Skip to main content

Exercise 8

1 min read

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.


Exercise 7 - Topic Modeling

3 min read


All had stop words removed with 1,000 Iterations.

Initial – 50 Topics, 20 words

Love in a Country House: time found house great made person young gave received immediately passion desire mistress desired opportunity satisfaction happened master answered ordered

War in England: king french war english general house parliament commons lord spain ministry nation forces fleet army march troops hundred england men

On an Adventure: ship men sea captain water richard made capt falconer indians board adventures boat feveral god ifland shore foon faid laft

10 Topics, 20 words

Writing a Letter: good mr sir master poor god man lady put great make ll mrs fool made thing till day dear honour

People: sir lady dear man charles miss mr love lord heart grandison good madam brother letter harriet clementina make woman Byron

Labels: thou ihe count thy ed thee callirrhoe letter madam day king night duke prince woman thefe art ft termes wife

20 Topics, 10 Words

Simple Country Life: man lady people country wife great money head good town

OCR Trouble: fuch fo reverie faid moft heart fome thefe fame thing

25 Topics, 15 Words, Text Chunks

Daily Schedule: day morning time night house till return place leave days returned left found set home

Evil: lord purpose danger length violence appeared received power revenge vengeance william stood instantly fears friends


To answer the question about reality effect, Topic Modeling definitely led me to see names in a different light. Looking at the "People" topic, the names don't really suggest a particular meaning; the topic isn't really about anything. I would even be skeptical to say that names like "Charles", "Harriet", and "Clementina" are meant to take on any symbolic meaning. They are simply names used to make the reader perceive the story as being real, so that they think--that seems like a reasonable person for a person to have, and go on reading without having doubts as to the validity of the story.

Topic Modeling also raised some of the questions we worked with in Tristram Shandy about the authenticity of digital facsimiles of novels. It's interesting that the Topic Modeling tool didn't necessarily understand the words in the "OCR Trouble" topic, which had all of the long s's replaced with f's. But since the tool only grouped words based on their proximity to each other, it may not have mattered. Though it's possible that the words "such so reverie said most heart some these same thing" also appeared in texts written after the long s stopped occurring, but that these texts didn't contribute to the Topic because the tool didn't recognize "such" and "fuch" as actually being the same word.


Experimental Description Idea

1 min read

For my experimental description, I'm thinking of drawing out the title page of the novel I chose, Disinterested Love, and surrounding it with the other parts of the bibliography not included on the title page. I will then explain the significance of each aspect of the title page and bibliography, trying to give the viewer a sense of how this novel fits into the era and how the printing and distribution of novels worked at the time.


Descriptive Bibliography

1 min read

Anonymous. Disinterested Love: or, the History of Sir Charles Royston and Emily Lessley: in a series of Letters. London: Printed for John Wilkie, No. 71, Ste. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1776.

DISINTERESTED LOVE: |OR, THE |HISTORY |OF |Sir CHARLES ROYSTON, |AND |EMILY LESSLEY: |IN A SERIES OF LETTERS. |[Horizontal line] |VOLUME THE FIRST. |[Two horizontal lines] |LONDON: |Printed for JOHN WILKIE, No. 71, St. Paul’s |Church-Yard. |1776.

I 263p; II 213p. 12mo.

Contents. Volume 1. A1r Half title, A1v Title, B1r Text.

Volume 2. (Half-Title and Title page are before Signature A) A1r Text, K11v Errata to Vol. 1 and II

Notes. Source from the British Library. Contains half title page with only the words "Disinterested Love". Half title and title of second volume precede signature A. Date on title page is hand-written on first volume, as is a letter K beneath "Charles Royston". These are absent from second volume.

Exercise 5

4 min read

Step 1: We learn a number of things from the bibliography: that the majority of the works published in England were published in London, that the majority of the works published in Ireland were published in Dublin, and that most novels cost between 5 and 7 shillings, depending on if one wanted them sewed, or bound, the latter being the more extensive option. (The bibliography also mentions ‘the circulating library’, suggesting that those who didn’t have the money to purchase books could acquire them in that way). The Monthly and Critical Reviews also tell us what, at least according to these critics, made a work of fiction good: an ‘unexceptionable’ moral stance, and a focus on writing realistically; many works were criticized for not accurately representing real life. The reviewers seem afraid of the very possibility for fiction that Armstrong argued for—that novels, through discussing life in non-traditional ways, could encourage people, especially women, to want to lead non-traditional lives. Although both reviewers give Evelina praise, the Monthly Review criticizes Captain Mirvan as having the manners rather of “a rough uneducated country ‘squire, than those of a genuine sea-captain” (Garside). Though this also raises a question—why do they criticize Captain Mirvan for not being a genuine sea-captain, but they don’t criticize Lord Merton and Willoughby for not being genuine gentlemen? This might become clearer if we had a better idea of who was responsible for writing the reviews. Were they upper class or middle class? Did they acquire the position through literary skill or social status?

