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Exercise 8

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Research Question: How did the ways in which novels talked about women and social class change from the beginning to the end of the 18th century?

I think that an interesting way to go about answering this question would be to first use metadata, i.e. years of publication, to separate groups of novels written from 1700-1720, 1720-1740, 1740-1760, 1760-1780, and finally, 1780-1800. One could then use a topic modeling tool to create topics for the novels in each of these corpuses, and look for patterns in topics that mention gender or class. Do they tend to focus on beauty and wealth? Or on virtue? Maybe on intelligence and kindness? These questions go alongside the Questions of Virtue that raised by McKeon, and could help to think about how novels answered these questions throughout the century. A further analysis could even look at the titles of the works written during each of the time periods, and a simple word cloud could help to give a sense of what words were common and what words were not.

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