Method: For my report on the “How Not to Read a Novel/Narrative,” my original texts (as you can see below), were Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Considering the instructions were to upload 5 texts to create a corpus, I decided to replace Alice in Wonderland, in order to have some consistency and similarities across the remaining 4 texts. The goal and idea was to keep these novels within the 19th century along with choosing novels that had strong female protagonists. With that said, I will be looking at the following novels by uploading them to Voyant tools and Ngram, in order to establish trends and patterns while commenting on the outcomes:
- Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen (1813)
- The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
- The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins (1860)
- Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (1868)
- The Awakening – Kate Chopin (1899)
Process: I began with first looking at only The Awakening, which I believe my intention was to see how the main character was viewed, and/or what type of language was used towards describing her identity in the world. Edna (main character) is striving for personal freedom and is wanting to break from traditional norms and the monotony of everyday life, while living in an era that viewed woman objectively.
As we can see above we have words such as: “house” “good” “children” “husband” “dinner” which would seem appropriate in a time when a conventional family unit was praised and was expected of by individuals. But then we have words such as: “eyes” “hand” “head” “little” used to describe her characteristics as a woman. This is not so out of the ordinary; however, when I input all 5 texts together the corpus showed similar words used to describe the female protagonists/characters.
What I found interesting is that since all these texts have the female characters trying to break or fracture traditional norms, the words “heart” “life” and “love” are not that commonly used. It seems the words to describe the female characters is suggestive of objectification, in this sense, using words like “eyes” “hand” “face” “young” “woman” we are only getting an idea of the physical attributes of the characters rather than getting an idea of their mentality.
Next I wanted to explore finding trends within all texts using words that I chose to describe the “journey” of one’s self-actualization. Again, these female characters are trying to break traditional conventions, so I wanted to see if there were trends within the following words: “self” “journey” “travel” “courage” and “curious.”
It’s fascinating that the word “self” seems to be isolated from the steps one would need to take in order to reach some form of self-contentment or understanding. Maybe the idea of ‘self’ was taboo in the 19th century? This would make perfect sense in a century where your identity and agency was dependent of your social status and monetary value.
For Google’s Ngram:
As you can see the word “self” is isolated. I find this fascinating since the idea of ‘self’ does not seem to fit in this time period. There seems to be some want to break from these conventions, but they seem minimal.
Another realization that I came to was the lack of sufficient mentioning of religious institutions throughout all 5 texts, which seems somewhat odd. Maybe the authors were trying to claim something negative about religion and its pressure on conventional societies? Something to think about…
Next, I wanted to look at terms describing marriage and it’s sanctity. The role of marriage seems to be very prevalent within the Victorian era of the 19th century. Usually your own identity and agency was dependent on.
I wanted to see what these words looked like in Google’s NGram as well:
I find it so interesting that the idea of being “in love” seems to be quite foreign. It’s not that it’s surprising in an era where marriage was more of a social status, but living in the 21st century, I find it sad and appalling that love does not seem to be a motivating factor when spending X amount of years with another person. I suppose if money is the main factor, then the idea of ‘love’ may have been a different concept or have a whole different meaning.
Reflections: Utilizing these particular tools in order to try and understand the general themes and patterns seems to be overwhelming when you first take a look at the information that is created. Initially a bunch of information is thrown in your face, and if you are not familiar with these tools, it can indeed be overwhelming and you may become anxious. Sure, noticing what words are repeated or used the most can indeed give the reader some insight. However, I don’t find it particularly useful to use these tools in order to get a close reading. Sure, you can use some of the data as evidence for support, but I find there is a big difference when it comes to creating a corpus, inputting key words you find appealing (what about the other words?), and then seeing what the output is. There can be times when the words are misleading if you have not actually read the text thoroughly. For example, there may be a word that shows up the most, but it may not have anything to do with the major or minor themes, which may give the reader the wrong impression of the text. I imagine this could lead to much confusion in a world that seems to be already confused by digitizing information. It’s a different experience altogether, as it does not feel as personal to me. Playing around with the words has been eye opening and it’s incredibly useful when having to access multiple texts, but again I’m not normally having to address multiple texts to find patterns/themes, but rather focusing on one particular novel/text.
First thing I noticed after uploading all the files shared is that these novels are predominantly male centered. There does not seem to be much reference to women, but rather the focus seems to be on men, work, and money.
It’s not surprising that “money” seems to be the motivating factor, whether is it the desire or lack of. We know Alger focuses on the “rag-to-riches” idea so it makes perfect sense. Again, I do find it interesting that there is an obvious lack of female agency mentioned in these stories, and I wonder if that coincides with the claim of his sexual orientation and his vague references to homosexuality within his novels? Also, considering his loyalty to the church sector, I found it interesting that there’s not noticeable mention of religion/church within these texts. (I believe the word “church” comes up 16 times only and “god” is counted 32 times).
