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Exercise 8

1 min read

Because the novel I am using for my experimental bibliography project contains a prologue, and since my project engages with the content of the prologue, I have been thinking recently about prologues in general. Relevant questions about prologues include: what information do they convey? In what types of novels do they appear? What is their relation to the novel as a whole? Do they appear more often in first edition copies or subsequent editions of novels? I am also interested in this research question after talking with Professor Buurma about my project last week and learning that one suggestion for choosing which 18th century novels Penn should digitize is the novels with prologues. Preliminary information about these prologues could be very helpful in making this decision. I think topic modeling could tell us what themes are covered in the prologues. Other questions could deal with comparing resulting topics from metadata of novels with prologues vs. novels without prologues. I could also divide the novels with prologues into subcategories derived from metadata information (such as narrative form, publisher, or author).

Topic Modeling

3 min read

1000 iterations, 50 topics japan taycho dairo cuboy chinese japonese fika orator kaka strot yak brut tiffi empire farm yesso beast body tartary council

--Travel, foreign words or making fun of foreign words
mr lady gentleman miss ll wife town man don honour sir money made began landlord master fine company people husband Titles and honour war country great enemy general king army made long enemies length men peace part command head high brought fell number -- Let’s go to war

ather friends young time found passion son heaven soul death utmost friendship longer means happiness appeared felt tears purpose arms -- Letters to my father

fo ship men fome sea made found captain water richard capt adventures falconer god indians feveral board boat till ifland --Let’s go on an adventure!

don chevalier memoirs love de king gold fine young spain point arc knight pier pierpoint excellent things large fet age -- More adventure and looking for treasure

Contrary to my expectations, the list of 10 topics did not make a lot of sense because it was a lot less focused. There were more words and they did not fit together as well. I thought that if I narrowed my topics I would need to also increase the iterations. I did this (increasing iterations to 1500 instead) and it was a little better. Names throw things off I think. I think the stop words are supposed to get rid of names? But they somehow slip through.

Looking at the lists that were generated, I thought about what Professor Buurma said about how topic modeling could be seen as just excessive reality effect (hopefully I am not completely incorrect in this paraphrase…). But at first I couldn’t see how they related. I think of reality effect in terms of describing objects or locations. I think because most of the examples Barthes uses are about describing a location, a room, etc. He mentions the barometer. The thing is, the barometer is probably only mentioned once in the book, so I don’t think it would appear on these lists. I think most of the examples of actual reality effect elements would not be significant enough to appear in topic modeling. But then I thought about maybe there is another way to think about reality effect and topic modeling. If you think about how topic modeling assumes that books are just random (I think random?) words chosen out of bags of topics. Reality effect is also a sort of random process. The barometer is random because it is an object the author randomly decided to include in the novel. Another way of thinking about relating these lists to the reality effect—I asked myself are these lists saying to me, “We are real, we are real, we are real”? Hmm well the fact that you can take something nonrandom, treat it as random, then put it through an algorithm and get nonrandom results says something about reality. Is reality just a random set of events that we interpret to make meaning out of it?? So this got me thinking about Barthes and how life is meaningless (is that too harsh a word?) until you assign your own meaning to it. And that’s what we do with these lists! They’re not made according to a given topic title, but once the lists are generated, we give a title to each of the lists.


Experimental Descriptive Bibliography

5 min read

Novel: The Wedding Ring, or, History of Miss Sidney. In a series of letters. In three volumes. By Anynymous.

Context: In the preface, the author refers to an obsession with knowing the identity of the author in order to place the story of the novel into context. The author says that readers want to know whether the author “be of dark or fair complexion, mild or choleric disposition” or “married or single.” Readers also want to know the motives of the author and reasons for writing—whether the novel was "written by the importunity of a friend, or whether the author’s natural temper and inclination directed the choice of the subject.” This obsession with authorship to me seems contradictory to the traditional way of thinking about literature—shouldn’t we value the text based on the quality of the writing and the story?

