Digital Analysis Tools

   Throughout English 595, we have utilized several different digital analytical tools to try and analyze texts. One of the most common tools that we used was Voyant, a website that takes a body of text and counts the number of times that each word is used. These values are then taken and the most used words are displayed using several different methods. The most popular was a graph that showed the use of the words on the y-axis, and the time throughout the novel from beginning to end on the x-axis. One of these graphs is displayed in my Dracula N-gram assignment which can be viewed through the subpage linked to it. Another tool that we utilized was Google N-grams. Through this tool you can choose any words that you like and track their use throughout works of literature over time. This can also be viewed through the Dracula N-gram assignment.

    Though digital analysis of literature is often criticized, I believe it to be incredibly useful. When analyzing text just through means of reading and discussing it, the use of words is often ignored. Of course, diction is looked at closely, but the use of specific words throughout the whole book, specifically the use of a single word throughout the entire work, is not something that is analyzed. It is almost impossible and would be extremely tedious to go through a book word by word and count how many times it is used and how it is used. Digital analytic tools do the work for us. We can then take the information given to us and come to a conclusion about what it means in terms of the book and it’s meaning. Take for example my response to Porphyria’s Lover from Quiz 1. I analyzed the use of personal pronouns both before and after the death of Porphyria and used them to discover the strange change in power dynamics that occurs after the narrator has murdered his love interest. Without looking closely at the words and using the Voyant tools to count the number of times pronouns were used, I most likely would have never noticed this shift. This is also evident through the Dracula N-gram assignment when words relating to different forms of travel and communication told us about the way that technology advanced over time. Not only are we able to track the use of specific words throughout the course of the book, Dracula, but we are also able to track the use of the word throughout a specific time period, measuring their uses in all pieces of literature, both before, during, and after the creation and publication of the book. Without Voyant and Google N-gram, much of this information wouldn't be available.

    Even tools such as interactive websites, like the MacBeth ones that we discussed in class, can help students to learn a lot more about a certain topic than we originally think. It has been proven that memory responds much better to a combination of picture and text in comparison to plain text. We also looked at the Lego MacBeth and the high school project of one of the scenes from the play. Though they are dumbed down versions of what really happened, they can still convey the themes and messages in a more effective way than actually sitting down and reading the play. Students are able to connect to these types of displays more than they are to the actual text and therefore they are able to understand more clearly.

    Overall, both text and digital analytical tools are important in understanding literature. It is important to read the actual text in order to get the actual experience of doing so, but when trying to analyze the text, these digital tools are extremely useful. They aren’t taking away from our experience, rather they are adding to it in a way that wasn’t possible before.