DH Project Writing

A Day in the Life of a Dataset

For my final project, my dataset is as follows:

Set 1 — books mentioned in Gilbert and Gubar:

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  3. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte 
  4. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 

Set 2 (first control) — books not mentioned by Gilbert and Gubar (but that I argue will prove their theory nonetheless):

  1. The Wide, Wide World by Susan Warner (sentimental)
  2. Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Brandon (gothic)
  3. Marriage by Susan Ferrier (domestic fiction)

Set 3 (second control) — books not mentioned and by male authors:

  1. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

With this dataset I am going to explore a few questions. The first one is: Does my DH work corroborate the argument made my Gilbert and Gubar? That is the first question I must answer, because if my practices do not corroborate then I either know 1) their argument is wrong (however, this one does not seem logical as they have written an entire book attesting their thesis) or 2) my scholarship is not a viable way to translate their argument from close reading to focused-distant reading. If I find that my first set of books, and the application of my scholarship to them, does prove (or at the very least, to an extent support) Gilbert and Gubar’s argument, then I will know that I can apply that DH method to works not mentioned in The Madwoman in the Attic to see if their thesis holds up when not using close reading methods. The crux of my project is to prove that one does not need to have read, or perform laborious close reading as G&G did, to see that female-authored (and perhaps, male, but we will get to that) books of this period are, in fact, laced with feminist narratives that write an independent protagonist characterized by mad tendencies, confined spaces, and strong instincts. The hope is that my work will prove that is this is true for the novels I chose outside of G&G’s scholarship. My third question (which is applied to the second control of my dataset) will be to see if this same argument holds for male-authored books of the time. Do they too write of mad-women? Do they too have a lot of confined spatial descriptors? If so, are the women adept at mimicry or are the men professing the same sentiments? How might we get to the bottom of this with DH?

            I would like to explore the last two questions I just posed above in more detail, however I fear that my dataset, in regards to male-authored books, is not large enough and that in order to prove or disprove that I would need to amalgamate an extensive corpus of books by men in that time period and have multiple different genres represented. G&G argue that women were adept at mimicry and I think that if the male books I chose also support their argument to some extent, then this is the logical conclusion. But it leads one to wonder what the driving force was behind the sentiments in the male-authored texts. Another limit of this question is that I don’t know if distant reading could ever answer it. It might not be a question of adding data, but of ultimately needing to switch the approach entirely in order to prove or disprove this point. 

            I will be manipulating my data using AntConc. I am capable of running all the processes myself and have done so for all of the novels in my dataset. Here are some preliminary findings:

  1. Keyword: Dark
    1. Hits: 476
    1. N-Gram Tool:
  • Keyword: Small
    • Hits: 364
    • N-Gram tool:

And an example of one keyword frequency run on Wuthering Heights only:

Keyword: Mad

One Comment

  • Karalee

    Hey Emma. I really like how you’re approaching this by starting with texts mentioned in the Gilbert & Gubar and then zooming further and further out to test their claims. I’m particularly interested in seeing your results for your second control set–the male authors. If there actually are traces of these protagonists defined by “mad tendencies, confined spaces, and strong instincts,” I’m also curious what motivated these decisions. Since I’m *guessing* these male authors wouldn’t have been inspired to include these characteristics by any kind of strong feminist thought, it would be fascinating to explore how similar writing trends can be encouraged by possibly contrasting motivations.

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