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Rise of the Novel 2018
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Assignment 1:

The length of the new document, compare to the original one, demonstrates the excessive amount of detail that DaFoe’s novel includes alluding to the meticulousness of Robinson Crusoe, as well as aiding Dafoe in portraying this work of fiction as non-fiction. Also, the excessive detailing aids in presenting Crusoe’s tale as a cautionary one, particularly in its themes about religion and Providence. Both of these goals are shown from the onset, as the preface states to the reader, “This story is told with modesty, with seriousness, and with a religious application of events to the uses to which wise men always apply them(viz.) to the instruction of others by this example, and to justify and honor the wisdom of Providence… The editor believes the thing to be a just history of fact” (3). Where I find errors in the NER is with when identifying certain concepts and religious references. These errors include calling the Bible a location, Heaven as an organization, the character Friday as a date, Providence as a location, Benamuckee as a person, and Christ as a location. However, NER is also able to demonstrate the idea of organizing some abstract and religious concepts as organizations, such as the Word of God, Nature (as it relates to Providence), His (as a reference to God), and Spirit of God as an organization. Therefore, while the NER did work for most of the items listed, it could not grasp others and I am interested in seeing how this plays out in the future and what other items NER labels as Organizations.


Assignment 1
What I found most interesting from the data was the presence of words in places they perhaps didn’t belong and what light that shed on their role in the book.
Friday is included in the data as a DATE rather than a PERSON. This would flow with some things we were saying in class about Friday being more of a symbol, like “Good Friday” and object to Crusoe than a person. What Friday represents is a new day, for both himself and Crusoe. If we are harping on the rebirth idea, and Friday being considered a date rather than a person, then we could look at the days of creation of the Lord. On the fifth day god creates the sea animals and the BIRDS. And as we also pointed out in class, there are certain parallels between Friday and Crusoe’s pet Parrot, particularly in the ways in which these two characters learn to talk, both being taught meticulously by Crusoe, their master. Also by grouping Friday with the rest of the list of dates, the character becomes a moment in Crusoe’s life rather than a separate entity.
The data list, by placing Friday in the date section, serves to highlight certain symbolic attachments to Friday’s character.

Assignment 1: Names

2 min read

During my initial scan of the “persons” list, I found it interesting that Crusoe’s name appears 9 consecutive times in one part while it rarely appears in other parts of the novel. Because the data from the lists are organized by the order in which they appeared in the text, I figured there must be a corresponding place in the novel where either Crusoe references himself or he is spoken of many times. I then looked closer and found that these occurrences of Crusoe’s name come from the scene in which his parrot startles him, having found him far from home in his boat: “…I was awaked out of my sleep by a voice calling me by my name several times, “Robin, Robin, Robin Crusoe: poor Robin Crusoe!  Where are you, Robin Crusoe?  Where are you? Where have you been?,” (113). 

First of all, this makes me want to further investigate the meaningfulness of his self-reference in the novel, including when he calls himself “poor miserable Robinson Crusoe” in the beginning of the journal. For example, the parrot calls him “Robin” rather than “Robinson”; because Crusoe says he taught Poll these phrases himself, it’s as if he gave him permission to refer to him as a friend. The bird is “sociable,” and at that point in the novel, the only person who talks to him besides himself. In addition, because the parrot only says what Crusoe has said before, the questions the bird asks have a double meaning: they’re what Crusoe has asked of himself, an exile, and what his bird-friend asks him – he cares about him being gone, so asks where he’s been and comes to find him. Triste. 


"LOCATION: Christ" (Assignment 1)

2 min read

While examining my deduplicated persons list, I noted that a few of the personal names appearing in the novel are those of Biblical figures--namely: Jonah, Solomon, Elijah, and Saul. (While "Ismael" also appears, it refers not to the Biblical character but to a living person of that name.) At first, I didn't make much of this theme; the novel's narrator-protagonist becomes a pious Christian during its events, after all. But then it occurred to me that there was a Biblical name conspicuously missing from the list. Where was Jesus?

He was on the locations list, it turned out. The NER had recognized one instance of the name "Christ" as a place--and simply missed every other reference to the central figure of Crusoe's religion. It had, for example, completely overlooked the multiple instances of "Jesus" in Crusoe's first true prayer: "I cry'd out aloud, Jesus, thou son of David, Jesus, thou exalted prince and saviour, give me repentance!" (77). This moment represents a major development of Crusoe's character, yet examining the NER-provided data on the novel would give a researcher no hint of its presence, let alone its importance. How much can we really trust tools like the NER to provide accurate snapshots of a novel's contents?

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.

