Computing Literary Analysis: An Intro to Text Analysis with Frankenstein (1818)
Using Voyant Visualizations
What Can We Learn? What Assumptions, What Monster Did We Make?
- Open http://voyant-tools.org in your browser. Click on upload.
- Go to our Files folder in Camino and find the .txt file prepared for Upload this text. If you do not have a prepared file, find a .txt file of your text online. Be sure to “clean” the file and delete any copyright information or frontmatter that is not precisely part of the text that you want to visualize and study. Save a new copy of this cleaned-up file in a folder you can find, so you can access it again and again.
- In the bottom corner window, under “summary,” click on the slider radio button. This gives you the option of editing what are called “stop words.” These are the words that you do not want the program to process or visualize or count. Click “edit list” and add “chapter”. Then click Confirm. Your word cloud should change. What happened?
- Take 5 minutes to play with the tool. Play with all of the buttons and make pretty word clouds and colored lines in the graph. Click on everything and notice what each feature does and does not do. Try typing words from the book into the blank fields below certain windows. If you’re having trouble making something work, ask your neighbors.
- What word is used most in the book? How many times was it used?
How did you use Voyant to determine this word was used the most times?
Why is this word’s frequency significant to the novel?
Word Collocates and Word Cloud
- Check out the Cirrus window (the Word Cloud) in the upper left side. What can you learn from the word cloud?
Click on “Links” in the menu above the Cirrus window. Move the Context radio button to the right and to the left to change the density of the display.
What data are displayed in Links and what does the visualization tell you? Why are some words in different colors?
Select one “word link” that you think is interesting. What is it and why?
- Under the Summary view, at the very bottom of the window, slide the “item” button all the way to the right to show the max number of words and their frequencies. Select one word that seems important to the novel that you would like to explore further.
What is your word, and how and why did you select it?
How many times does it appear?
What words have similar frequency numbers, and why might this be interesting?
- In the same window, click on Reader to change the view. Type your word into the field below the Reader view if it does not already appear there. It should show up as an option in the field. Select it. If you select the option with * it will also access variants of that word, so for “slave*” that would also access “slaves” and “slavery” and “slaveholders,” etc.
Find one occurrence of your word in a short passage in the text that would be significant to close read. Go to that passage in the Reader window. If you have trouble finding the word in that text, use ctrl+f (PC) or cmmd+f (mac) to search for it. It should highlight.
What is the significance of that word to the passage? Do a quick close reading of the passage and record some of your findings that help you better understand the novel.
How does your close reading process in Voyant differ from using a printed text?
- Use your close reading to select a second word, one that is related to your first word. What word is that? How did or might Voyant help you select that word?
Does your second, related word appear adjacent to your first word in the text, and if so, how many times?
Hint: type them both into the field under “Contexts” – bottom right window.
- Type both words into the field below Trends. You should see a graph with the word frequency of both terms through the length of the book. What does this graph tell you about the book? How might that help you approach an understanding of the text?
Reflection on Assumptions
- Wait a second … Take your previous response and be a critical thinker and a skeptic. What assumptions are you making in your conclusions about the book that you came to using Trends and other features of Voyant? List at least 3 assumptions.
How can you test those assumptions? What did you learn about your assumptions and your instincts as a reader?
- Given your findings throughout this workshop, how is text analysis useful for literary interpretation of Frankenstein? What can you imagine doing with it? What are its limitations that you have experienced or might imagine?
Visualize Your Own Writing: AH! The Horror!
- Last: upload a new file to Voyant – the file of your close reading essay. What do you learn about your own writing?
- Rockwell, Geoffrey, and Stéfan Sinclair. Hermeneutica: Computer-Assisted Interpretation in the Humanities, MIT Press, 2016. http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.scu.edu/stable/j.ctt1c0gm6h
- Ted Underwood, “Seven ways humanists are using computers to understand text.”
- Advanced introduction to and workshop for Voyant 2.0 http://docs.voyant-tools.org/?p=0&scripto_action=transcribe&scripto_doc_id=944&scripto_doc_page_id=945
- Burrows, John. “Text Analysis.” A Companion to Digital Humanities. Edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford UP, 2004, http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companion