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Rise of the Novel 2018
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What We Talk About When We Talk About Topic Modeling

2 min read

1. txt analysis ambiguous literary documents easily ve topics lda apply ...

(Neel mentions these 162 times, almost 10 times as much as anyone else) 

2. works list text hope label rise grandison listed made genre ...

(Renn mentions these most and does so 93 times)

3. topic topics number army war makes make fo effect difficult ...

(Seimi takes the top spot here with 88 mentions)

4. sense great find men stopwords single context thing century falconer ...

(Molly mentions this 47 times) 

5. found interesting read format period data form epistolary person titles ...

(Courtney mentions this 109 times nearly three times as much as anyone else) 

6. pamela power sir mrs thought corpus make fairly country appears ...

(An assigned reading makes an appearance! You can thank Renn and their 65 mentions) 

7. history word england category shandy book english character count computer ...

(Molly talked about this 6 times as a much as the next guy (Kyra), mentioning it 163 times)

8. novels program hits good people distribution lady themes virtue god ...

(Kyra leads the way with 69 mentions)

9. time modeling texts work set results mallet readers love give ...

(I mentioned this the most––55 times to be exact–– but am the least original: this was the most evenly distributed topic)

10. words man similar began characters iterations king specific previous stop ...

(Seimi mentions these 65 times) 



Exercise 5: Evelina in 1778

8 min read

          In looking at the novels released prior to, at the same time as, and after Frances Burney's Evelina, I discovered some interesting patterns and changes over the course of the novels published that are listed in James Raven's The English Novel, 1770 - 1829; a bibliographical survey of prose fiction published in the British Isles. Literary works published in 1776 and contained titles that specifically mentioned the name of the main character(s), a trend that would continue through to 1780. However, various titles would also include the themes and characteristics prevalent in the character or novel, in what appears to be an attempt to instill the same attributes in the reader. In fact, you see works like Isabella, OR The Rewards of Good Nature republished as Isabella: OR The Rewards of Good Nature. A Sentimental Novel, Intended Chiefly to Convey United Amusement and Instruction to the Fair-Sex. By the Author of the Benevolent Man, and the History of Lady Anne Neville, doing away with subtly to make sure that readers clearly understand the characteristics of the characters that the authors and publishers want them to learn. This is the case with various other novels in this time period as The Rambles of Mr. Frankly was republished as The Rambles of Mr. Franky. Published by His Sister. Vol. III/IV in which one of the reviewers lists the following;

“... the principles of virtue, and especially of benevolence, so plentifully sown in these literary rambles, may produce a valuable crop in the minds of young readers and to such, it seems probable, this performance will be most acceptable. Those who have more experience of human life and manners will think it romantic.”

Therefore, the reader has evidence that individuals in the literary world had the target audience in mind when publishing and reviewing such novels, in an attempt to persuade or instill in readers characteristics through the characters in novels. Thus, by looking through Raven's survey of novels during this period, we see that the republication of particular literary works could hold other motives besides monetary. In fact, in a 1778 review of Memoirs of the Countess D'Anois: Written by Herself Before Her Retirement. In Two Volumes. , William Enfield says,

“When books that have long been forgotten are revived, it is to be supposed, either that they have extraordinary merit, or are peculiarly seasonable. Neither of these reasons can, however, be assigned, for the revival of these memoirs.”

This holds as in 1779 the literary work Modern Anecdote of the Ancient Family of the Kinkvercanotsdarsprankengotchederns: A Tale for Christmas is released and eventually republished in later years in other countries. In the case for the novel from which the review comes from, one can assume that the countess' influence or monetary wealth could have led to the additional circulation of her memoirs.

          As the years continue, we find that the title of novels continue to change as all novels listed in the survey of 1777 contain the words "History," "Memoir," or "Letters." There are also a greater number of titles that list the author of the work, something that would not continue into 1778, instead, they are replaced by a vague description of the author such as "lady" or "warrant officer belonging to the navy." In 1779 and 1780, after the release and success of Evelina, again there are a large number of literary works whose titles indicate that they are composed of letters. There are fewer titles that explain the themes within the novel or characteristics of the main character(s). Instead, various LENGTHY titles list events of the novel, the author and their previous works, and/or the exclusivity of the material found within the material. From this shift, I can assume that perhaps there was increased competition between literary writers for readership, and the possibility for additional reprints, or the need to give a greater insight of the contents of the literary work to those of lower classes who could not buy multiple works or allowed to look through the contents of the novel.  