But the author is hinting on something that was and remains to be true about literature–text is often inextricable from context. It is not just petty curiosity that drives past and present readers’ obsession with authorship. The identity of the author gives readers clues into how to read the text. In most literature classes, reading a new book often begins with a lecture or on the background information of the time, and a biography of the author.

Thinking about the relationship between text and author is even more interesting when one considers that past and present-day readers will have different reasons for wanting to know the identity. At the time of its publication, concerns over the author were probably related to credibility—was the author really a woman, what class was she, and had she written anything noteworthy before? Today, the identity of this eighteenth-century author would help us place this novel into historical context in order to analyze data and form a thesis about gender and authorship.

The traditional bibliography leaves out the complicated relationship between the author and the text that I have described above. This relationship is addressed directly in the preface, and it extends throughout the reading of the book, because as I mentioned above, the identity of the author often gives us a lens through which we read the novel.

This project is also motivated by my own musings and confusion over the obsession with gender in literature and in life. Professor Buurma mentioned in class that data analysts who are not necessarily lit scholars often use gender as an example of theses we can make about metadata. But this example is often simplistic and also—who cares??? Can’t we look at other things with all this data? Finally, the obsession with author identity/gender past and present makes me wonder— is it necessary to treat gender in such strict binary terms when analyzing literature? What do we lose and what do we gain if we move beyond that binary?

Project Plan: I plan to explore what the bibliography leaves out by exploring possible identities of the author and what we imagine the identity might tell us about the text. I like the idea of exploring these questions in a modern context. I plan to photograph students (maybe specifically student writers?) who identify as female. I want to ask them to dress as if they were trying to disguise themselves, as if they were going out in public and didn’t want to be recognized, celebrity hiding from paparazzi-style. I will ask them to write a letter, because The Wedding Ring is written in epistolary style. I imagine there will be a variety of methods of writing letters—whether it is an email, a letter on paper, a quick post-it note to a friend. I will also ask them to write the letter in a space they feel is most appropriate/natural for them to write this letter.

The collection of photographs will serve as possibilities for the author of “The Wedding Ring.” What can we discern about the possible authors even though they are wearing disguises? What do their clothes and their location for writing say about their identity? Why are they writing on a laptop as opposed to paper? What do we think they are writing?? Can we tell what they’re writing just by this appearance? I think more questions and different ways of interpreting the photos will arise once I have taken the photos.

I like leaving aspects of this project to the discretion of the students (how to dress, how they want to write the letter, where to write the letter, with whom they will write, etc.), because to me this seems more experimental, which is fun, and it represents the lack of control from both the author and the readers in the writing and reading of a novel.

I’m not sure in what format yet would be most appropriate for displaying these photos. I could make a collage, where the photos can be viewed close together, or a photo essay, which is more conducive for close scrutiny of each individual photo as well as comparison. I also need to think about whether these photos should be displayed online or if I should print them—what is at stake with materiality, especially when considering bibliography, which strives to convey the materiality/physicality of a book through formatted description?


Descriptive Bibliography

1 min read

Anonymous. The Wedding Ring, or, History of Miss Sidney. In a series of letters. In three volumes. 1st ed. London: F. Noble and J. Noble, 1779. THE |WEDDING RING; | OR, HISTORY | OF | Miss SIDNEY. | In a Series of LETTERS. | [Rule, 9mm] | In THREE VOLUMES. | [Rule, 9mm] | VOL. I. | [Rule, 9mm]| [Rule, 9mm] | LONDON: | Printed for F. NOBLE, near Middle Row, HOL- | HORN: and J. NOBLE, in St. MARTIN’S COURT, | St. MARTIN’S LANE. | MDCCLXXIX.

Collation. 230p. 12mo. B6-K6, L3

Pagination. Vol. 1 220 pp.

