HUMA 7P55: An Example of Distant Reading (Augustine and Melville)

In February 2020 the HUMA 7P55 reading group will be testing Voyant Tools in conjunction with several theoretical readings by Reinhart Koselleck, Raymond Williams, and Ian Hacking. If you’d like to Read More, you’ll find a Voyant Tools analysis frame that compares Augustine’s City of God with Melville’s Moby-Dick: Or, the Whale. The reason for offering this comparison is that one of the participants is part of another reading group at McMaster University in Hamilton that is focused on these two texts (click the link to RELIGST 775). Note: The image above the post is a fixed version of the dynamic cirrus (word cloud) available below in the interactive Voyant window, together with many other dynamic frames.

NOTE: Last updated on Friday, 31 Jan. 2020

NEW (Jan. 31): To expand this output in a new browser window, follow these instructions.

The frames above are created using https://voyant-tools.org. For some basic background on theory related to using Voyant Tools and links to some documentation on the software, see http://dutchdissenters.net/wp/2014/11/voyant-tools-and-historiography/. For more suggestions on using text analysis “recipes,” see https://methodi.ca/recipes and “discover [more] research tools for studying texts” by exploring TAPoR 3 (http://tapor.ca/home).

UPDATE: I have replaced the original comparison of City of God with Moby-Dick as “whole” texts with a new comparison of each text divided into five roughly equal sections. I chose the divisions based on the “advice” of two websites (Wikipedia for City of God, and SparkNotes for Moby-Dick). If there are better divisions, please suggestion them! You should be able to see the divisions that I have used by looking at any of the tools that analyze the corpus — i.e., all 10 text-segments, 5 for each work — 1) by segment rather than 2) in its entirety. Examples of tools in category 1) are Trends and TermsRadio, while examples of tools in category 2) are Cirrus and Links.

Information about the sources are always crucial in digital work. For Augustine I used the Marcus Dodds translation (T&T Clark, 1871). I’ve found fewer details about the edition of Melville I found online, but a note at the top of the text indicates that it was “Produced by Daniel Lazarus, Jonesey, and David Widger.” At a glance, both digitized texts look trustworthy, BUT I have not looked at them closely and I have not compared them with published editions. Please keep this in mind and read with caution — as always.

To find the digital sources that I used, go to …

I have of course excluded extraneous text, such as the chapter list from Melville, and the Gutenberg pre- and post-text “bumpf”. I have left the notes in the City of God. Whether this is advisable is an open question.

NOTES ABOUT USING VOYANT

… MORE COMING SOON …

By default, Voyant displays five interpretative windows. These show the Cirrus, Trends, Summary and Contexts tools. You can “read” or interact with and analyze the outputs of each of these dynamic windows. Note, however, that you may also expand and / or switch the tools in each of these windows.

After playing around with the newly divided corpus, I can share a few outputs. Note: These are fixed images. They have no useful meaning by themselves, but each might serve as a starting point for new questions to bring to strategic and close readings of the texts.

Distinctive Words, from Augustine and Melville

Distinctive Words, from Augustine and Melville

 

Trends, from Augustine and Melville

Trends, from Augustine and Melville

 

Trends with custom terms, from Augustine and Melville

Trends with custom terms, from Augustine and Melville

 

Links focused on God and whale

Links focused on God and whale

 

TermsRadio for Augustine

TermsRadio for Augustine (note that Melville data are linked but off screen)