          In Step 2, I compared the 1779 edition of Evelina with the novels The History of Miss Temple. IN Two Volumes. By a Young Lady (1777)The History of Eliza Warwick. In Two Volumes. (1778), The Sylph; A Novel. In Two Volumes (1779), and The Indian Adventurer; OR The History of Mr. Vanneck, A Novel, Founded on Facts (1780). Except for The Sylph, all the novels I selected indicate containing some connection to historical individuals or events, and yet, only The Indian Adventurer chronicles historical events without constant relation to romance, but does so in an autobiographical format more similar to nonfiction. All novels are written in a first-person narrative, but The Indian Adventurer does not do so in an epistolary format, choosing to only shift to dialogue between the author and other characters throughout their life. It is also of interest to mention how the characters of Miss Temple, Eliza Warwick, Pamela, and Julia (of The Sylph) are similar in their origin of a woman from a lower class who is the object of desire by a man of a higher class, but Eliza's story has a shift in power dynamics. The novel begins with the mother of the Marquess writing to Eliza, who is already in an unknown location to prevent the Marquess from trying to marry her, begging Eliza to try and put an end to his love for her as he is willing to give up his role and go immediately to her as he feels like he cannot live without her. It is interesting how the female character holds all this power and the history of the character, and the remainder of the novel is written in a letter by Eliza to the Marquess as to why he should not marry her. The author of this novel is aware of the sharp contrast this power dynamic is to characters of previous novels as the author includes a "To the Reviewers" section in the novel in which she begs the male reviewers to allow her novel to be submitted to publication, referring to them as merciful and just. She uses her gender, as a woman, to justify why her characters are structured the way they are, stating, "not being written, perhaps, so accurately as you would expect it should be, did it come from one of your own sex." She also proceeds to beg that if they refuse to publish her novel, that they do not attack her character in satires, a reference to Pamela and Shamela, as she cares about such a character. So even though we see a character in which the power dynamics are reversed from the male dictating the female, given the male-dominated literary and publishing world, the female is still at the mercy of the decisions of the male.

           In Step 3, I compared the collection of texts of English Fiction from two different time periods, 1770 - 1800 and 1750 - 1779. In analyzing the texts from the two periods of time, I discovered the differences in the focus of the first 100 words of literary works and categories surrounding them for the two time periods. The categories for 1770 to 1800 were History, Author, Novel, Life, Adventures, and Death. The categories for works from 1750 to 1779 were Life, "Containing," Adventures, Wife, Famous History, and Novel. One thing I do want to note is that rather than selecting the wheel option, which would then provide arrows to show the other categories hidden from view, the tile option gives a greater understanding of the proportion of words and categories represented for the first 100 words in each literary work. I was interested as to why Death was a category in the fiction between 1770-1800, but not in 1750 - 1779, assuming it was due to the lack of representation of the word and other words associated with it in comparison to the other 99 words for each literary text. Therefore, I used the Term-Frequency tool to compare the top categories for the two time periods as well as the top words for each category in the two periods. In doing so, I found that the Word Frequency tool available for ECCO is flawed in creating categories as "Adventures"  and its top topic "Adventure Fiction" appeared significantly less than the term "Death" did, but in the other group where "Death" is a category, there are terms that appear as frequently as Death and words associated with it, and yet they are not categories themselves. Perhaps this speaks to the flaws the system presents both in creating categories and not giving an accurate representation of the focus of literary works by only sampling from the first hundred words of each literary work.


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.

Evelina and Her Peers, or Exercise the Fifth: Being an Examination of the Novel's Quantity and Quality, Among Other Themes

6 min read

The bibliography which Garside et. all have assembled claims to be the most comprehensive of its kind, and I believe it—the amount of information about the English novel which I was able to gather from a mere 4 years worth of entries was dizzying, and I appreciated the text’s incorporation of both quantitative and qualitative data into its pages. The use of review excerpts was particularly useful, since those little blurbs gave me a greater sense of a given novel’s plot and style than I could get from the title or from one of the computational analysis programs we’ve used so far; by including these excerpts and specifying the price, later editions, and any translations of any given book, the bibliography allowed me to understand a fair amount about contemporary reader response both on an individual/critical level and an economic one (something that no other exercise we’ve done so far has emphasized, which made me really appreciate the power of a good bibliography for gaining contextual understanding).

