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Kenny Bransdorf
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Exercise 5

4 min read

1. The titles of the novels published in 1778 are far longer and more descriptive than the titles we would see today. Many of them go the route that "Pamela" and "Evelina" did in that they offer two titles, one shorter and concise and the other longer and more descriptive (ex: "Evelina or, A Young Lady's Entrance Into the World"). Others took the older approach of giving a summary of the novel's themes or events in the title, a holdover from the time before the novel had really risen to prominence as a literary form. Though the latter approach was still employed for years to come, as evidenced by the bibliography, it is clearly the residual form whereas the former is the emergent form. This seems to be the transitory period between this prototypical approach and the honed, economical titling conventions we are familiar with today. Where did this need for economy of language come from? Perhaps authors recognized that the long-winded, plot-outlining titles were a) difficult to be recommended via word-of-mouth due to their length, and/or b) that giving away so much of the plot and themes might discourage potential readers, who might have been swayed in the other direction had the intrigue of mystery remained.

2. I examined "The Unfortunate Union: or, the Test of Virtue," "The History of Eliza Warwick," "The Example: or the History of Lucy Cleveland," and "A Trip to Melasge..." The first thing that struck me was the purpose of the preface in each of these novels. They were written as direct appeals to critics, asking for forgiveness for the factual inaccuracies, downplaying the quality of their own work, and showering the critics with praise. In the case of the authors of "The Unfortunate Union," "The History of Eliza Warwick," and "The Example," which all display the female gender of the author either in the title or in the preface, they specifically ask for lenience in light of the shortcomings of women. Not so with Frances Burney in the preface to "Evelina." She points out both the risks and perceived insincerity of this tradition, saying, "I will not, however, with the futility of apologies intrude upon your time, but briefly acknowledge the motives of my temerity: left, by a premature exercise of that patience which I hope will befriend me, I should lessen its benevolence, and be myself accessary to my own condemnation... The language of adulation, and the incense of flattery, though the natural inheritance, and constant resource, from time immemorial, of the Dedicator, to me offer nothing but the wistful regret that I dare not invoke their aid. Sinister views would be imputed to all I could say; since, thus situated, to extol your judgment, would seem the effect of art, and to celebrate your impartiality, be attributed to suspecting it."

It's interesting that Burney chose to point out this practice and criticize it, given that this would effectively eliminate this tool from her arsenal in all future endeavors. It seems to indicate a certain boldness that these other authors lacked, as well as a higher degree of integrity. In doing this, she's indirectly throwing her peers under the bus for the sake of elevating evaluations of her own character and, by extension, her work. I wonder if any critics saw this as a veiled attempt at appealing to them, which probably could be argued as a far more artful and insincere strategy than the ones employed by her contemporaries. Whatever her intentions, the move was a gamble. It was brave of her to eschew the self-deprecating practices of her peers and allow her novel to stand on its own. She made no apologies for being a woman, nor made much mention of her gender at all, a progressive step considering how common it was to comment on and display the gender of female authors in their titles and prefaces.

3. The term cluster for 1770 to 1800 was made up of the terms: Life, King, Volumes, Tale, Series of Letters, and History. Under all but Tale and Series of Letters were multiple terms that were most commonly related to these terms. Because the engine only analyzes the titles, prefaces, and first 100 pages of the texts, the results are certainly skewed toward examining titular conventions and the practices of the preface. The content of the texts themselves are harder to parse out or examine with this tool. Term frequency is a more specialized tool, one that requires that you first find a relevant set of terms that you know are important to analyze for whatever study you're doing.

Outline

2 min read

Thesis: Posting politically charged social commentary that allegedly came from the mouth of a child is a surprisingly strong trend in social media that often earns ridicule and has become a common subject of satire. Transparent though it may be, it bears a striking resemblance to the literary tradition of utilizing female characters as vehicles for subversive ideas, a trend outlined by Armstrong and specifically seen in novels like “Pamela.” In this situation, female characters and children serve similar purposes, in that they were and are, respectively, considered to be forever outside the body politic, powerless to enact change or truly subvert the dominant forces at play. Thus, the ideas they present seem less threatening and therefore are unassailable. This seems to be rooted in the perceived inability for the author to contribute a compelling or influential narrative themselves, either due to low social status or subpar arguments.

