When looking into a preliminary reading list on the topic of digital humanities, I found that there were many articles relating to women’s involvement in the area. Scholars such as Bethany Nowviskie and Moya Z Bailey have argued that it is a male dominated area. I think this is particularly relevant to my project which hopes to find a link between 18th century author’s gender and their book titles.
Other digital humanities reading which will be important in laying the groundwork for my project will be Matthew Jockers’ ‘Macroanalysis’, in which he conducts a similar project to this on classification in novels. Stanley Fish’s ideas will also be discussed, a scholar who believes that using digital humanities as a way of conducting analyses on texts is not the way forward, and that we are in fact limited by our tools. Alongside this argument, Stephen Ramsey’s ‘Algorithmic Criticism’ will be discussed to show the positives and negatives which many scholars find in work of this type.
The articles mentioned above hope to be used in this project to show an awareness of the pros and cons and the debates surrounding the digital humanities.
My project is currently in the research stage. Having previously decided to locate a representative sample of texts spanning the eighteenth century, I now need to locate these specific texts. In order to do this, I am undergoing research into the female novelists that are available this time in order to locate them.
To narrow my project down to a manageable size with a working rationale, my research into female novelists will be split into three specific sections:
Early Eighteenth Century – This section encompasses the scandal Novel otherwise referred to as the Amatory Novel, which include a risque portrayal of love.
Mid Eighteenth Century – This section sees the development of the Conventional Novel, showing a conservative writing style employed by female novelists.
Late Eighteenth Century – This section includes the rise of the Gothic Novel, as well as the birth of the radical feminist novel influenced by the French Revolution. This specific type of female novel exists alongside the previously explored conventional novel.
I will research into these sections on the development of the female novel finding related journals and literary criticism. Research into these specific sections and areas of particular interest within these sections will provide a more direct line of investigation for my project. I will aim to either prove or disprove arguments of findings set out by this research through my own analysis using distance reading and visualization tools.
In order to do this, I will test my range of texts against different sets of word frequencies, to analyse whether the representative range of texts I have gathered coincides with the findings set forth by the literary critics, using screenshots and links of my visual work to act as evidence for this research.
Following the use of distance reading tools, I will also include research into Digital Humanities and the process of distance reading in a reflective manner, explaining why I have chosen this approach to satisfy my project, and showing my knowledge of both the pros and cons of this approach.
At this point in my project, I am currently researching different digital humanities literary resources that relate to my project. I am looking at the different scholars’ views about using mapping to critique the arts. I will be exploring these further and relying on them for my essay, in-particular William Kretzschmar and Martyn Jessop. To build the foundation of my project, I am going to start by using Google maps tools, and compile a map: this will be done by annotating it with key parts of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, in the hope of being able to identify key themes in order to build an essay.
A few of you are working on projects that involve some form of distant reading or macroanalysis …
Culturomics: for those of you using Google’s N-Gram viewer, you’ll find it useful to know more about what’s going on behind the scenes, as it were, including its development, context, and guidance on interpretation. Check out the Culturomics website; also its webpage Bookworm offers other N-Gram viewers and digital archives other than Google’s.
There has also been a debate taking place in DH across blogs and twitter about validity and representativeness when it comes to analysing a large corpus of texts (such as Google Books or Hathi Trust). A number of our own discussions have revolved around the representativeness of the corpus of eighteenth-century titles or works you have created in workshops and the validity of the analyses you have produced. A good place to start is Scott Weingart’s blog essay ‘Not Enough Perspectives I’. You don’t necessarily have to follow up on all the links, but check out his valuable comments on ‘The Great Unread’ (pace Franco Moretti), ‘Tsundoko’ (Japanese word for an ever-increasing pile of books bought but not read), and ‘the Forgotten Read’. See also Ted Underwood’s earlier post ‘Distant Reading and Representativeness’.
Dame Martha Lane Fox, who is championing the setting up of an Institute – Dot Everyone – to drive digital knowledge in the UK, quoted the late internet activist Aaron Swartz in her talk for the BBC Dimbleby Lecture: “It’s not OK not to understand the internet anymore” – a sentiment we’ve faced head-on in this module. In a talk ‘Dot Everyone: Power, the Internet, and You’ she outlined three areas in which the UK needs to develop its digital skills:
to educate and understand the history of the internet;
to put women at the centre of digital skills and address the current gender imbalance;
to take a lead in exmining the moral and ethical challanges posed by the internet.
Throughout, she also name-checking pioneers in computer technology such as Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, and Sir Tim Berners-Lee. In calling for a revolution in the government’s thinking towards digital skills, she finished her talk by quoting someone we students of eighteenth-century English writing are very aware of: the pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft: “the beginning is always today”.