Furthermore, since the authors have included books of which no physical copies still exist, the bibliography gives readers a clear picture of just how many novels were reaching the public in the years specified; if I’d had more time I would have counted and compared the number of novels (and cross-referenced by publishers/price ranges) to try and get a sense of which years more novels were produced during and which kinds of novels seemed to experience a greater demand. This bibliography isn’t perfect, of course, and the novels it seems most interested in weren’t necessarily the ones I’d expect; Evelina got much shorter reviews and its entry contained less information overall than I’d thought such a uniquely transitional novel would warrant, while an “older” and more directly referential text such as Love and Madness. A Story too True in a Series of Letters Between Parties, whose Names would Perhaps be Mentioned, were they Less Known, or Less Lamented, by Sir Herbert Croft, received more critical and logistical attention. Overall, though, I felt that the bibliography on its own seemed more accessible and had more depth than much of the AI-compiled information sets we’ve been looking at so far.


I looked at four novels besides Evelina from the years between 1776 and 1780: Love and Madness. A Story too True in a Series of Letters Between Parties, whose Names would Perhaps be Mentioned, were they Less Known, or Less Lamented, published by Sir Herbert Croft in 1780, Munster Village, a Novel by Lady Mary Walker in 1778, The travels of Hildebrand Bowman, esquire, Into Carnovirria, Taupiniera, Olfactaria, and Auditante, in New-Zealand; in the Island of Bonhommica, and in the powerful Kingdom of Luxo-Volupto, on the Great Southern Continent. Written by Himself; Who went on shore in the Adventure's large Cutter, at Queen Charlotte's Sound New Zealand, the fatal 17th of December 1773; and escaped being cut off, and devoured, with the rest of the Boat's crew, by happening to be a-shooting in the woods; where he was afterwards unfortunately left behind by the Adventure, supposedly by Hildebrand Bowman (and, according to Garside, by an anonymous author)  in 1778, and The Champion of Virtue. A Gothic Story., published presumably by Clara Reeve in 1777. I chose these novels because each of their titles suggested a deviation (whether in form or content) from the novels we’ve read so far in class. Love and Madness, while it is both epistolary and romantic, seems far more referential than Evelina or even Pamela; Munster Village names itself as a novel but appears more place-based (similar to Northanger Abbey) than centered around a single character; The Travels of Hildebrand Bowman has an obscenely long title and is reminiscent of Crusoe and the travel narrative (this novel seemed to me the polar opposite of Evelina, with its tell-all title and male protagonist, and although the two texts both have [initially, in Burney’s case] anonymous writers, their authorships are connected to their characters in very different ways); and The Champion of Virtue both centers around similar themes to Pamela and Evelina (in its moral attitude and centering of a certain character, in this case the unnamed “Champion”) and aligns itself with the gothic as opposed to the confessional or domestic. However, most of these novels looked, from their digital facsimiles, physically quite similar to Evelina—while the title page of Love and Madness is dramatically styled and its font aggressively serifed, the other three texts used simple fonts and a fair amount of blank space in their first page. Munster Village also resembled Evelina and Northanger Abbey with its preface addressed directly to the audience; I’d be interested to look at prefaces and author’s notes over a longer timespan to see how their length and audience vary over the course of the novel’s development, since most of the recent novels I’ve read have had little to no paratext before the text began. As much as the digital facsimiles are useful for understanding a novel’s physical form, I do think I’d have a much more instinctive sense of the differences between these works and of Evelina’s place in its contemporary context if I could hold these texts in my hands.


The self-reflective nature of works under the umbrella of English fiction (and how does ECCO differentiate between fiction and poetry/prose-poems/epics/conduct books/etc etc etc? I have no clue, but would like to know whether it’s a human or an AI making that distinction) published between 1750 and 1850 is clear upon examining the term clusters which Gale Primary Sources produces—the prominence of words like letter, history, novel, adventures, life, and account all demonstrate how preoccupied early novelists were with the kind of narrative they were producing. With that issue of self-definition in mind, I used the term frequency tool to track the use of the word “novel” in the 4,000+ texts I’d pulled from ECCO, and saw a major spike in use between 1780 and 1800 that dropped off to zero occurrences from then on. Maybe it’s some glitch or limitation in the Gale algorithm, but it seems impossible that no English fictional text between the years of 1801 and 1850 would use the word novel; Northanger Abbey alone disproves those results, so I’m not quite sure why the Gale program gave me such a dramatic assessment. This software felt useful for a large-scale exploration of term usage, but is very limited in its depth and nuance and I’d likely only use it in combination with other, more specific text-analysis tools.