“Friday”, who we know as one of the main secondary characters in the novel, appears in the list of dates rather than names in the NER generated lists. Of course, this can be accounted for as an error on NER’s part, but it is telling of Friday’s role. Crusoe named him Friday rather deliberately, and it shows how marks his time on the island with events rather than actual time itself. From the text, we can read his description of Friday as being objectifying and dehumanizing. Friday being omitted from the list of people is indicative of how he is dehumanized by Crusoe but also can point to a fuller understanding of his actual name by putting it on the list of times. Interestingly, “Sunday” is the only other day of the week that is mentioned in the novel (or at least catalogued in the NER list), which is in line with Crusoe’s increasing commitment to religion throughout the novel. It is interesting that, according to the NER results, time is not as important a marker in the novel, or at least not as important as location for example, which has by far the most entries. Is there more significance behind Friday’s name because days of the week are so rarely mentioned? Perhaps it is a way for Crusoe to connect himself more with the way time is kept in mainstream society, off the island. Friday, through his character and his actual name, shows that Crusoe’s life on the island, though remote, is still indicative and reflective of society.

One interesting thing I noticed from looking at the data is the lack of named mentions in Robinson Crusoe. It makes sense, as the novel is written in first person from the perspective of a man who lives on an island for the most part devoid of human interaction. Not counting the references to "Friday", which Stanford NER erroneously categorized as dates, there are only 69 mentions of persons in the entire text. In Alice in Wonderland, Stanford NER recognizes 347 mentions of persons. However, once we remove the references to "Alice", most of which are due to the book's third person narration, both books have the exact same number of person labels. Including mentions of "Friday", Robinson Crusoe actually has more references to characters other than its protagonist than Alice in Wonderland. Although the book claims to be his solitary adventures, Crusoe is surrounded by company, especially Friday. In fact, Friday on his own is mentioned more than all of the non-protagonist character mentions in Alice combined. This highlights the role that Friday plays in the story. While he dehumanizes him in his descriptions, Crusoe fixates on Friday, dedicating 188 mentions to his name.

Creating a list of references to dates within Robinson Crusoe immediately revealed an interesting error: all instances of "Friday" were interpreted as dates rather than as a person's name. After correcting this error and placing instances of "Friday" in the list of people rather than the list of dates, Friday is revealed as the most frequently named character, surpassing the protagonist. However, examining this in a denaturalized list format highlights the fact that "Friday" is not ordinarily a person's name. In the narrative, there is already considerable dehumanization when Crusoe names Friday (as well as establishing a new, self-aggrandizing title for himself), but considering that the total instances of "Friday" in the text surpass all other references to date and time put together, this leads me to wonder if the repetition of "Friday" subconsciously reinforces a paradigm where Friday is categorized as less than human, in opposition to Crusoe and the other characters. Another potentially significant point of interest revealed by these lists is that the list of locations was by far the longest. It could be argued that time was an equally vital factor to the core of the events that occur during the novel, consideration that the extreme length of time Crusoe spends stranded is essential, but location is explicitly referenced more often. It is possible that this reflects the nature of Robinson Crusoe as a proto-colonial text, where the geographical spread of empire is key. However, time is also essential to imperialist ideology, especially in terms of narratives of progress and development, so it is also possible that this is not a relevant observation.

The most fascinating result the NER’s word classifier produces for Robinson Crusoe looks, at first to be an innocent––if unfortunate––mistake. The NER fails to recognize Friday–a prisoner whom Crusoe rescues then subsequently enslaves––as a person, instead classifying each reference to Friday as a date. Friday’s parallel dehumanization at the hands of both Crusoe and the NER seems, at first glance coincidental. The computer’s confusion comes, understandably, as the consequence of Friday’s unconventional name. While Crusoe gives Friday his name, Friday’s naming is far from the most dehumanizing moment in a passage that sees him put Crusoe’s “foot upon his head as he had done before; and after this, made all the signs to me of subjection, servitude, and submission imaginable” (162-163). Yet the NER’s failure is far from inconsequential. Once we examine the list of dates we see that Friday is mentioned 190 times making him the most mentioned character in the novel, referenced 20 times more frequently than the Novel’s title character (While ostensibly some of these references could refer to the weekday the only other day of the week mentioned in the entire novel is Sunday and it appears just twice). In this way Friday shows us both the merits and dangers of computational humanities. Once the NER’s data is correctly collected, it shows us the centrality of a character of color to a distinctly colonial text. On the other hand, what do we make of the fact that the NER failed to recognize Robinson Crusoe’s most mentioned character as any character at all? What if Friday had been given a non-standard name outside NER’s seven classifications? The case of Friday also serves to caution us against the illusion that digitized methods of analysis are objective or free from the biases that plague their qualitative predecessor.