Step 2: In addition to Evelina, I chose to analyze Disinterested Love, Misplaced Confidence, a Tale for Christmas, and The Man of Experience. I found it interesting that none of the texts referred to themselves as “novels” on the title page. Instead, each text labeled itself in a different way—Evelina was “a series of letters”, as was Disinterested Love, which also described itself as a History. Misplaced Confidence is a “genuine narrative of real misfortunes”, The Man of Experience is an adventure, and A Tale for Christmas is a Modern Anecdote. Misplaced Confidence, which has the most text on the title page (this text explains the contents of the story in a way that none of the other title pages do), is the only text that explicitly claims to be true. The Man of Experience, on the other hand, is the only text whose author is listed on the title page; the rest either leave it out or say that the text was “Printed for the AUTHOR.” However, in most ways, the texts are fairly standard. The title is in large font spread across the page in alternating font sizes, and contains a very short description of the work and frequently the name of one or more of the people involved (Honorius, Evelina, Sir Charles Royston and Emily Lessley). Three of the texts, Evelina, Disinterested Love, and Misplaced Confidence, all were epistolary novels, while the other two were written in the third person.

Of all these texts, Evelina has by far the best review. Although the critics praise Disinterested Love for its “refinement and delicacy of sentiment”, it also makes note of its “feebleness of expression” and “confusion of incident” (244). Misplaced Confidence and The Man of Experience are both cited as being inappropriate. A Tale for Christmas is an “agreeable hour’s amusement” (278). But the praise for Evelina is the most abundant; the reviewers described it as “one of the most sprightly, entertaining, and agreeable productions of this kind” (270), both a moral and literary success (and, perhaps because of this, it costs 2 shillings more than any of the other books).

Step 3: Artemis offers some large-scale information about the nature of the books being published in the selected time period. I chose 1750 to 1800 and did some searches in the term frequency box I thought might be interested based on the questions we answered in the previous steps. I found that while the phrase “in a series of letters”, which was present in the first 100 pages of about 45% of novels in 1753, has since jumped up and down before settling at about 0% in 1800. The word “novel” on the other hand was in about 10% of texts in 1750 but by 1800 was present in 40% of texts. “Virtue” was consistently popular, at almost 100% all four years. I also found the Frequency chart to be initially deceiving; the graph increases rapidly at the end for whatever phrase you type in, but I imagine this is just because more novels were published at the end of the century than in the middle of it.


Exercise 4

2 min read

I OCR-ed Tristram Shandy with both Google Docs and FineReader, and was surprised to discover that Google did a much better job. Primarily, it was able to interpret the long "s" correctly about 95% of the time. I looked at Chapters II and III, and the only problems I saw were that it added spaces in HOMUNCULUS, probably because the letters were unevenly spaced in the original text, occasionally used "f" for "s" as in "minuteft philofophers", and ignored long dashes. FineReader, on the other hand, didn't correctly identify any of the long "s"s in those two chapters, resulted in sentences like "becaufe it fcattered and dilperfed tlie animal fpirits". In one instance, an "s" became an "l", and in another, an "h" became an "li". It seems possible that Google Docs is using some sort of dictionary to autocorrect words like "fpirits" into "spirits"; either that or it was just more carefully programmed to interpret older texts.

A digital facsimile like this 1759 edition of Tristram Shandy seems to be about as close as one can get to having a book that looks the way it did when it was printed over two hundred years ago. Of course, this isn't quite accurate, since every copy of the book looked a little different, and it is impossible to understand what the book was made out of by looking at it on the internet. But seeing as it seems so close to being authentic, it's interesting that once you extract the text with Google or FineReader, a lot of that authenticity is gone. The letter "s" goes back the way we expect it to be, because there's no such thing as a long "s" in novels today. The long dashes disappear, as do the slight irregularities of spacing and alignment, the italicized proper pronouns, the bracketed numbers. Only a human could really reproduce the text in a digitized format that would keep it true to the style of the original.


Mapping and Colonialism

2 min read

Although the mapping tool did make mistakes, locating religious names and English towns in North America, they weren't all coincidence. Yarmouth, MA, Yorkshire, VA, and St. Augustine, FL were so named by Europeans who came to colonize the Americas around the time that Defoe wrote RC. Yarmouth and Yorkshire in particular were named after places in Great Britain. And yet, it is clear from the Robinson Crusoe map that North America isn't particularly important to the story; the only visible names on are "California", "Florida" and, I believe, "Brit Plantation." America is only described on the map in terms of its importance to Europe, and the same seems to be true of Africa. While each country in Western Europe gets its own name and fairly defined borders, Africa is divided into a handful of large sections--"Barbary", "Negroland", "Country of the Cafres", "Guine", and "Low Guinea." A brief venture into the etymology of these words suggests that for Europeans, the country "Barbary" and the derogative term "Barbarians" that Europeans used to refer to foreign peoples went hand in hand; that "Negroland" stemmed from the Spanish word "Negro"; and that the word "cafre" has its origins in the Arabic word "kafir", meaning non-believer, and that South Africans consider the word to be extremely offensive. Just as Crusoe's descriptions of Friday and himself measure them up against a European standard, so the map of Robinson Crusoe's world is really just Europeans naming foreign countries from their own skewed and often racist perspective. The Google map, however, is very different, delineating countries in both North America and Africa with their own individual names.


p. 56

1 min read

"And now it was when I began to keep a journal of every day's employment, for indeed at first I was in too much hurry, and not only hurry as to labor, but in too much discomposure of mind, and my journal would ha' been full of many dull things."