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Rise of the Novel 2018
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Metadata for Evelina and Friends

3 min read

The previous computational exercise introduced several interesting questions about the evolution of literary works over time, especially with respect to various narrative forms and titles of works. I was interested in using the Early Novels Database source (focusing specifically on metrics: NarrativeForm and TitleNouns) to re-evaluate these previous hypotheses.

The visualizations that I was most interested in creating were: 1) narrative form with respect to date of publication and 2) nouns in titles and adjectives in titles with respect to date of publication. Google Fusion Tables, while able to categorize all of the works into discrete subcategories, was generally less useful for tracking patterns and changes over time.

An example of my attempt to visualize different narrative forms over time:

Because Fusion Tables' visualizations are optimized for categorical data, I shifted my approach and attempted to, instead, map the various PubLocations of the works. Despite having over 850 rows of metadata, the mapping tool created fewer than 10 pins on the physical map. My primary concern with this mode of visualization is that it lacks any indication of frequency. For example, the city of London has one pin on the map, but after a closer examination of the metadata in the database, over 740 works have PubLocation set to London. This means that our visualized map has eliminated the ability to understand which publication locations were predominant over others. To a viewer who is blind to the actual data, Dublin (in which 90 works were published) is equally significant as a publishing location as London (in which 700+ works were published). Further, the more minute bugs that exist in computational tools like Fusion Tables are still present, such as the mapping of "Oxford" and "Bath" to the US. I quickly modified these fields in my copy of the database to "Oxford, UK" and "Bath, UK," which corrected the problem in the physical map. Still, these imperfections in computational translations cannot always be detected qualitatively by users.

Next, in hopes of visualizing the data that I was originally interested in exploring, I created a word cloud of different nouns in the titles of works. I found that the most frequently occuring nouns were: volume, story, history, adventure, volume, letter, edition, life, series, and novel. Many of these words appeared to serve the functional purpose of providing additional detail on the form of the novel, rather than the content of the work itself. A quick review of the database seemed to confirm this hypothesis, with many titles of works including details such as "A Novel," "Year [Publication Date]," and "A Series of Letters." In order to get a better sense of the content that was produced during this period, I parsed through and cleaned my copy of the metadata in Fusion Tables, filtering out words that denote form. After doing this, the most frequently found nouns in titles were: world, love, manner, death, sea, war, friend, sex, spy.

This exercise has demonstrated that depending on the actual form of the values in the data set (e.g. sentence, category, boolean), different data visualization and analysis tools may be most appropriate and in some cases, may even conceal important details to the detriment of the end-user.

The Google maps version of Crusoe’s journey maps on the locations from the book, whether traveled there by Crusoe or just mentioned in passing. This map highlights the number of locations mentioned—it is clear that place and space factor monumentally into the book. I appreciate the way the map shows that places are important and should be imagined in relation to one another, highlighting the importance of travel and movement as well. I found it interesting that, although the novel is part of a colonial project, most of the places are in Europe, which allows us to understand the perspective of the novel as distinctly that of the colonizer.

Assignment 2:

For the locations absent, we can see that most, if not all of them, are the given names of locations when one of the government powers controlled them during the time of Crusoe. For example, the long stretch of land in North Africa previously known as Barbary is now replaced by Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Chad, etc. Also, you have places such as Dunkirk and St. Augustine, two locations that hold significance for the government powers Spain and England who were the leading powers for discovery and trade at that time. The absence of various locations on the current map provided by MyMaps demonstrates the shift from colonialism, under the powers of England and Spain, to the fight for independence in various areas of the world which would continue for centuries after Dafoe writes Robinson Crusoe. Even if some of the locations listed are fictional, they still have the characteristics of colonialism and imperialism which can be seen as Crusoe increasingly views his fictional island as an empire in which he is the ruler and those who choose to live there must recognize him as ruler. In addition, the various locations speak to the war between Spain and England for extending their respective empires through trade and conquest. This relationship between Spain and England helps give context to Crusoe’s biased remarks about Spain’s treatment of natives in their inhabited lands, despite England doing similar. These remarks, as well as the competition between Spain and England, allow the reader to see the growth Crusoe has gained on the island, away from the bias of those in England, seen as he makes sure that the English mutineers who are left on the island treat the Spanish sailors with respect when they return.