Contents. A1r-half title A1v -title A2r-A3v - preface B6-K6, L3 –text L3- seal/family crest bottom of page

Notes. Sourced from the British Library. Accessed through Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. Gale document number: CW3312879144 . Swarthmore College Lib TRICO. 11 Nov. 2015.

Exercise 6

2 min read

Google Fusion is pretty darn cool to work with and I was able to visualize some trends, none too surprising or different from what we’ve been going over in class: more novels published as the century progresses, and most novels are written in epistolary form, first person, or third person. We have been looking at an increasingly large amount of data (one book, one bibliography, many bibliographies, as well as one year, then one century) but I found myself wanting even MORE data, because I realized I want a reference for the patterns of the 18th century novels, preferably similar data from 19th century (as an example of after) and maybe works from 17th century (for before, but this might not be so helpful since this info will not be “novels”). This would be a project I’d be interested in pursuing. Maybe. I also think it would be an interesting project to try to weight the data and visualize that weighted data. For example, titles of novels that sold more copies would be “worth” more when the analyzing and visualizing data.That way not every title is created equal when trying to visualize popular words in titles. You would in a way be looking at which words in titles were most influential rather than just frequency. I’m not sure if there are good records of number of copies sold. I would need this information. And I would need some kind of algorithm that weighs the titles according to copies sold.

I used ABBYY and an online OCR that I found through the complicated process of picking the first result that came up in my google search, called I looked at chapter 9 and also the ominous (not really) “black pages.” This online OCR was not too wrong. Of course, it didn’t understand the “s” that looks like “f.” The translation of the black pages were pretty great though. Here is a small sample:

1.4 - ler .4 .. .. -= 1 4 .4_24 , _ .44Nn a 411. ill 11. 4.11 -PI - ...r. . r..-%-.... 10.4
.. .
,frt iii-IIPF7-. . tor■ , I.1 le
a -'re. '.11,611._ 4.. - p 1- .. I' . A ikri! 197 a * ' 7 ., d w -. .1 wihrI •' 416APItilF.1*. .014 6 I. : * 1: .4,..
..4.1...4 ■ -roce
.61-1 1 *I v d: di °III 't `I 4* 44 le 1r-04461. ' l'e11 it a t .2 11 11 1'4 , niN P 1r0
". e • . . II ate' ., A I A inn i # Ipg .,p jefr b ii E-

If I were into conspiracies I’d say this was the past trying to talk to us in a now ineligible code, or maybe it’s aliens. Anyway, I also put the black pages into ABBYY and the program processed the info for a few minutes, but in the end it didn’t translate anything. I guess ABBYY knows better.

I also put in chapter 9 into ABBYY. It worked better than the online OCR. ABBYY is often only off by a letter or two. I think it translates based on individual letter recognition, rather whole words. Otherwise, I think ABBYY would try to correct familiar words, much like autocorrect on our phone. Though of course autocorrect is also infamously prone to error.

This assignment made me think about the strange journey of written and printed material and reliability of that material. Before printing, people (monks and the few literate people) would transcribe or copy old texts in order to make a new copy. As I was consulting the picture of the 18th-century text to correct mistakes, I felt a bit like a monk copying old texts into new editions. I thought how maybe it would be easy to make a mistake and maybe change a word or two, maybe some that change the meaning of a sentence, both then and now.

I thought about the ever-increasing interactions between people and machines and text. And I thought about this machine I saw last semester ( at the Berlin Jewish Museum that writes the Torah at the speed a human would. The Torah is traditionally written by a trained scribe, and if the scribe makes a mistake that Torah has to be thrown away and start over.

I couldn’t help but think, when I was correcting my mistakes, about my faithfulness to the original text of Tristram Shandy as somewhat analogous to the novel’s attempt to be faithful to reality.

I think these thoughts were a bit all over the place. TLDR, nothing changes!