Exercise 5

4 min read

What I like about the Garside bibliography is that, in the titles that it catalogs, we can see a form still very much tethered to its origins but clearly drifting ever farther from them. Among the listed titles are the Crusoe-esque (which include summaries of the adventures that the books recount--e.g., The Travels of Hildebrand Bowman) and the Pamela-esque (which include declarations of the utilities that the books possess--e.g., The Unfortunate Union). Furthermore, many of the titles still at least gesture toward historicity, labeling their books as 'histories' or 'memoirs.'

However, we also see titles that eschew these early trends: The Loves of Calisto and EmiraThe Relapse. Munster Village. These titles would not be out of place on the new fiction shelf of a contemporary library or bookstore. (Does this mean that novel titles have evolved little since the mide-to-late eighteenth century?) As such, the bibliography seems to provide a valuable snapshot of a transitional moment in the novel's maturation as a form.


The novels I examined, in addition to Evelina, were Young JamesLetters from Henrietta to MorvinaThe Mutability of Human Life, and The Champion of Virtue.

The rarity of attribution (or the commonness of anonymity) within my sample struck me. Young James's title page notes that Voltaire wrote the original French version, but the translator is not named. Like EvelinaLetters from Henrietta to Morvina has no evident attribution whatsoever in the text. The Mutability of Human Life is, at least, attributed to "a Lady," while The Champion of Virtue does not explicitly name Clara Reeve but refers to her as "the Editor of The Phoenix." This (admittedly weak, given the small sample size) evidence that anonymity remained pervasive among novelists of the period surprised me; I thought Evelina might be something of an aberration among its contemporaries in this regard. What might it mean that so many authors of fiction continued, even in the 1770s, to publish their work without their names attached? Why did Burney, specifically, make this choice?

The specific text that most intrigued me was that of The Champion of Virtue. It begins with a rather striking frontispiece depicting a moment from partway through the story, and the title page includes an untranslated epigraph from Horace (perhaps suggesting a more educated intended audience). Most interesting, however, is the "Address to the Reader," in which Reeve performs a sort of brief critical analysis of The Castle of Otranto and favorably contrasts her own novel with it, thus placing her work in a particular literary context. (Also of note: As Walpole did with Otranto, Reeve presents The Champion of Virtue as a translated manuscript from a past age--though this presentation is perhaps tongue-in-cheek.) This section reminded me of Burney's preface to Evelina, wherein Burney cites earlier novelists and explicitly distinguishes contemporary fiction from the romance. It seems that she was not alone among her contemporaries in thinking of herself as a contributor to a burgeoning literary tradition.


In using Gale's text analysis tools, I restricted my corpus to works published in the 1770s. I was somewhat surprised to see "Henry Fielding" occupy such a prominent position in the term clusters. Of course, I knew he was a major figure in the early development of the novel, but the term clusters gave me a sense that he was a singularly dominant figure in the scene surrounding the emerging novel in the mid-to-late 1700s. Whether this sense is accurate might offer an idea of how trustworthy tools like Gale's are.

Evelina in context

4 min read

1 and 2: 

Evelina has much in common with many of its contemporary works. Many of the novels published around 1778 are distinct in putting females front and center, by titling the novel after the female protagonist, or by emphasizing female authorship in the title ("by a lady").  Gender seems to be a very important topic of the day: While "The History of Eliza Warwick" (1778, pg 265) claims to have a young female author in its address to the reviewers, one critic writes: "If this novel be really written by a lady, and 'from a motive the most virtuous would approve;' we counsel her never to write any more novels, except from the same motive. - Is it of the masculine gender?- then we admire the gentleman's artifice as little as his work". This critic advises the author, if female, to strive to replicate the moral vision of this novel, and if male, that both his falsehood and his work are of little consequence. Perhaps this critic views the feminine as the necessarily virtuous, whereas the masculine is to be judged by different standards. 