Assignment 2

2 min read

Comparing the two maps of Crusoe’s voyage—one with a map contemporary to the novel’s publication, one with more accurate and updated geography—revealed that the early map did not accurately show Crusoe’s voyage in the Caribbean, which is strange. He went among many islands, yet the dotted lines show he only went to the northern coast of South America. Could the mapper have confused the West Indies with the East Indies? But of more interest to me is the density of pinpoints in Europe. This is a detail we can’t see on the map of the voyage that My Maps allows us to analyze. Crusoe’s extensive lists of his stops in Europe tell us that Defoe was careful to list these cities accurately (they’re mistaken much, much less by MyMaps than are locations in the Caribbean and Africa). With Gallagher’s argument on the rise of fictionality in mind, we can postulate that this is part of an effort to convince readers of the truthfulness and accuracy of Crusoe/Defoe’s account, as he does in the preface. Readers are likely to know European geography well, but not other places abroad, so he makes sure not to invent European places.


Old Map, New Map (Assignment 2)

1 min read

The map from The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe is striking in the division it suggests between the Old World and the New World. It shows us two views of the same sphere, but the two-dimensional depiction leaves us with the impression that these halves of the world are all but separate, joined only at the equator. I wonder what we might glean from the map's presentation about eighteenth-century readers' conceptions of Crusoe's voyages--particularly relative to our own. Would they have considered Crusoe's trip from West Africa to Brazil especially meaningful? How would that square with Defoe's cursory treatment of the trip in the text (29)? What might a specifically twenty-first-century map (e.g., a Google map with locations marked) suggest about contemporary understandings of Robinson Crusoe's geography? Perhaps, I could argue, it betrays a certain expectation of geographical exactitude in adventure narratives. And perhaps it shows that the present-day reader's perception of locations has been flattened, with cities to be marked with the same blue tags as continents.

Upon creating the map from the deduplicated locations list, the most striking initial difference was one of form: the Google Maps version displays a series of points indicating locations superimposed over a map of the world (locations that Robinson Crusoe either visited or discussed), whereas the version printed in the novel displays the path taken by the protagonist. This means that the Google Maps lacks the attention to the seafaring journey that is essential to the novel. In paring down our imagining of the places referenced in the novel to a series of locations, the manner in which the original map places the act of traversing the globe at the center of the novel becomes increasingly clear. This highlights the nature of Robinson Crusoe as a travel narrative and a proto-colonial novel, one where places are only important insofar as they are connected to a wider vision of the globe as a connected entity, and furthermore, as an entity that may be traversed literally or non-literally by a middle-class individual. Additionally, the other primary difference between the two maps — that one is a mapping of places referenced and the other is a mapping of places the protagonist physically visited — reveals that although Crusoe's voyage to colonized or (through the gaze of empire) yet-to-be-colonized lands is central to how Robinson Crusoe imagines itself as a novel, the majority of references to location in the text are references to European locations. Non-European settings in this novel go largely unnamed despite being the subject of the narrative. This suggests that the methods with which Robinson Crusoe characterizes the non-European settings operate less explicitly/more covertly than they might otherwise.

Assignment 2

2 min read

Even a cursory glance at the map included in "The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" is enough to guess both the time period and the perspective the book is written from. It's a map made by a colonizer, someone who sees Africa as an opportunity and its people as a bountiful resource ready to be plundered. The fact that one of the countries is called "Negroland" really drives home how little they cared for the cultural identity of these people, how they reduced them to commodities and nothing more. There's a chilling moment in "Robinson Crusoe" where the titular character, after being saved by the Portugese captain, is approached with a proposition by some planters and merchants. Having heard his story about encountering the people of Guinea, they want to sail there and enslave the inhabitants. They ask Crusoe to come along and manage the trading. Bear in mind that these are people who offered Crusoe and Xury aid, who showed nothing but kindness. But this doesn't deter Crusoe. He has no qualms with enslaving the people who helped him, his only concern being that it's a big risk to just take a voyage when he's already got a good thing going. This essentially sums up Crusoe's attitude throughout the novel: indifferent. Apathetic. It's not that he hates these people, he just doesn't care about them. He doesn't see them as human beings worth empathizing with or considering. It's attitudes like these that enabled atrocities like imperialism, and hangs over the novel and this map like an ugly cloud.

Mapping Robinson Crusoe

2 min read

When mapping our data from the Stanford NER to Google Maps, I was most interested to see the predominance and specificity of locations in Europe, especially with respect to the rest of the world. These results were apparent even in my initial analysis of the locations list in NER, but are even more evident when viewing the pinpoints on a physical map, which speaks to the manner in which Google maps data.

The map included from the Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe contains visible details of globalization, travel, and voyage in highly visual aspects, from the font and the inclusion of latitude/longitude lines, to the names of small bodies of water and the sketching of various terrains. This image, in my opinion, seems like the journey that Robinson Crusoe would want to preserve as representative of his narrative.