Crusoe and the Standford NER

3 min read

What I found most interesting about the process of using the Stanford NER and the resulting lists I extracted from the text of Robinson Crusoe was less about what the lists contained and more about what they didn’t mention: objects. This omission of the novel’s stuff stuck out to me because Crusoe the narrator is cataloguing his possessions almost constantly throughout the novel—whether he’s describing the goods he’s “plunder’d” from the shipwreck (41-46), the clothing he’s made (107), or the layered walls he builds as defenses around his “castle” (128), Crusoe’s lists are almost always of objects he’s found or created. This obsession with counting his things is a believable character trait for someone in a survival mindset, but I think that Crusoe’s interest in cataloguing becomes less straightforward (and maybe more frightening) once he begins to extend his little “kingdom” to other people. The description of Friday on page 162, which we discussed in class, is a list of Friday’s features (many of them compared to objects, with teeth “white as ivory” and skin “of a bright kind of a dun olive color” being the most explicit examples) and one whose construction is unsettlingly like Crusoe’s previous lists of things he’s acquired; this narrative similarity positions Friday not as a human, but as a resource to be catalogued along with the rest of Crusoe’s stuff. On page 186 Crusoe goes through a similar process, once again listing people in a manner that reduces them to things—at the end of the fight with the cannibals we get an account of the dead “savages,” sorted by their killers and amounting to 21 dead or escaped in all. This tallying up of bodies is matter-of-fact, and the account of the battle ends soon afterwards; once Crusoe, Friday, and the Spaniard have reduced the cannibals to so many bodies and bloodstains on the beach, they become objects that are accounted for and therefore uninteresting.

From a practical standpoint, programming the NER to extract an OBJECT: list along with its other categories would be difficult and unwieldy, and most of the resulting entries would likely be mistakes or irrelevant. However, I don’t think that a reader of the NER’s Crusoe lists could gain a full understanding of the novel without having some idea of the obsession its title character has with accounting for things (and the people he views as things).  


Assignment 1

I think the list of ORGANIZATIONS is really funny, as Heaven, His, Fidelity, and Zenith are a few of the organizations listed. The organization list is by far the least accurate, and I’m interested in seeing how the NER actually works. The Money list is incredibly sparse, which is a bit surprising given how class is a major theme in the novel, but it seems like the MONEY list is probably generated by a specific dollar symbol or in this case, one of these guys £, and so it excludes the money that Crusoe listed he borrowed and found etc that weren’t notated that specifically. The DATES listing is probably the most directly analogous to the book, as with the exception of Friday spamming, the list of dates is drawn from the Journal where Crusoe marks each of his observations with dates. However, without understanding the correspondence between the DATES list and the other lists (PERSONS), the overall list data fails to successfully reduce and simplify the novel into a more concise stream of information. However, I believe if more explicit connections were made in between data entries on the list, maybe even some indexing, the cross sectional data could sufficiently reproduce the essentials of the novel, given the extreme formal realism utilized in Robinson Crusoe.

Listing Robinson Crusoe

2 min read

I was not surprised that, overwhelmingly, the most frequently appearing name is Robinson Crusoe or other variations of his name, including Robinson, Robinson Kreutznaer, Robin, Robin Crusoe. I am surprised, however, by the prevalence of names of characters Tom Smith (appears 7 times) and Will Atkins (appears 6 times), whose roles in the narrative seemed rather minor or supplementary -- especially while the name of one of the most signficant characters, Friday, was excluded entirely.

On the level of the computational text analysis, this is likely because "Friday" is interpreted as a day of the week, rather than as the name of a person. The exclusion of Friday's name is important, as it seems to indicate the author's perception of Friday's value, as both a person and as a source of labor. Names are intended to represent, or at least be indicative of, identity. Friday's name was given to him by Crusoe and therefore, Friday's very being was imposed by someone else.

"Friday, which was the day I sav'd his life..." (163) seems to indicate that Friday is someone who is acted upon, rather than someone capable of acting on his own. His identity, therefore, is reduced to a subject. I think it's important to note that the highly prevalent names, like Tom Smith, do not possess any literal translation that indicates that they are treated as objects or dependent on others.

To follow the pattern of observing exclusions from the lists, it is also interesting to look at locations. Once Crusoe returns to Europe, he begins to specify the names of the places he passes through in greater detail -- this is why the lists include Paris, Madrid, France, Bordeaux. There are few, if any, references to the actual place he was located for the vast majority of the book, reinforcing the notion that the land he inhabited was abandoned, foreign, new.