Using Voyant for distant reading/not-reading is definitely helpful to get a general idea of what the texts are trying to convey, but obviously this does not generate interpretations for you. For example: the use of one particular word such as “rabbit” may show up a few times, but realistically has nothing to do with the meaning of the texts, and so a person may then interpret the meaning incorrectly. So I think one would need to actually have read the text all the way through in order to give insight to what the patterns and trends mean. I do like how you can look at multiple texts to gain information of patterns/trends, but that does not give me the actual plot or character development within the stories themselves. I much prefer to gain my own interpretation by reading a whole text; rather than a bunch of data trying to do it for me. I still enjoy using these tools and will continue to since they can help provide evidence for your interpretation, but I would not solely rely on them.
The graph above is interesting as these words decline in The Awakening, which makes sense as Edna walks herself into the sea and drowns (much like Virginia Woolf). It seems that the curiosity of a child stays consistent much like the innocence of a young child, whereas, there’s a decline in Edna (the adult), maybe that is to show how experience in the world can be a negative feeling to someone trying to break away from social norms and conventions.
This Ngram above is interesting as the word “self” is isolated from the words I used to describe the path of self, which I was not expecting.
Originally, I decided to use The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; however, considering I have not read EVERY story, I was not sure what exactly to look for. With that said, I decided to compare/contrast the texts: The Awakening by Kate Chopin and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Why? Well I was first drawn or interested in the idea that both texts have the theme of both main characters coming to some self realization in worlds that are trying to dictate who they should be. Even though one book is centered on an adult and the other a child, they both are essentially struggling to adapt to the behaviors and social norms of the world. Even though these texts are written 34 years apart, I want to see the words associated in both that may lead to the struggle of conformity. So, I decided to give this a try….
What did I notice first? Well, obviously the Cirrus visual which shows the most repeated words measuring in large to small print. It’s not surprising that “said” is used the most, what I did find a little interesting was the words I used below where not as popular on the Cirrus visual when I thought the opposite.
I was interested in the words used in order to describe these two character’s inquisitive nature, words such as “proper” “good” “wonder” “child (ish)” “curious” and who/what else in the story are connected to these words.
It’s interesting the words linked to the main words searched: “come” “said” “way” “mr” etc… Could be viewed as a dictation or control over the characters, again I’m keeping the idea of breaking conventions in mind as I am looking at these words. I’m interested in the word “journey” mostly as this idea seems to be the driving force of both Edna and Alice.
Phase II: Seems that I need to dive deeper in to the texts to see what parallels of language these two characters have in common. Is the language similar? Does it differ? If so, is it because of the gender differences of the authors or the age gap if the characters? Does the 34 year gap between both texts show a large difference in words used to describe these curious journeys?
Voyant Tools is quite fascinating since I have never tried to do a computational analysis on any texts I have read. The data can be useful in helping to gain substantial information of words used, links and patterns especially with multiple texts, which is something I did not know existed. I do want to mention that the ‘bubbles’ visual is just awful and should be avoided unless you want your eyes to start twitching. I am still having some difficulties with my computer even loading some of the visuals, along with difficulty in what web browsers will work properly. However, this is going to require quality time with playing around with the tools.
For my Wikipedia project, I have decided to work on the Iris Johansen page. Iris Johansen happens to be one of my favorite fiction authors, as I have spent an enormous amount of my time getting lost in her stories. It is very clear from her page that it is in dire need of some love and care. There is minimal information pertaining to her life and there happens to be a lack of recognition of her awards/accomplishments (seriously the bio paragraph is just sad, so much it does not contain a picture of the author).
(bet you’re jealous of this hairstyle, just sayin)
My aim is to work on adding more facts and information about her personal life as this page needs additional citations for verification since she happens to still be alive (breathing and all!). I would also like to add mention of her awards and accomplishments to bring light to what she has achieved in the world of literature. Lastly, I realized that the chronology and categorization of her books happens to be off, which I will work on correcting.
I read this short story without any of the annotations since this my normal habit when getting to know any type of literary text. I prefer not to have distractions that may dictate or guide my own understanding of the meaning that the text is trying to convey.
Slate: I liked how this version had helpful insight on the “moods” and “bodily functions” as to what was going on with the characters. I also like how the author of the annotations went into great detail of the historical and economic impact that certain events created. As a whole, I thought these annotations made the text richer in understanding and gave insight in terms of thinking in different perspectives and depths for this short story.
Genius: Why so many? Seriously, almost every line was annotated. I imagine there comes a time when you can have TOO many. With that said, I believe this author may have gotten carried away. It made the actual experience of reading this unpleasant for me. I believe the use of video/links was used to add humor, but only seemed unnecessary.
I would prefer to read the text plainly without annotations in order to form my own opinions on conveyed message. As for these two annotations, I would suggest Slate as I do find the annotations helpful, but I would suggest to skip the reading of the Genius annotations unless you like reading dense information that does not always pertain to the understanding of the story.