This is attitude is emphasized by the common use of dual titles, like "Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded", in which the name of the central character and the moral theme are interchangeable ("The mutability of human life, or, the memoirs of Adelaide"; "The child of misfortune, or the history of Mrs. Gilbert"; etc.). The character and the lesson she teaches readers are one in the same, and her particularity and her general applicability are tied together from the outset. Interestingly, I found while searching ECCO that you can search by "Lady" as the author, and it brings up a many works that explicitly identify their author as "Lady", whether or not she is named. This makes me wonder if "Lady" was not only a label of gender but also of social class, as in lady and lord.

Although the novel makes claims to the importance of the individual, as seen by titles claiming the novels are histories, memoirs, collections letters, or diaries, it also seems like these books would be really expensive for your average skilled laborer, on average costing more than a third of the typical weekly wage. Some novels are also described as "elegantly printed" or printed on "fine writing paper", reinforcing the idea that these novels are luxury items. The first pages of a sampling of novels were all decorated above the title with bands of design of varying intricacy. These elegant flourishes add to the luxury-feel given by the experience of reading the novel.



Using Gale to look at term clusters for English fiction from 1760-1840, the influence of verisimilitude and formal realism emerge. The most common terms were "Life", "History" and "Volumes". Since this program mines words from titles, first 100 words (potentially prefaces, author's notes), and the subjects of the novels (side note - how do novels get categorized into subjects?), the ubiquity of the terms emphasizes how the novels present themselves: as historical accounts, as accounts of people's real lives, and in multiple volumes. Within each of these, "Author" is listed as a related term. It seems that the people that comprise the characters and the authors of the novel are front and center in this time period. Also interesting is that "Epistolary Novels" is such a prevalent term - noteworthy here is the high frequency of female names and titles that are the related terms (Lady, Miss, Maria, Julia de Roubigne) in comparison with the "History" category, which brings up "History of the king" and "Henry" as some of its most frequent related terms.

Evelina in 1778

5 min read

Part I: 

An investigation of the Garside bibliography reveals patterns within works published in each year, allowing us to derive a more thorough understanding of historical literary changes, even in the brief period from 1776-1779. 

To begin, I separated the bibliography by year to focus specifically on understanding the unique qualities of works in each given year. In 1776, for example, many of the works: are of epistolary form; are written by an ambiguous author (e.g. "A Lady," "Anonymous"); focus on the history and life of a single individual, who is often named explicitly in the title (e.g. The History of Sir Charles Royston and Emily Lessley, The History of Lady Sophia Sternheim); contain themes of merit, virtue, and generosity; and clearly define the purpose of the work (e.g. "entertainment," "intended chiefly to convey united amusement and instruction"). From 1777-1779, however, many of the works: are titled with more ambiguity, without necessarily referring to a specific individual (e.g. Travels for the Heart, The Thoughtless Ward); contain further volumes or several editions, even translated in different languages; and prescribe greater importance to the role of the author.

I was particularly interested in the evolving definition of what it means for a work to be considered a novel. In 1776, the titles of several works began to include "A Novel" or often, "A Novel in Letters," which authors and publishers alike seemed to perceive as a necessary and important detail for the readers. In 1777, one work, The Champion of Virtue, includes a comment stating, "The author of this novel proposes to interest the imagination of his reader, by going into the marvelous, without transgressing the bounds of credibility." This models the working definition that we have been developing in class (Gallagher), so it was interesting to see such an explicit declaration of the author's interpretation of his own work as a novel. After 1778, fewer works continue to include "A Novel" in their titles, which is likely because such an explicit definition was no longer necessary.

On another note, I was also really interested in the usage of proper nouns in titles. Many of the works that were published in 1776 have titles that include the full names of the main character, who is often the narrator, while proper nouns disappear almost altogether in titles of works published after 1780. There may be a relationship between the presence of proper nouns in titles and the literary transition from first-person narrative to third-person narrative and the usage of free indirect discourse.

Part II:

I wanted to begin by reviewing digital facsimiles that were published in the same year as Evelina. One of the texts that I chose to look at, The Wedding Ring; or, History of Miss Sidney, has a title page that is almost stylistically identical to Evelina, including details like "In a Series of Letters." Both of the title pages of these works emphasize the names of the narrator, words like "life" and "history," and information on the publisher.

Comparing digital facsimiles, rather than reading information about the texts from the bibliography, presents a different interpretation of the works, as we are able to gain a rough qualitative understanding from seeing the physical title pages, reading the prefaces, and viewing the organization of the novels.

