Skip to main content

Exercise 8

2 min read

I would love to make a connection between Barthes’ The Reality Effect and map out household objects mentioned in novels to see what objects and spaces hold more prominence. After having done so, we could look at specific examples and examine whether the reality effect is, in fact, taking place or whether Watts’ formal realism is in practice. We could consider whether the majority of these objects hold any symbolic meaning or are simply present for representing a real world. Further, we could inspect if objects tend to be traditionally feminine household items such as apparel or jewellery such as in the case of Pamela, rather than general descriptive items such as in the case of A House for Mr. Biswas. This is closely linked to Armstrong’s Desire and Domestic Fiction. It would also be interesting to see the trend of mentioning object for the sake of realism as in Robinson Crusoe, to objects with cultural and social symbolism as in Pamela, to objects for creating a new spatial and temporal realm such as in Daisy Miller and A House for Mr. Biswas.

Examining a novel such as The Moonstone would not be too helpful though as the items mentioned would mostly be for the sake of the progression of the narrative giving us no indication of the prominence of societal influences, and neither will examining Tristram Shandy, for Sterne’s “unnecessary digressions” would interfere with the results, so not all novels can be examined in this project.

Exercise 7

3 min read

50 topics, 1000 iterations, 20 printed words:

A business life: made time gave found leave place manner day days return company told long received paris acquainted happened returned knew till

Typical Saturday night: good table money fellow wine company people half hundred give eat box glass guineas pretty made poor drink turned peace

War victory story: war army general english french enemy time country men battle enemies england forces command officer number field troops part success

Conceited Autobiography: great genius taste learning learned wit character opinion poet piece stage works play author judgment characters read friend age merit

All things divine: god man good religion world church heaven true soul divine spirit things body fear human christian truth faith life death

25 topics, 1000 iterations, 10 printed words:

Sounds kinky: passion time made found person husband affection mistress lover fortune

Maritime adventure: captain ship made men great board sea found time place

Basically Robinson Crusoe: man make thing thought time give good great find world

50 topics, 1000 iterations, 5 printed words:

Typical Swarthmore student response to “How are you?”: tears heaven death life grief

Me after reading one page of a novel: great page world learned learning

Conclusion: At first, I thought that reducing the printed words would give us a more concrete and accurate subject topic of novels, but it seems to do the opposite. With 20 or even 10 words, I was able to grasp a bit more of what the novel was about rather than a somewhat superficial topic produced by a 5 words printing limit.

Here are a number of common themes I found through the different iterations of modeling: war, navy, adventure, aristocracy, money, and of course virtue. The the importance of the notion of virtue can be summed up in the topic: honour conduct character virtue reason.

Now I come to how this exercise reminded me of Tristram Shandy. While reading Tristram Shandy, I kept thinking that the novel was about nothing, and everything at once. After about 50 pages, I couldn’t rule out any subject in the world as a potential digression topic for the narrator of Tristram Shandy. The same can be said for topic modeling. And even though Tristram Shandy forms a more coherent narrative than these topics, I’m not sure if it can be reduced to one or even a number of topics. Indeed, I do think that Tristram Shandy is the most interesting novel about nothing. Even if we were to try to reduce it to a topic, it would probably be muddled with mundane words such as “uncle”, “father”, “make”, “give”, and others of the sort.

These mundane words are also sprinkled across all of the topics, no matter what number of words printed. This, in turn, creates a sort of reality effect. These seemingly useless words are necessary to remind us that novels cannot be reduced to substantial and important topics, and this makes these topics more believable. For example, “good table money fellow wine company people half hundred give eat box glass guineas pretty made poor drink turned peace” makes for a much more interesting and intelligible topic than if we were to take some words out and produce “money wine company glass drink poor peace”. I do think that it is much easier to construct a plausible story from the former than the latter. Novels and topics both need these mundane words to produce a more intelligible and “real” story. I think this also relates to my point about topics with fewer words seeming more superficial than topics with more.

