachel Price and Matt Cohen traces what is known of the bibliographical genealogy and critical discussion of the text, situates Poemas in its contemporary international literary and political context, and briefly sketches important or unusual features of Vasseur's translation.

Bibliography of Walt Whitman Criticism

The Whitman bibliography is one of the most powerful and important tools on the Walt Whitman Archive. This critical bibliography of Whitman, dating back to the earliest reviews of his work, represents the only such online, searchable resource available for a major American author. With the generous permission of Donald Kummings, editor of Walt Whitman, 1940-1975: A Reference Guide (G.K. Hall, 1982), we expanded the database back to 1940; in 2009-10 we completed the automated updating of the database with entries from Scott Giantvalley's bibliography, dating back to Whitman's time. These bibliographies will, as part of the ongoing work of the Archive, be edited and supplemented with newly discovered entries.


  • Matt Cohen
  • Travis Brown
  • Erica Fretwell
  • Bethany Allen

Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies, 2010-2011

During the 2010-11 academic year, I was co-director, with Lars Hinrichs, of the Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies (TILTS). TILTS is a series of year-long institutes with changing themes, hosted by the UT English Department. The 2010-11 theme was "The Digital and the Human(ities)."

We held three symposia: February 3-5; March 10-12; and May 26-28. Each symposium focused on a different aspect of the digital humanities that's getting a lot of attention lately.

Please visit our website, which features streaming video of the keynotes, a full program, and audio files of many of the panels; and follow us on Twitter



Matt Cohen, "Walt Whitman's Eidólon of Exile: Distribution and the Literary Imagination." Censorship and Exile. Johanna Hartmann and Hubert Zapf, eds. Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2015.

Matt Cohen, “Believing in Piety: Spiritual Transformation across Cultures in Early New England.” Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas. Stephanie Kirk and Sarah Rivett, eds. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. 161-179.

Matt Cohen, “A History of Books in the Indigenous Americas.” The World of Indigenous North America. Robert Warrior, ed. New York: Routledge, 2014. 308-329.

George Lippard, The Killers: A Narrative of Real Life in Philadelphia, Matt Cohen and Edlie Wong, eds. (Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).

Matt Cohen and Jeffrey Glover, ed. Colonial Mediascapes: Sensory Worlds of the Early Americas (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014).

Matt Cohen, interview by Bob Phillips and Jianfei He. Arts Review feature on The Networked Wilderness. Aboriginal Voices Radio. Toronto, Canada. Radio and internet broadcast. Aired 17 Nov. and 24 Nov. 2013. < >

Matt Cohen, “‘The Indians Told Them That Sickness Would Follow’: A Response to Miraculous Plagues,” and “Response to Cristobal Silva,” William & Mary Quarterly 3rd. ser. 70.4 (Oct 2013): 827-831; 847-48.

Whitman, Walt. “Song of Myself / El canto de mí mismo.” Trans. Matt Cohen. WhitmanWeb. Iowa City: International Writing Program, University of Iowa (2012-2013). Part of a parallel translation project, publishing the 52 sections of “Song of Myself,” one section each week from October 2012-2013. <>

Matt Cohen, "Indigenous Networks: Rethinking Print Culture through Early American Media," Common-Place 12.2 (2012) <>

Matt Cohen and Lars Hinrichs, ed. "Literature and Linguistics: Computation and Convergence." Special issue of Texas Studies in Literature and Language 54.3 (2012). "Introduction," 299-302.

Matt Cohen, “The Codex and the Knife.” Textual Cultures 6:2 (Autumn 2011 [2012]): 109-118.

Matt Cohen, “The Dove and the Serpent: Indian and English Deception in Early New England.” Native Acts: American Indian Performance. Joshua David Bellin and Laura Mielke, eds. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011. 27-52.

Matt Cohen, “The New Life of the New Forms: American Literary Studies and the Digital Humanities.” For The Blackwell Companion to American Literary Studies. Caroline Levander and Robert Levine, eds. London: Blackwell, 2011. 532-548.

Matt Cohen, “Design and Politics in Electronic American Literary Archives,” The American Literature Scholar in the Digital Age. Amy Earhart and Andrew Jewell, eds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010. 228-249.

Matt Cohen, "New England, Nonesuch." American Literary History 22.2 (2010): 307-319.

Matt Cohen, The Networked Wilderness: Communicating in Early New England (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009).

Matt Cohen, “Plantation Modernism,” Mississippi Quarterly 60.2 (Spring 2007 [c. 2008]): 385-411.

Matt Cohen, “State of the Discipline: The History of the Book in New England,”  Book History 11 (2008): 301-323.

Matt Cohen and Rachel Price, introduction and translation, “Álvaro Armando Vasseur’s Preface to the Sixth Edition of Walt Whitman: Poemas," PMLA 123.2 (2008): 438-451.

Lauren Coats, Matt Cohen, John David Miles, Kinohi Nishikawa, and Rebecca Walsh, “Those We Don’t Speak Of: Indians in The Village,”  PMLA 123.2 (2008): 358-374.

Matt Cohen, “Untranslatable? Making American Literature in Translation Digital,” Modern Language Studies 37.1 (Summer 2007): 43-53.

Matt Cohen, “‘To Reach the Workmen Direct’: Horace Traubel and the 1855 Edition of Leaves of Grass," Leaves of Grass: The Sesquicentennial Essays, Susan Belasco, Ed Folsom, and Kenneth M. Price, eds. (University of Nebraska Press, 2007): 299-320.

Matt Cohen, “Tarzan the German-Eater,” Comparative American Studies 4.2 (2006): 151-174.

Matt Cohen, "Transgenic Deformation: Literary Translation and the Digital Archive.” Walt Whitman Archive (2006). <>

Matt Cohen, ed., Brother Men: The Correspondence of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Herbert T. Weston (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005). 

Matt Cohen, “Traubel in Paradise,” Mickle Street Review 16 (2004).  <>

Matt Cohen, “Morton’s Maypole and the Indians: Publishing in Early New England,” Book History 5 (2002): 1-18.

Matt Cohen, “Making the View from Lookout Mountain: Sectionalism and National Visual Culture,” Prospects: An Annual Review of American Studies 25 (Winter 2000): 269-280.

Matt Cohen, “Walt Whitman, the Bachelor, and Sexual Poetics,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 16:3-4 (Winter/Spring 1999): 145-152.

Matt Cohen, “Martin Tupper, Walt Whitman, and the Early Reviews of Leaves of Grass,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 16:1 (Summer 1998): 23-31.