1. Briefly summarize Armstrong's points, then transition into using these points as a lens through which to examine Pamela. Bring up parts of the novel that support this reading of Pamela as a vehicle for subversive thought. Evidence: Armstrong and Pamela

2. Give examples of the social media trend/meme, then apply Armstrong's points to it as before with Pamela. Evidence: Social media posts and Armstrong

3. Consider what this parallel says about how women and children are positioned in society, specifically their proximity with the body politic. Evidence: Social media posts, Pamela, and Armstrong.

4. Conclusion.

Exercise 4

2 min read

I used the first chapter of the first volume of "Tristram Shandy," and the biggest mistake the OCR editor made was with letters that are written differently now than they were in 1759. The letter "s" was the biggest offender. Perhaps if there is a way to get the editor to recognize the unique shape of the old "s," this problem would not arise. Also, the editor was unable to decipher words that had faded. I'm not sure how to address this issue, if there is a way to perform more accurate reconstruction of words then that would be it, but what can be done for words that have faded entirely? In the future, could the editor be upgraded to guess words based on context? Perhaps even using previous sentences as reference points if there happen to be a lot of sentences that are constructed similarly?

The difference between a single copy of a book and a digitial facsimile is fairly small. Because the digital facsimile captures the physicality of the book (the damage, the unique lettering, etc.) it can serve as a fairly suitable substitute for the real thing. It does hold a distinct advantage over a physical copy: it can never be destroyed. It will forever exist and be accessible through databases like ECCO, while physical copies either decay or are inaccessible in the interest of preservation. However, it's not perfect. Due to its commitment to recreating the novel as it was in physical form, its contents are not always legible to machine reading, making them less than useful for transcribing. But with gradual improvements to OCR editors, the digital facsimile will become increasingly useful.

Thesis

1 min read

Posting politically charged social commentary that allegedly came from the mouth of a child is a surprisingly strong trend in social media that often earns ridicule and has become a common subject of satire. Transparent though it may be, it bears a striking resemblance to the literary tradition of utilizing female characters as vehicles for subversive ideas, a trend outlined by Armstrong and specifically seen in novels like “Pamela.” In this situation, female characters and children serve similar purposes, in that they were and are, respectively, considered to be forever outside the body politic, powerless to enact change or truly subvert the dominant forces at play. Thus, the ideas they present seem less threatening and therefore are unassailable. This seems to be rooted in the perceived inability for the author to contribute a compelling or influential narrative themselves, either due to low social status or subpar arguments.

Assignment 3

2 min read

When I saw that the word "think" appeared 505 times throughout Pamela, I was reminded of Armstrong's claim that female characters could safely act as vehicles for subversive political thought, as well as our general discussion about this period's budding interest in the interiority of people. Upon further investigation, I found that Pamela most often employs the word "think" to describe her own thoughts. This may have been obvious, considering she is the narrator and is writing about what is happening to her. It makes sense that she's sharing her thoughts. But that's from the perspective of a modern audience accustomed to this focus on interiority. At the time, to simply look through a history of Pamela's mind, her private feelings and musings on her situation, must have been just as alluring as the scandalous events that transpire within the story. Perhaps this is another way that Pamela was meant to be a vehicle for subversive ideas, beyond just her womanhood: she is not pushing the ideas on us intentionally, they are merely part of the content of her private correspondence, thus they do not feel so much like an agenda on the author's part. Furthermore, our position as the audience is that of voyeurs at best, intruders at worst, a position that becomes more salient when it's revealed that Mr. B has done the same thing we're doing. Thus, we may be more sympathetic or at least judge the ideas presented less harshly, given that we are not supposed to be seeing them.

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.

Assignment 1

1 min read

What struck me first and foremost about the list was the confusion regarding Friday, who is incorrectly listed as a date in the NER. This led me to reflect again on the dehumanization Robinson Crusoe so casually inflicts upon Friday, to the point that he names him after the day he met him, not bothering to put any thought into a meaningful name. To Crusoe, this probably seems an endearing, innocuous gesture, and perhaps the author thought so too. For us, modern readers, it speaks to the ignorance and hubris that animated the age of imperialism. It's also interesting how many times Friday's name is mentioned, far more than any other character. It highlights how important of a figure Friday is in Crusoe's life. Despite his subservient role, Friday is a crucial source of companionship that Crusoe heavily relies on. Perhaps it's worth considering what would have become of Crusoe had he not made a friend in Friday.