Book covers and movie posters

For the experimental bibliographic description, I think I’m going to imagine what a modern cover for The Unfortunate Union would look like. I’m still on the look-out for a painting that would fit the novel perfectly. A Penguin Classics-esque cover is what I have in mind, akin to the cover of our version of Daisy Miller. I also looked online and found out that Daisy Miller was adapted into a movie in 1974. I compared both the cover of the novel and the poster of the movie and saw some similarities such as the posture and facial expressions of Daisy Miller, but saw some stark differences such as amount of text and information given. Apart from the image, the movie poster actually looks more like the novel cover pages that we’ve been looking at over the course of the semester. So, I think I’m going to 1) Create a cover of a modern version of The Unfortunate Union, and 2) Create a poster for a modern movie adaptation of the same. I might also make a poster of an adaptation made in the 1970’s instead of today.

I’m also playing with the idea of making a short movie about the novel, but I’m not sure if it’s feasible to do so in such a short time frame.

The Fortunate Union of me and descriptive bibliography

1 min read

Descriptive Bibliography of The Unfortunate Union

[Anonymous]. The unfortunate union: or, the test of virtue. A story founded on facts, and calculated to promote the cause of virtue in younger minds. Written by a Lady. 1st ed. London: Richardson and Urquhart, under the Royal Exchange, and at No. 46, Pater-Noster-Row, MDCCLXXVIII, 1778.

[Indiscernible signature first name] THE [Indiscernible signature last name] | UNFORTUNATE UNION: | OR, THE | TEST OF VIRTUE. | A | STORY founded on FACTS, | AND | Calculated to promote the Caus[f]e of VIRTUE | in Younger Minds, | Written by a LADY. | VOL. I. | LONDON, | Printed for RICHARDSON and URQUHART, | under the Royal Exchange, and at | No. 46, Pater-nos[f]ter-Row. | M DCC LXXVIII.

Vol. I 206p; Vol. II 227p. 12mo.

Contents. Volume I. Title, B1r - K3r Text.

Volume II. Title, B1r - L5v Text.

Notes. Source location: Harvard University Houghton Library. Epistolary form. No preface, no epilogue, no table of contents, no notes in margins, and no dedication. Collation starts from the second page at B1r (could be error in scanning). There is an indiscernible signature on the scanned title page.

Exercise 6

2 min read

Things that I could observe from the Google Fusion tables were fairly standard and consistent with what we’ve established in class: the third person epistolary form is the dominant form of narrative, novels are becoming more and more popular, and that most of the publishing is done in London. I don’t think that I found anything insightful or surprising in my visualizations. However, I am curious about the trends of the number of novels published in a particular year. From my publication date chart, I could see that the most number of novels published in a year is 58 in the year 1769. The second highest is 40 in 1767. Why does this jump in number occur in 1969? What are the circumstances that allow this to happen? Does the data we have even doesn’t do justice to reality? For example, we have an account of 21% of novels published in the 1760s. But do we have an account of about 21% of novels in the rest of the decades as well? Let’s assume we do. Then the case of 1769 is particularly interesting. We can observe that there was an upwards trend in the number of publications of novels, so a jump may be justified by saying that the industry boomed around that time, but then in just a year there is a trend of steady decline in the number of novels. Is this just a random coincidence, or suggests something greater about the prominence of novels? Another most peculiar case is of the year 1718 in which we have an account of 20 novels, wheres we have an account of 2 and 3 in the previous and following year, respectively. What is the cause of this jump? There is neither an upwards trend before nor a decline after. So what could be the cause of this occurrence? I would love to study something along these lines further.


