Analyzing Literature by Words and Numbers
How often do words like “God,” “love,” “work,” “science” and “industrial” appear in British book titles from the French Revolution in 1789 to the beginning of World War I in 1914? Thousands? Millions? What do you guess? Dan Cohen and Fred Gibbs, historians at George Manson University, try to find the exact answer by means of statistic analysis.
“Victorians were enamored of the new science of statistics, so it seems fitting that these pioneering data hounds are now the subject of an unusual experiment in statistical analysis. The titles of every British book published in English in and around the 19th century — 1,681,161, to be exact — are being electronically scoured for key words and phrases that might offer fresh insight into the minds of the Victorians."
"This research, which has only recently become possible, thanks to a new generation of powerful digital tools and databases, represents one of the many ways that technology is transforming the study of literature, philosophy and other humanistic fields that haven’t necessarily embraced large-scale quantitative analysis.”
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