DH Project Writing

Project Concept: Gilbert, Gubar, and DH

I recently read a selection from Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s book, The Madwoman in the Attic. In the second chapter they make the argument that 19th century women writers used insidious stylistic techniques to affirm their opposition to the patriarchy. These were typically images of madwomen, confined spaces, or art. Gilbert and Gubar propose that these were not “isolated eccentricities” (Gilbert and Gubar 72) but rather common plots found in 19th century women’s writing, which were purposefully placed to defy and critique the patriarchy. These examples were not inherent to one genre, but can be found among most all 19th century women’s writers, both Gothic and domestic. Gilbert and Gubar take a traditional literary analyses approach to building their argument, which was published in 1979, before DH was truly a thing. What I would like to do is text mine the works they discuss to locate the hidden meanings they propose in the most-often used words. By seeing whether or not these messages are evident in the keywords, we can deduce whether or not it was the style (metaphor, etc) that drove the hidden plot of defiance, or a mix of style and repeated word choice. 

Gilbert and Gubar spend most of their time on the works of Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Anne Bronte, and George Eliot. I will take a text from each of these novelist. They will be:

  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. Armgart by George Eliot 

I will then compare the domestic novelists (Austen, Eliot, and to a degree Anne Bronte) to the Gothic novelists (Charlotte and Emily, and to a degree, Anne) to see if their most-frequently used words a) align with Gilbert and Gubar’s argument that domestic fiction portrayed these values just as much as Gothic and b) if the two genres are similar to each other in theme as deduced by keywords. In stripping away the fineries, what I aim to do is see if Gilbert and Gubar’s argument remains steadfast. As I love their argument, my goal is to augment their scholarship via DH and argue that DH has a place in these arguments and can be used to further validate them. 

I will source four of these texts from Gutenberg Press; I will be sourcing Armgart from HathiTrust. I am likely going to be using AntConc or Voyant as a tool. I will need to do additional research on how to do that. I plan to extract keywords and frequency from this tool.

The data visualizations that I will likely use are bar graphs to show the words, or perhaps networks. Though, I am not familiar with how to make networks, but perhaps I will learn some tools that show me easy ways to make network visualizations of keywords.

Readings that could help me with these potential projects are:

Ted Underwood, “A dataset for distant-reading literature in English, 1700-1922, (Links to an external site.)” tedunderwood.com (August 7, 2015)

Ted Underwood, “A Genealogy of Distant Reading” (Links to an external site.)DHQ, (2017).

Daniel Rosenberg, “Stop, Words (Links to an external site.),” Representations 127.1, (2014).

Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein, “Introduction: Why Data Science Needs Feminism (Links to an external site.)” and “The Power Chapter (Links to an external site.),”  from Data Feminism (2020)

Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein, “Collect, Analyze, Imagine, Teach (Links to an external site.)” and “On Rational, Scientific, Objective Viewpoints from Mythical, Imaginary, Impossible Standpoints,” (Links to an external site.)  from Data Feminism (2020)

I think the data visualizations that would best serve this project would be bar graphs. 

Some DH projects that I have looked at for inspiration are:


Works Cited

GILBERT, SANDRA M., et al. “Infection in the Sentence: The Woman Writer and the Anxiety of Authorship.” The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, Yale University Press, 2020, pp. 45–92, https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvxkn74x.6.

One Comment

  • Karalee

    Hey Emma! This is a really cool progression of your original project idea. I often struggle a bit with finding a place for computational data in the world of literary analysis, but your plan to single out keywords as a way of getting at the hidden messages coded within 19th-century women’s novels is a super effective way of showing how Digital Humanities can function effectively in literary discourse and actually add something useful to conversations surrounding author critique, gender-oppression, and 19th-century power dynamics as a whole. I look forward to seeing what you find!

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