Assignment 5

4 min read

Step 1) When reading the titles of the novels, I noticed quite a few trends: 1) Most of them have a name somewhere in the title specifying the protagonist of the novel. 2) Most of these protagonists tended to be women. 3) Most of the novels were written by women. 4) Most of them had alternative titles such as Isabella, Or the Rewards of Good Nature. 5) They tended to have a first person, often epistolary, perspective indicated in the title through Memoirs of… or The Diary of…. 6) Many of them claimed in the title that the contents of the book were founded in fact. 7) A lot of them were immensely long, so long that such titles would probably be openly ridiculed today. But the most interesting trend I found was that a lot of the novels tried to appeal to a younger population, stating that the book would be helpful to inculcate a greater importance of virtue and honesty in the youth. Words such as “Virtue”, “Pleasure” and “Seduction” also probably made for good publicity among the youth, and made for a more eye catching front page and no images could be printed. Not only was it targeted at youth, but specifically at young women. This, to me, seems to be probably because women were a large portion of the audience of novels. A perfect example of all these properties is made through the title The Unfortunate Union: Or, The Test of Virtue, a Story Founded on Facts, and Calculated to Promote the Cause of Virtue in Younger Minds. Written by a Lady. It doesn’t even say the name, it just says “a lady”. This surely means that the idea of a woman writing a novel was appealing to readers, as well as the ideas of virtue and honesty, especially for women.

Step 2) The novels I considered other than Evelina were: The Pupil of Pleasure The Sentimental Connoisseur A trip to Melasge or as it was later published The Sentimental Traveller The Unfortunate Union A stark contrast between Evelina and the rest was that the rest all had words that were clearly meant to be eye-catching and teasing such as “Pleasure”, “Sentimental”, “Vice”, “Virtue”, while Evelina has none of these. The rest are almost trying too hard to get people’s attention, while Evelina seems to be elevated in status: saying that the content should speak for itself. Evelina’s cover is the cleanest and clearest of them all, giving the reader the bare minimum of information, while the others such as The Sentimental Connoisseur is trying to fill in rather too much information, to the point of being artificial. Now compare the covers of Evelina and The Sentimental Traveller. Both try to convey that the novels constitute stories of young people entering, essentially, the real world. But both take a rather different approach. The Sentimental Traveller tries to fit in as much information as possible about the narrative, whereas Evelina does the opposite. Through the evidence, it seems that Evelina is portraying an air of sophistication and prestige. The cost of Evelina is also about 10 guineas, which is equal to 200 shillings. Surely for an earner of 15-20 shillings per week, this is an outrageous amount to pay. Evelina was certainly meant for a high brow, sophisticated, and rich society.

Step 3) The first time era I decided to consider was 1970-80. The term cluster came up with some interesting results such as “Lady”, and “young” confirming that the idea of appealing to an audience of young women was very important at the time. ARTEMIS came up with 810 results for this time era. I looked for the term frequency of “virtue”. It appeared in 694 out of the 810 novels. This also confirms that the idea of virtue was extremely important at the time, or at least that it sold books. I think that both targeting an audience of young women and introducing questions of virtue in novels wasn’t just a coincidence.

Exercise 4

3 min read

So I chose to OCR chapter XXI from volume 1, as it was the most interesting chapter for me to read. The finding from this exercise were interesting, but certainly not in the same regard. The OCR I used was Prizmo, as I had difficulties getting ABBYY to work on my computer. The first interesting thing that I noted about Prizmo is that when it has identified the number of characters in a word, but seems to be having difficulties figuring out the characters, then it just prints dotted lines to indicated the word. For example, “consummation” (printed “confummation”) was OCRed as ••••••••••••. And other than a few humorous recognitions such as changing “Homunculi” to “H0MUNCVtl”, and “Mr. Shandy” to “Mr. 8handy”, Prizmo did a decent job of identifying words. What was intriguing was that sometimes it would pick up words that were carried forward to the next line of text, and sometimes it wouldn’t. For example, “Ho-munculi” was identified as “H0MUNCVtl” but “cha-racters” was picked up as two different words “ch” and “ra&ers”.

Thinking about the second question, I can’t help but be a little perplexed. I used to have a very ardent view about e-books (digital facsimiles) that they are a terrible way to read a book and the only right way is through a physical copy. However, recently I’ve changed my mind and come to be more open to the idea of reading e-books. But, there are always drawbacks. This exercise reminded me that a electronic version of a book isn’t a completely accurate version of a book. The way the book is supposed to be indexed, the calculation of text per page, editing styles, etc cannot be presented properly to the reader through an e-book. For example, the famous black pages of Tristram Shandy are surely to be distorted in some way in an e-book format. The impact just isn’t the same. The exercise also can be linked up with Ramsay’s article. Books have been analysed in a non-computational way for thousands of years, but only now do we have the technical advances of performing computational test that would otherwise have been arduous and tedious. But I still can’t help but wonder if that is the way to go. I’m still not sure what I think about it, and I’m going to need some time to figure it out.