The map that is reflected on Google Maps, however, feels like a more realistic representation of Crusoe's journey. Throughout the text, he refers to foreign territory as essentially "uninhabited islands," which we are able to see, even on the title page of the book. He does not give names to these places, as it would be almost antithetical to the theme of the text: of a man on a solitary journey to the vast unknown. Many of the pinpoints are actually centered on the final leg of his journey, when he is traveling back home through Europe. I found these contrasts to be interesting, but moreover, important in understanding Crusoe's sentiments towards places that are both familiar and unfamiliar to him.

This map is somewhat hard to interpret, given the number of locations plotted. To remedy this I tried looking at the prevalence with which words appear in the text. Only seven words appear more than ten times: England(42), Providence(35), Lisbon(19), London(12), Brazil(11), Africa(11), and America(10). The extreme usage of England is no surprise, as Defoe is constantly trying to frame Crusoe's adventures in direct comparison to life in England, using phrases like "such as in England", "if we had been in England", and "as I had seen done in England". It is also interesting that the second most used place is Providence, which is used in the text in a far less literal sense than all other words. Crusoe uses the term in a Christian sense, reinforcing the novel's religious narrative. Looking at the map, there is a sharp contrast between the "new" and "old" worlds. Crusoe often refers to specific cities in Europe, covering the map in pins. On the other hand, non-european locations are painted with must wider strokes, with Crusoe referring to "Africa" and "America" as two of his most used places. I wonder whether this is an active choice by Defoe to only refer to locations that he thinks his reader will know or if he himself is only knowledgeable of these large distinctions.

The juxtaposition between the NER generated list of geographical mentions and the NER generated list of monetary mentions within Robinson Crusoe cement Defoe’s novel as a distinctly colonial yet pre-capitalist text. Robinson Crusoe is a novel concerned with wealth and social mobility as much, if not more, than it is a text about survival. The novel opens with Crusoe meditating on his socio-economic positioning. Before departing on his journey Crusoe is informed that, “It was for men of desperate fortunes on one hand, or of aspiring, superior fortunes on the other, who went abroad” (6). While this warning appears to set up a cautionary tale for those who fail to appreciate “the middle of the two extremes, between the mean and the great” (6) the novel ultimately concludes with Crusoe returning from his Odyssey to a sizable fortune. Quantitative data bears out this categorization of Robinson Crusoe as a novel concerned primarily with fortune. If we map the locations mentioned throughout the novel we see that––apart from biblical references to Israel and Egypt and a early descriptions of Crusoe’s background––almost all mentioned locations fall along either epicenters of the triangle trade or Portuguese outposts along the Swahili coast. However, despite the fact that the novel’s geographic locations are tied directly to the exchange wealth, the NER recognizes only one reference to actual money, early in the novel, wherein Crusoe recounts “I did not carry quite £100 of my new gained wealth” (16) on an early voyage. There is a moment towards the novel’s close where a donation of “872 Moidores”, a Portuguese gold coin, that goes unrecognized by the NER but it is emblematic of what the broader NER data shows us: that material wealth in the time of Robinson Crusoe was still in the process of being abstracted to currency.

Crusoe and GoogleMyMaps

2 min read

I’d expected that some of the locations Crusoe references in the novel wouldn’t show up on the Google map I created for this activity, but I was still surprised at the sheer amount of entries which couldn’t be shown on the map—almost a quarter of the whole locations list was excluded, and while I can see how entries like “New,” “Bible,” and “providence” can’t be traced to physical locations, I can’t tell what kept Dunkirk and England from being added onto the map. The name and spelling variations which prevented certain locations from appearing on the map were also interesting (I especially liked the paired “Havannah” and “Havanna”), and entries like “New Spain” and “St. Salvador” provided a clear contrast between the increasingly colonial world and not-yet-standardized English of Robinson Crusoe and the present day. While this exercise couldn’t produce a comprehensive map of every location referenced in the novel, the map and list of “unmappable” items which exist are a weird and interesting window into the novel in their own right.

Assignment 2

The misspellings were the first thing I noticed about the data that didn’t map correctly, and that reveals a little bit about English in the 18th century (that it was different). I think it is hilarious how Google Maps can give us a marker for Africa, a full on continent, but, it can’t give us a marker for England, which is spelled perfectly correctly as well. Not really sure why that is, yet when I type England directly into the search bar, I do get a corresponding marker. The map also shows how the Western side of the world was the focus of not only Robinson Crusoe’s voyages, but also any of his anecdotes. There are very few markers in Asia, the only one is actually the East Indies. Despite the marketing of himself as a worldly man, and even I think that of his voyages around the world, Crusoe hasn’t really been to half of it.