Skip to main content

Exercise 7

5 min read

50 topics, 1000 iterations, 20 printed words, stop words removed

feelings and science

  1. ear mother devil captain fair er graces bath spirit doctor air playing hall delight vii theatrical water ne specimen dancing

a story of nature and humans

  1. nature great years soul eyes prince eye ground light twenty book fear back human turn earth friends city family caught

a pilgrimage

  1. kind thy thou eye turning divine appointed held drew bore glory ad noble grief preface alas worthy weak break en

10 topics, 1000 iterations, 20 printed words, stop words removed

a war between england and france

  1. king people war english england time men army great country power kingdom duke prince queen france nation began french general

love and family

  1. time miss made mr lady manner love make found great told person young thought brother replied house passion woman part

50 topics, 1000 iterations, 20 printed words, no stop words removed

love letters

  1. i and which you or your for am letter of upon page as any love are our it is from


  1. knight sir launcelot mr you your crowe squire captain clarke aurelia crabshaw greaves adventurer being darnel dolly t ye justice

50 topics, 500 iterations, 20 printed words, stop words removed

young love

  1. love happy life find man give men fine hear day tis beauty young ill dear er charms delight live formed

the court

  1. country service public making man gave gentleman pay appearance lordship company thy character fortune conduct manner interest laws care thee


  1. fo ship men sea fome made richard feveral found capt falconer water indians adventures god boat board ifland shore captain

Reading through these topics reminded me very much of Tristram Shandy. The variation of words in a topic list seemed similar to Tristram Shandy’s tangents and detours—although Tristram Shandy guided the reader through these tangents rather smoothly while these topics are lists of rather disjointed words. Without someone to explain their connectedness, it can be rather difficult to find an overarching theme. I doubt some of my labels do the topics justice. I should note that not all of the topics were this disjointed; some of them seemed to fit together rather well.

I thought I’d try to connect this to Armstrong’s _Desire and Domestic Fiction_, but surprisingly the topics (out of the ten I listed here) I found dealing with writing, subjectivity, and love aren’t necessarily gendered. Topic five has mentions both men and women while topic six does not mention a gender. Topic eight mentions only men—though with the combination of the two words “find man”, it could be about a woman looking for a man to marry or fall in love with. I feel like this case is harder to make when “woman” or “women” isn’t mentioned in the topic, though.

It could be that I also skipped over some topics that might have connected subjectivity to gender. There were quite a few.

(Okay, I went back and looked. One is [lady great time letter company found conversation behaviour woman immediately order mistress satisfaction love room acquaintance town obliged proper london], and another is [good made thought great make time give person reason woman put answer knew pleased long occasion words heard head leave]. So they're there, I just didn't include them in my ten.)

I think I can understand what is meant when it is said that topic modeling can make the novel seem like all reality effect. Topic modeling gives list of words, frequently including nouns (there are even more nouns with stopwords removed) that sometimes seem to have no connection to each other. They’re lists of words with no context to explain their presence. They’re just there. I think it’s this lack of context that makes the novel seem like all reality effect. Without any context or connection to each other, these words just… exist. And like the reality effect, words or nouns that don’t have a deeper meaning or connection to anything else—words that just exist—are there only to say that they are real. The reality effect is definitely at play here. One thing I think can diminish the reality effect in topic modeling is to find connection or meaning between the words listed in each topic. Sometimes the words seem like they’re just “there”, but other times it’s easier to find a connection to between them, or one gets the feeling that the words in this topic do have a connection but one hasn’t found it yet. For example, topics four and six in my list seem to have a straightforward connection. In this case, we don’t really see the reality effect as much because the words do have another meaning and they’re not there only because they exist. I think another thing about topic modeling that makes the reality effect more prevalent is that it takes words out of context. It could be that the words in this list do have other meanings or multiple meanings in the novels they appear, but without context we don’t really know what they are. These words might do more than just exist in the novels they appear in.