Assignment 3

2 min read

After producing a word cloud devoid of boring words such as “you”, “my”, “I”, and so on, I noticed some quite intriguing words. Words such as “poor”, “heart”, and “creature” very quickly caught my attention. And funnily enough, the works “kind” and “gentleman” lay right next to “master”. However, what I found more intriguing were the words not present that I had expected to be, especially ones with sexual connotations, such as “honour”, “ruin”, and of course “virtue”. I was especially surprised that the word “virtue” didn’t pop up, as I not only remember it being such an omnipresent one as a recurring word in the text, but as a central theme of the novel as well.

So I went forth to look at some interesting instances of the use of the word “virtue”. One of the most interesting ones, to me, seems to be one in letter XXVII on page 69. This is one of the only times Mr. B uses the term. But here, it doesn’t contain the same heaviness and importance that it does on other occasions, which is exactly what’s supposed to happen. Mr B doesn’t understand the weight of the idea of virtue to Pamela, or even the word itself. I compared this to the instance before this where “virtue” was used and it was in letter XXVI, but only in the online version (which seems to be one from the 1820s). Here, Mrs Jervis knows that virtue is important not only to Pamela, but every woman. She also recognises that Mr. B doesn’t, and to some extent, can never understand the importance of being “virtuous”.

To colonize or not to colonize?

1 min read

Looking at the locations list again, and comparing the google map to the map on which I physically marked the different locations mentioned in the novel, I was reminded about the extent and power of the British empire. There were 73 different countries under the British empire and have invaded all but 22 countries in the world. The list in Robinson Crusoe is quite exhaustive of their empire.

As a “colonizer”, Robinson Crusoe shared a number of traits with the British, and the sheer number of countries mentioned seems to show a parallel between them. Another parallel seems to be that Robinson Crusoe often follows the “learn as you go” approach of the British colonizers. The British were a curious bunch, and marvelled at newly discovered lands for their beauty, riches, and crop. Robinson Crusoe shows a similar mindset throughout the novel.

Defoe seems to suggest that colonization is not something that is intended, but comes as a result of a combination of curiosity, and search for power. The political realist in me would agree. When nations grow prosperous, they tend to expand. And as Robinson Crusoe grew more prosperous in terms of resources, he expanded as well.

Assignment 1: Locations on the World Map

I marked as many of the locations mentioned in the book as I possibly could.

Assignment 1: Locations on the World Map

I marked as many of the locations mentioned in the book as I possibly could. Enjoy!

Assignment 1: Locations

2 min read

While I was reading Robinson Crusoe, one of the things that always caught my special attention were places or locations. I’ve always been fascinated with world geography and have traveled a decent amount. I always try to picture a place with reference to its location on the world map. After taking a look at the list of locations in RC that the NER spit out for me, I was impressed with the number of places mentioned in the book.

Robinson Crusoe, even though not being a seasonal traveler, seemed throughout the novel to be someone who knows about the world, and this list reinforces that. The sheer reach of global locations mentioned is quite extensive and included places in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and exotic locations such as Cape de Verde, the Caribbean, and Leeward Islands. Often times while reading RC, I came across phrases that weren’t lists, but almost seemed like lists as they contained a number of different locations close together. Just the first paragraph of the novel is an example as he mentions 4 locations in it. Also the NER didn’t recognise Newcastle as a place which is kind of disappointing.

An interesting tread I observed was that it began with locations mainly in Europe, mostly the U.K., then shifted to places in Africa, South America and numerous others, and seems to settle back in Europe, mostly in France. This intrigues me and I wonder if our protagonist is going to settle down somewhere in France by the end of the novel. Only the passage of time and the turning of pages will tell.

P.S. I’m also posting a map of the world in which I marked most of the locations mentioned in the book. Also, working with the NER was as easy as convincing my parents to let me be an English major i.e. not very easy.