According to Armstrong, the novel established the divisions of the world as gender-based, rather than politics-based. Gender is a proxy for establishing personal identity based on thoughts, feelings, and virtue, rather than by religious sect, class, etc. To translate this claim into a very focused study of one word in one novel, I chose to look at words related to virtue, which Pamela is very preoccupied with. I was surprised to see that “virtue” did not show up on the word cloud, even after correcting the cloud to eliminate the most common words. However, “good” and “goodness” did show up on the word cloud. “Good” is rather large and thus was used very often in the book:

I then looked through a bit to see how these words are used. Here are some examples:
-good lady (her former master who dies)
-if I was a good girl…
-Good sirs!
-you are a good girl, Pamela
-good old widow
-good families
-if we are good…(talking abt God)
-rather than forfeit my good name
-good advice
-good character
-that’s my good girl! He exclaimed

Most of these are describing Pamela’s character or are in some way related to remaining a good person or virtuous person.

I also looked at its frequency throughout the book:

The usage of “good” fluctuates throughout the book, but it is relatively the same at the end as it is at the beginning. Could this illustrate that Pamela at the end keeps her virtue, as she is just as good at the end as she was in the beginning?

I would probably need to look at the usage of “good” in other texts, pre-Pamela and post-Pamela, and compare them to Pamela, to really make a claim about its usage in Pamela and whether it can attest to Armstrong’s claims that the inner self (thoughts, feelings, virtue) is becomes identity. But for now, I would say that its frequent usage and its similar usage at the beginning and the end can tell us that the maintenance of virtue is important to Pamela, and consequently, important to the readers of the time.

It is so interesting to me how people’s view of the world has changed throughout time. At least since Homo sapiens have been around, the geographical locations of landmasses haven’t changed much, but humans’ vision of these lands have changed immensely.

The most obvious examples I can think of is Marco Polo’s travels in Asia and his subsequent introducing Europeans this unknown place through his writings, and the discovery of the New World. It reminds me of being very young, before I really understood that there were other places that existed outside the U.S.

I would love to do some kind of meta-analysis on how often texts reference other places, when these places became more varied, and how these trends changed throughout time. This would involve making a map like the one in this exercise for thousands of texts from different centuries. By looking at this particular map, it seems that by the time Robinson Crusoe is published, the average European citizen had a pretty broad awareness of the world. But just the fact that RC is about a man who is trapped on an UNKNOWN island speaks to the possibility that people were very unsure about the finite nature of the world.

This makes me think of relating global awareness with other trends of thought. I remember reading theories of cosmopolitanism by Pheng Cheah, who gives a history of cosmopolitanism. I would be interested in tracing this trend of awareness of the world to the rise of cosmopolitanism. I think we may also compare global awareness to the rise of nationhood. One theory about the rise of nationhood is that nations are partly defined as a place that is different from other places. Nations need other nations to set them apart, so increased global awareness may partly account for this.

I realize I am thinking of a very Euro-centric line of thought, i.e. I am thinking of Europe’s increasing awareness of other places outside Europe throughout time. But perhaps we could do analysis on how different regions came to think of the rest of the world by studying texts from only a specific region. Then we could also compare the different trends from different regions.

The “organization” list is the most interesting to me. I think it is the most informative as to what type of book this is, and perhaps gives hints as to what century the book was written, but it’s also the most mysterious list. It is informative about content, because from this list I can see that many types of people and places are mentioned, such as “Spaniards and “Mountain Tenereffe,” so either there is travel involved, or the novel takes place in a cosmopolitan city. I can also get a hint about time this takes place, because words like “Moors” appear, which is a word not very much in usage today unless discussing history. It is also the most mysterious list, because unlike in the other lists, the content is very varied. I don’t think I would identify this as an “organization” list if I did not know. Some components are very interesting--such as “heaven” or “nature.” At first glance, I thought the list resembled a poem, partly because of such words. I think it would be an interesting exercise to give this list to someone who does not know that this list is from Robinson Crusoe, and ask that person to tell us what they can infer from the book based on the list.