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Step 1: An interesting distinction I noticed in the novels listed in this bibliography was the difference between novels that seemed to me to fit more of the contemporary conventions of novels and those that much more resembled the style of the early novels that we have read so far in class. A few characteristics gave me the impression of this notable difference, one of the most salient being the question of descriptiveness. The novels which seemed most like Robinson Crusoe, Pamela, and Evelina were those overflowing with descriptive information in the title of the book. Many of the novels listed here had more than one title; a primary one such as a person’s name, followed by a clarifying phrase that conveyed the form of the novel (letters, memoirs, etc.) and the novel’s purpose and effect on the reader (to cultivate character, virtue, morality, etc.). The titles that seemed more modern to me left out all of this descriptive information and instead were simple, mysterious phrases which gave only the slightest indication of the focus of the book, thereby piquing the reader’s curiosity. These included titles such as Misplaced Confidence, The Pupil of Pleasure, and The Relapse. Although some of these more modern-seeming titles did appear earlier in the 1770s, the general trend away from the overly descriptive titles can be seen as a progression over time, with more of these mysterious and limited book names appearing in the 1780s than the 1770s.
Interestingly, I noticed the reverse of this distinction when it comes to authorship; that is, the authors that seemed to follow more recent conventions were those that included more information about themselves, whereas anonymity, or the complete lack of information, was a much more prominent feature of the earlier writers. I observed that some of the later authors in the 1780s even employed the technique that is used heavily today by movie directors, in which they boast of their previous famous works in order to sell their most recent production, such as one 1780 title which proclaims to be written by “the author of Liberal Opinions, Pupil of Pleasure, Shenstone Green, etc.”
Step 2: I observed many of the same characteristics that I discussed above in the digital versions of the novels and, specifically, in their title pages. A somewhat surprising observation that I made when comparing a variety of novels from the 1770s and 1780s was that in my categorization of the novels as more or less descriptive and thus more or less modern, Evelina seemed the most like Robinson Crusoe and Pamela and the least like contemporary novels. Evelina’s title page adheres to many of the overly descriptive conventions I have associated with early novels, including the form of the novel (letters), and a secondary, explanatory title (a young woman’s entrance into the world). Interestingly, Evelina was one of the later novels that I studied for this exercise (I looked at two from 1776, one from 1779 and one from 1781, in addition to Evelina) but its title page seemed the most descriptive and thus least modern to me. Even the 1776 novels, such as Emma; or the Child of Sorrow, had sparser title pages than Evelina. Notably absent from Evelina’s title page was any mention of the author, which again reinforced my perception of Evelina as a more conventionally early novel. This observation became especially apparent when I compared Evelina to The Tutor of Truth, also published in 1779. Although both novels emerged in the same year, The Tutor of Truth gave the appearance of being much more modern because the significance of the author was the second most striking information on the title page, and the author was announced in reference to his other popular novels.
Step 3: I felt about the Artemis tool about the same way that I felt when we used the Voyant tool a few weeks ago: it was more fun to play with and interesting to look at the results than actually revealing about the novels themselves. For instance, while I at first tried to draw conclusions about the form of the novels from the relative sizes in the term cluster wheel, I was confused by the repetition of some words in different sizes. At first I thought the term “history” was bigger than the term “novel,” which seemed to suggest something telling about the rise of the novel as an overtly fictitious title for a story, but there were also smaller “history” and “novel” parts of the wheel that confounded this conclusion.
The term frequency and popularity chart was also somewhat limited by the short time period that I chose (1770-1782). Additionally, the results that I saw there seemed to contradict my observations from the term clusters. In the term cluster wheel, for example, “epistolary novel” showed up as one of the biggest terms. I was surprised to see it appeared even bigger than “letters.” However, when I graphed these two words against one another, “letters” appeared consistently way more popular and frequent than “epistolary novel.” Thus, I did not feel that I could draw any significant conclusions about novels from this tool overall.