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Exercise 8

2 min read

How much do titles foreshadow what the novel is truly about? To what extent do the elaborate descriptive titles of the 18th century novels we’ve looked at reflect the themes with which the novel is occupied? Do the words that appear on the title page reappear throughout, or are they simply there to attract readers?

I’m not entirely sure how to execute this using only the exact topic modeling and metadata tools of the past two assignments, but very similar technology could answer these questions. The topic modeling would need to be limited to a single novel (if we wanted to do this very inefficiently, with tons of iterations), or there would need to be a way to connect the topic modeling to the metadata in such a way that matches novels with themselves. That was poorly explained. What I’m trying to say is that the two technologies would need to be combined in such a way that would allow us to compare words in titles to themes within individual novels. This would allow us to determine—albeit pretty abstractly and inconclusively—how much of a correlation there is between what the title promises the reader and what is delivered.

Alternatively, there could be a cool tool that uses the basis of topic modeling—co-occurrence of words—but examining the titles as well as the body of the text. In novels with “virtue” in the title, what percentage of the words are “virtue” or related terms? And what topic does “virtue” belong to? What does that tell us about novels with “virtue” in the title?