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Exercise 8

1 min read

Inspired by Habermas's arguments regarding individual subjectivity and private writing oriented towards an other, I would be interested in tracking instances in a group of 18th-century novels composed of letters of times direct address to a recipient appears, and how the frequency of these occurrences changes over time. To what degree are letters simply diary entries with a recipient's name at the top, or news reports, and to what degree is the recipient an important and relevant part of the discourse? Is the letter a monologue or interaction with an imagined other? I would want to track instances of the use of the word "you" within letters, as well as the use of rhetorical questions ending with a question mark, and see if a pattern emerges over time. Both topic modeling and metadata would be useful in putting together the variables of direct address and date of publication of the novel.

Descriptive Bibliography

1 min read

Mackenzie, Henry. Julia de Roubigne, a tale. In a series of letters…Volume 1. London 1777. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. Swarthmore College Lib TRICO(PALCI).


Collation: xii. 206 p. 12mo.

Contents: A1r half title, A1v blank, A2r title page, A2v Corrections, A3r – A6v Introduction, A7r - K2v text.

Notes: I am assuming A1v is blank, although it was not included on ECCO.

Exercise 6

2 min read

My post just got deleted so I will start again...

One thing I kept noticing was the need for more quantitative data instead of so much categorical data. I thought about ways categorical data could be transformed numerically, like creating scales through which to measure certain elements of a novel (ex. romance to adventure, scale of 1 to 10, although this would take a lot of subjective input on the part of the researcher). I also thought about new characteristics to measure numerically, such as number of pages and number of mentions of certain words, although this might be difficult logistically without some really good OCR.

I also really wanted to find a way to look at specific words from title pages over time (I was especially interested in "adventure," "history," and "account"). However, I couldn't figure out a way on fusion to separate specific words from the rest of the words on their title page.

I was especially interested in how to narrow the scale of the y-axis so that none of the data is obscured. For instance, when looking at a bar chart of format, the count necessarily has to go up to 600, which obscures the very small number of "in sixes." I think when dealing with a dataset containing this much variability, different scales should be experimented with to produce drastically different results.

Prizmo, and the Meaning of Mistakes

2 min read

I used Prizmo (after much difficulty trying to download Abbey FineReader Pro onto both a PC and a Mac), and right of the bat, the program warned me that the image I had uploaded was not high enough resolution to decipher with the utmost accuracy. Prizmo ran some mysterious code that increased resolution and then proceeded to recognize maybe every tenth word. One of my favorite mistakes included "Blefling$ on his head," which sounds like a remix of a Fiddler on the Roof song.

One of the most interesting mistakes Prizmo made was failing to translate line by horizontal line, but instead (due to, I think, irregularities in spaces between words), translated some chunks of text vertically, I guess because the words were physically closer together.

Prizmo also had difficulty with italicized text, especially capital letters, and words that were fully capitalized and spaced out, like GEORGE the Second (the G E O R G E being stretched to imply importance?). I was also surprised to see it miss completely some words that had neither spacial differences nor font changes, like the word "gloriously," which it substituted with a string of dots, the number of which matched the correct number of letters in the word. I wonder if it didn't recognize this because the s might have been coded as an "f."

Certainly Prizmo's errors tell us something about the difficulty in translating textual conventions across centuries (although spacing out words to emphasize them is still done on Tumblr). It also brings up questions about the true substance of a text - how many shadows of shadows am I looking at when I read the OCR text, and to what degree is an original copy of the novel one of Plato's "real" puppets? What other acts of translation occur between the world, the author's mind, his pen, or voice, and each subsequent reprinting? What purpose do conventions like spacing, or italics, serve in animating the characters or etching their voices into our minds? For me, the narrator's voice is overly inflected with enthusiasm, like a roller coaster, because of the use of long sentences that contain within them high (italicized) and low (parenthetical) phrases, because I read them to myself in a human voice, but someone else could parse that differently.


Agency and Goodness

2 min read

I was interested to observe the frequency of active words, such as said, thought, reason, believe, saw, hope, gave, stay, I’ll, came, shall, and wish, which I associate with agency, freedom, self-determination, and the new rise of these options for women. Then again, I did examine every case to see who was the subject before each verb.

On the other hand, however, the most frequent words also included good, dear, master, and honour, which I see as terms used to narrowly define and limit women. Perhaps this obscures the more specific uses of these terms in favor of generalizations.

I decided, then, to look up the frequency and specific usage of the terms good and bad, with surprising results. Good remains solidly frequent throughout the novel, but bad starts out frequent but makes a marked decline to the end. I'm not quite sure what this could signify- the triumph of good over evil? Bad appears a lot next to conscience and in terms of the contents of one's heart. Also: bad name, bad conduct, bad actions, bad words, and bad designs. I wonder what the decline of "bad" implies - certainly not the end of moralizing judgment or categorical criticism.


Dates - A Way to Assert Control and Meaning?

2 min read

I was really fascinated with the use of dates in the novel, especially from Crusoe's point of view. Later in the novel, after his religious awakening, he starts to become interested in the specific dates that catastrophes or deliverances happened to him, seeing a pattern of major events falling on the same day, including his birthday. And keeping track of what day it is seems important to him not just from a farming perspective (when is it dry season or wet, etc.) but from a perspective of trying to maintain some agency over his experience. At the very least, he can tell how many days he has survived and what day of the month the rest of the world is experiencing somewhere far away. It seems distressing to him when he sleeps through a day in a fever and messes up his count - this seems like a dilemma of his physical condition causing him to lose even more contact with the world/his own autonomy. As he sleeps, the world continues but he is not conscious of it. If a tree falls...

Since I thought Crusoe was keeping track of his days in order to stay in the world, in some sense, it surprised me when daily loggings began to morph into months and then years, and suddenly we were 18 years in. Maybe's Crusoe's fascination with the significance of certain dates is an attempt to pull something out of the blur of his labor, to make his very life significant, predetermined, and in some ways, predictable.

All Crusoe has is time, so much of it that it doesn't really matter if he spends months on a project or hours. Perhaps marking time is a way of limiting his life, which seems to be terrifyingly surrounded by infinities (of ocean, death, and hours).

Looking at the lists of dates, some cut large swaths (summer, spring) while others pinpoint. I wonder which is pleasanter to a man: to labor with the anxiety of our modern age (time is money), or to labor with no end in sight, and no objective but his own comfort. Whether time is measured or irrelevant, Crusoe continues to work, and the only time he feels true loss is when he must stand still, ill, and watch time pass him by.

p. 38

1 min read

"I believe it is impossible to express to the life what the extasies and transports of the soul are, when it is so sav'd, as I may say, out of the very grave; and I do not wonder now at that custom, that when a malefactor who has the halter about his neck, is tyed up, and just going to be turn'd off, and has a reprieve brought to him: I say, I do not wonder that they bring a surgeon with it, to let him blood that very moment they tell him of it, that the surprise may not drive the animal spirits from the heart, and overwhelm him..."