Visualizing this metadata is super exciting — it seems like there are huge comparative possibilities here, in terms of working with a giant set of information about early novels. Having explored the END website, the existing data visualizations, such as the publisher network, seem like excellent uses of the data, and it also looks like you could combine all of the categories in a staggering variety of permutations to ask and work towards answers of many different research questions. While playing with the data — specifically, visualizing formats with a pie chart — what became fascinating to me was the way in which the metadata draws together a huge variety of literary critical questions about material conditions of publication, reception history, authorial intent, generic categorization and formal analysis. The metadata collected brings up all of these questions for me: what kind of constraints or possibilities were authors working with as they wrote their books for publication, how might material conditions come to bear upon the texts themselves, what do we make of the commonality of certain words in titles, and on and on.
Considering larger things about visualizing and analyzing metadata, I think Ramsay’s article is quite helpful here — I was initially caught up by the fact that this is a small selection of an incomplete set of data (incomplete because we don’t know how many novels/have access to every novel printed, read, etc. in the eighteenth century, for instance) and that drawing conclusions (after properly calculating statistical significance) wouldn’t be possible since this isn’t a random sample or a full set of data. But Ramsay’s point, that our interest as literary critics is not to prove things 100% and rather to open up interesting possibilities and questions, and that digital approaches to texts can assist mightily with this endeavor, clarifies that this is not as big of a problem and doesn’t prevent us from generating criticism, asking/beginning to answer fascinating questions about texts, having new conversations about books, etc.
What specifically excites me is the way in which the metadata provides a way in which to engage with my interest in genres. To pick just one question I thought of while looking at the data — making a word cloud of the TitleNouns category specifically — I’d really like to compare the information from the title pages in order to see if generic assumptions can be supported or challenged with this information (as Ramsay does with the arguments about gender in the criticism surrounding Woolf’s To the Lighthouse). Based on that title information, one might be able to question whether our generic categories are broad or varied or specific enough to actually enhance our understanding of novels, and from there work towards an understanding of one specific dynamic of the relationship between literary and material form.
#Exercise6 #metadata #Ramsay #visualization #titlepages