When it comes to classic novels, I have a penchant to reach for the gothic romances… and by that I mean the Bronte sisters. Wuthering Heights is undoubtedly one of my favorite novels (I have multiple copies of it and whenever I travel for long periods of time I take one with me; it’s a comfort thing!). While I have a bias to Emily’s novel, I love Charlotte’s Jane Eyre as well. And Anne Bronte’s Agnes Grey is another masterpiece that often gets overshadowed by her sisters. Call me crazy but there is nothing quite as charming as a dreary setting, a somewhat haunted house, and a moody male. There’s a beauty in the dark language that these sisters use to set the scene, and I want know more about it.
There are a few ways I could go about this. Of course, the Bronte’s have been studied widely, so there are lots of articles (all sourced from JSTOR). Some I might read include:
- Wuthering Heights and 19th Century Literary History
- The Bronte Sisters
- Obsession—Beginning with the Brontes
- Charlotte Bronte and Sisters
These articles give some of the history necessary to understand the three sister’s choice of story and with that, their choice of language. In addition to these articles, it would be good for me to get a scholarly view on all three individual books. Here are some that might come in handy:
In addition to these articles I also own two very large anthologies on all things Bronte, including one that is a dictionary of terms often employed in their novels. The dictionary will come in quite useful as I want to run these three texts through a processing system that will tell me each of their most used words and phrases. After I organize these I want to analyze a few things in accordance with my data. (Yes, I am about to use another list.)
- What these words reveal about the singularly novel they are associated with
- What these words reveal when compared with one another: do they highlight similarities between the three writers? Differences? Do we see notes of the author’s shared history between shared words?
- What words does each sister use the most and what does that reveal about them; is there a link between the words and their life histories?
There are of course other questions that I think will come up, but I have to see the data first and then I hope it will spark more connections or perhaps enlighten disconnects between these books. On the whole in looking at the data I want to get a feel for how Gothic novels can differ from one another and how personal histories influence writing. These three novels are some of the most widely regarded Gothic romances, why? What do they each have in common that make them Gothic? What do they have different and how are those differences still within the Gothic trope? Are we able to recognize these authors relation to one another in their most frequently used words?
I think one of the most interesting findings will be what these words reveal about each sister. To get a full picture of this, I will want to dive into the history of each of them and give a little overview to people who will look at my findings. Without having a knowledge of their histories, there is really no foundation to stand on. I will use one of my anthologies for this research.
The way I hope to analyze the data is by taking an author-centered focus. Foucault and Barthes talk a lot about the “death of the author,” but I want to turn away from that and really lean into what the words these sister’s use most reveal about them and their intentions with their stories. I suppose I might also do a historicism approach as well since I will be digging into their histories.
To bring this project into the modern era, I think I will (after locating the key words and phrases) try to find their modern equivalent. How would a Bronte novel read today? A fun idea I have is to make a page where I rewrite one of the scenes using the modern equivalent of the words. Does it still get the message across? Is it still Gothic? What does the change say about the importance of words and historical context when reading?
The best way to, I think, go about showing this project will for it to be in a multi-modal website with different pages for each sister, the comparisons, and then the modern takeaway.
Some digital humanities projects that I’ve looked over for inspiration include:
- Between Canon and Corpus: Six Perspectives on 20th-Century Novels: I like this one because it combines longer form writing with pictural data. It also leans on comparison to draw points, which I plan on doing in my comparison of the three sisters. While there is a lot of prose here, it is well-defined as to what data that prose is talking about, making the findings and argument clear.
- Women Writer’s Project: Coming from my alma mater I had to look to this DH project for inspiration. I love the website set-up and aim to emulate it in my multi-modal site. I like the easy-to-navigate tabs and the simple yet informative writing on each page. However, this one lacks an argument interweaved and is more of a database, therefore why I am looking to it only as format inspiration.
I plan on using Project Gutenberg to access the three novels; all are available in their online library. I feel confident that there is enough information for me to create a developed project concept from these findings.