Again, I was interested in the changing role of narration in novels during this time period. I quickly flipped through a few of the pages of both Evelina and The Wedding Ring to assess the frequency of the "back and forth" of the letters in the text. A few of the epistolary works that I reviewed had very high frequencies of communications, which seem to indicate that the responsibility of narration is shared between many characters, while this is less apparent in other works, like Evelina, which move towards first-person narration as the story progresses. Can we rely on qualitative evidence to make such hypotheses or should such deductions rely on computational evidence?

Part III:

For the Gale Primary text analysis, I wanted to explore term clusters for two distinct time frames, 1770-1776 and 1777-1785, as I observed several distinctions during these periods in the bibliography and wanted to investigate whether these trends were apparent in computational evidence. The most interesting change in these clusters is the disappearance of "novel" as a cluster title from period 1 (1770-1776) to period 2 (1777-1785). "History," in period 2, seems to have replaced the novel as the cluster title. 

In period 1, history is a subcategory within the novel cluster, while the opposite is true in period 2. This provides evidence for my previous hypothesis of the diminishing need to explicitly classify a work as a "novel," as this became more readily understood by authors, publishers, and readers during the period of the rise of the novel as a literary form.

Short Paper Thesis and Sources

3 min read

Thesis: By doing a close reading of Fielding’s work, in the context of Gallagher, Fielding’s satirization of Richardson takes on a more concrete form to reflect the literary community’s shift in perception of the novel. We can then postulate that through Shamela, Fielding attempts to undo the political and social threat posed by Richardson’s Pamela, and undermine the political and social themes associated with the character of Pamela from coming to fruition. We then see that the novel is beginning to reflect on and shape social life.



Gallagher: 338 - 339, 347

- Establish Gallagher's claim that the rise of the novel's popularity led to a shift in the perception of the novel from purely ecstasy to subtly implementing ideas into the reader.

- Gallagher's mention of satirists opposing the novel's hypnotic and seductive ability to entice and immerse the reader in its environment, characters, and themes.

- Postulate that Fielding, a satirist, was aware of the possibility of Richardson's themes influencing the public, wrote Shamela to undo some of those themes and close-reading allows us to identify the social and political contexts he is contrasting.


Comparisons between Pamela and Shamela

P3. Notions of Virtue: 

- Pamela is willing to die for her virtue.

- Shamela is more flippant with her belief, cannot even correctly spell the term, and had a child with Parson Williams, effectively disregarding any aspect of virtue in her.


P4. The Language of Emotion and Affection, Notion of the female being able to express and convey one's emotions

- Pamela values love greater than Mr. B's offerings to be a mistress

- Shamela makes numerous remarks concerning the economic value of her affection and Mr. Booby's belief of her virtue. Shamela repeatedly makes the note that she wants to marry Mr. Booby solely for financial reasons.


P5. Recognition of the female beyond her sex and clothing (status)

- Pamela: Mr. B's recognition of her in different attire speaks towards his affection towards Pamela being beyond her beauty in the elegant attire, later recognized even more by his decision to marry her.

-   Shamela: Scene itself is disguised by Shamela as a stratagem, and Mr. Booby's failure to initially recognize her, as well as other references made toward her sex, are indicative of his inability to see the female beyond their appearance.


P6. The autonomy of a female

- While Pamela is kidnapped and limited in the actions she can undertake due to her environment and the lack of trust of those around her, she is still able to Ward off the advances of Mr. B and is more than willing to resort to a life of poverty than a sense of security by being a mistress.

- Shamela makes note of being "sold" to Mr. Booby, as well as her goal of living lavishly by convincing Mr. B to marry her. 


Conclusion: Question the effectiveness of Fielding in undoing some of the themes presented by Richardson in Pamela, as well as the impact of a shift in perspective of the novel. 


Pamela & Desire and Domestic Fiction-- Outline

(this includes much more evidence than I expect to be able to put in the paper)

Pamela’s character must play the role of the ideal woman while remaining realistic and believable as a lower-class woman. In creating a character that fulfills both of these roles,

Revised thesis: Pamela both pushes against contemporary notions about lower-class people and women, which are highlighted throughout the novel, and perpetuates them. I argue that in order to craft a progressive narrative, Richardson leverages Pamela’s exceptionality (specifically in reference to her gender) as her main claim to truthfulness.

