I first cleaned up the first document, The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, and then plugged this in to Voyant. I usually first observed what came up first: looking at the cirrus cloud, links, and terms making sure to zoom out a bit and play around with these features. The cirrus cloud usually led me to a thread of inquiry about the works and then I would search these terms along the graph to see how they compare. Generally, the bubbliness features didn’t prove very useful for me. I repeated this when I added the other four texts to my corpus only this time I had an awareness of what sorts of words and connections I was looking for. After reviewing all of this I searched the terms that had appeared relevant throughout my investigation in Google’s Ngram. Ngram provided a seemingly representative literary basis to back the suspicions and hunches I had about my corpus of works overall. I found Ngram useful for zooming out and discovering the big picture of this project.
After uploading The Brothers’ Grimm Fairy Tales onto Voyant I was first curious about the history of them. They were published in 1812 so I kept this in mind as I used the different tools. I also kept in mind that these are a collection of tales so they are sort of their own corpus already without considering the other texts I might want to compare against them. These are children’s stories so I am interested in comparing them across other children’s stories.
Here is the initial document summary:
My hypothesis from the start had a sort of environmental consciousness element to it. I was curious to see how these stories (just The Brothers Grimm alone) relate to the term “forest” or “wilderness” and what sort of words appear connected to them. I did this in order to see if there is a way in which we relate the concept of nature to children begins to be othered or considered separate. As this was 1812 and industrial development was growing I think it is important to try and understand the ways in which our stories and mythologies bridge this disconnect between nature and man.
In the initial cirrus bubble these words popped up:
Considering it is a collection of children’s tales most of the words are fairly simple and grounded in normal everyday things: home, house, door, father, mother, wife, son, tree, etc. I was also surprised to encounter “king” here because the idea of monarchy I assume would be something fading from everyday vernacular until I consider that I was still told stories of kingdoms and lands far away. As if we are still trying to impress upon children that monarchies do exist somewhere far away and that they are magic and a setting separate from but similar to our own realities.
As I zoomed out a little on the cirrus cloud I saw the word I was looking for come into view: forest.
Among “forest” are words of these magical kingdom settings: dwarf, peasant, castle, queen, princess, prince.
I also noticed animal names begin to pop up and it brought to mind questions of these animal archetypes. What role does the fox usually play in these stories? Is it mischievous and clever?
What role did the cat play in these stories? The wolf? The birds? I think these animals have as much to do with the environmental psychology to consider as the forest itself. Are these animals beginning to play roles to scare children from the forest; do they serve as warning tales?
I wanted to see some of these words together on a graph to give a better idea of when they are occurring:
Although, this graph is almost too full to grapple with so I decided to pair these words up in smaller groups.
Like “forest” and “princess”
They seem to correlate relatively closely.
Next “cat” and “fox”
Some of the word links I found interesting:
I was finding that these animal characters appear together a lot of the time. Next, I wanted to add more stories to the corpus overall.
The other children’s works I added were:
The Cat and the Fiddle (a collection of children’s stories, mostly nursery rhymes like the classics published in 2010 but stories are much older) by Bell and Richmond
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling published 1894
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie published 1904
The Indian Fairy Book (stories by Cornelius Matthews written by Henry Schoolcraft)
The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales published 1812
Since this has now expanded to a fairly large corpus I wanted to see first what were the most commonly used words.
The cirrus cloud first brought me here when I expanded it:
I noticed many words of the fairy tale realm still appear: village, forest, wolf, and various character names.
I also noticed that by expanding the corpus I was given different words for the environment like “jungle”.
“Jungle” and “forest” have different connotations yet they both look at natural settings. Since I introduced The Jungle Book into this corpus I am not surprised that this has popped up as well.
I say the term spirit in the cirrus bubble and wanted to compare how that and forest appeared across the texts.
Spirit is most present in The Indian Fairy Book while it is much less present in the rest. I am wondering if this is because it is told through the Indian tradition rather than the English/Western tradition like the rest of the texts I chose.
Adding “jungle” seemed to show that the term mostly appears in The Jungle Book.
Next, I wanted to look at animals in links and graphs.
That ended up giving me this large knot of words. Somehow, this also proved helpful. It shows a lot of different animals that seem to interact with one another. I then wanted to explore these terms on the graph to see which animals appeared in most stories.
The Jungle book had the largest variety of animals while the Cat and the Fiddle had the most uses of the terms “cat” and “cow”
Then, I took my findings to googles NGram viewer.
First, I searched the common animals across lots of books.
Overall, the fox is least popular in books while the cat has been gaining popularity for the last two centuries. Possibly because we are separate from the wilderness and cats are becoming common household pets. Just as well, lion decreases in use among books again hinting at a separation from the wild.
The use of the word “spirit” vastly overwhelms the other two in this graph yet the decrease of use plummets around 1850. This could do with the advance and belief in science over spirituality.
When I take away spirit and look at forest and jungle it is much easier to see the difference:
“Forest” is much more widely used in books compared to “jungle” but “jungle” has seen a small increase over the years. Possibly due to voyeurism and literature focused in the western tradition.
Then I wanted to take my original question back to the idea of kingdom settings:
The most obvious detail is that all of these words have been on the decline since the 1800s and their use in the 2000s is very small compared to what it was two centuries ago.
Concerning my initial text and algorithmic criticism I learned that there is a connection among the animal archetypes, mainly that they appear together and with certain qualities whether it be a cat with domestic objects like milk or a fox with connotations of cleverness. I also learned through algorithmic criticism that in my original text the idea of a Kingdom persisted strongly throughout the stories and all the nuances that come along with that world: dwarfs, Kings, Queens, peasants, etc. Overall, I found that ideas of Kingdom and the myths that go along with them are fading from our body of literature in present day. Though the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales and the rest of my corpus include words like “king” most of those works were published in the 1800s. I wanted to explore environmental consciousness through these texts so I looked at animals throughout and I found that many animals are declining in appearance in literature (as in the Ngram viewer), I believe, due to the fact that they are encountered less on a regular basis and are escaping our modern psyche.
What I’ve learned about algorithmic criticism is that it will become useful in our big data world. As it is not realistic to try to read every important novel nor every important novel in one genre alone, algorithmic criticism allows people to follow hunches and curiosities they may have about whole bodies of literature without having to dedicate a lifetime to reading these texts. While algorithmic criticism will never replace reading novels it does allow one to zoom out from one novel and explore the patterns residing among a large body of literature. I find that Voyant is really helpful in pointing out patterns to a reader. Knowing how often a word occurs is a clear sign of its importance in the text just as comparing the occurrence of two words shows if they are closely linked and can urge a reader to question why that may be. I also found NGram to be a good tool in showing how the themes in the novel measure up over time amongst other works. I would use algorithmic criticism in the future and I’m glad to have had a chance to explore some of it in this project.