In formula: Mentions of Pamela’s exceptionality as compared to other women in Pamela alongside her traditionally feminine attributes illustrate how Richardson codes moral and political traits as gendered ones. This is important because it shows that though Pamela is often talked about in terms of gender, her identity as a person is in fact in her political actions rather than her individual / gendered characteristics.

Main claims (extremely rough topic sentences) & evidence:
1. Throughout the book, upper-class characters associate lower-class femininity with negative qualities such as deviousness, weakness, etc  truth NOT typically associated with femininity
a. Mr. B telling Mrs. Jervis that Pamela’s an artful hypocrite after he tries to assault her: “O the little hypocrite! said he; she has all the arts of her sex; they were born with her; and I told you awhile ago you did not know her” (36)
b. Lady Davers: O, Lady Davers! were you a man, you would doat on her, as I do. Yes, said the naughty lady, so I should, for my harlot, but not for my wife. I turned, on this, and said, Indeed your ladyship is cruel; and well may gentlemen take liberties, when ladies of honour say such things!
c. Pamela “bewitch’d” Mr. B: p. 35
2. Pamela is both traditionally feminine and the ideal woman
a. Crying, fits, subservience: feminine (ex: fit saves her from assault on p.36)
b. “Lady Darnford, at whose right-hand I sat, kissed me with a kind of rapture, and called me a sweet exemplar for all my sex.”’
c. She must appeal to the Lord to help her overcome her natural weakness: forgive your poor daughter!--I am sorry to find this trial so sore upon me; and that all the weakness of my weak sex, and tender years, who never before knew what it was to be so touched, is come upon me, and too mighty to be withstood by me. (248)
3. Yet Richardson also crafts Pamela with traditionally non-feminine characteristics and attributes them to her gender—these signify his progressive message.
a. P. 84: writing above her sex
b. Mr. B loves her for non-feminine traits: “You are possessed of an open, frank, and generous mind; and a person so lovely, that you excel all your sex, in my eyes. All these accomplishments have engaged my affection so deeply, that, as I have often said, I cannot live without you; and I would divide, with all my soul, my estate with you, to make you mine upon my own terms.”(213)
4. Mr. B himself only believes Pamela after he is given sufficient evidence of her virtue, which mimics the conflation of truth-signaling and virtue-signaling in the book as a whole.
a. Central episode: p. 230-236 when Pamela and Mr. B discuss who’s spinning tales and who’s not, talk about novels, journals, etc.
5. The book argues that women have a responsibility to protect men against their own desires, especially upper-class men, and argues that lower-class women are better at this than are upper-class women.
a. Women have this responsibility because they’re naturally more virtuous, wise: “What the deuse do we men go to school for? If our wits were equal to women's, we might spare much time and pains in our education: for nature teaches your sex, what, in a long course of labour and study, ours can hardly attain to.--But, indeed, every lady is not a Pamela.” (232)
b. And the whole will shew the base arts of designing men to gain their wicked ends; and how much it behoves the fair sex to stand upon their guard against artful contrivances, especially when riches and power conspire against innocence and a low estate. (92)
c. Lady Davers was responsible for covering up Mr. B’s illegitimate child, permitting a woman to be dishonest
d. Pamela says women should be socialized to push back against men’s desires
i. “But, dear Father and Mother, what Sort of Creatures must the Womenkind be, do you think, to give way to such Wickedness? … What a world we live in! for it is grown more a Wonder that the Men are resisted, than that the Women comply. This, I suppose, makes me such a Sawce-Box, and Boldface, and a Creature; and all because I won’t be a Sawce-Box and Boldface indeed.” (71)
6. Mr. B’s internalization of Pamela’s morality at the end of the book renders him more believable and is the fulfillment of Pamela’s civic duty as a woman
a. Mr. B: “When, said he, I tell you the truth in one instance, you may believe me in the other. I know not, I declare, beyond this lovely bosom, your sex: but that I did intend what you call the worst is most certain: and tho’ I would not too much alarm you now, I could curse my Weakness, and my Folly, which makes me own, that I love you beyond all your Sex, and cannot live without you. But if I am Master of myself, and my own Resolution, I will not attempt to force you to any thing again.” (206)
b. “But now, my dearest Pamela, that you have seen a purity on my side, as nearly imitating your own, as our sex can shew to yours”

Evidence and revised thesis

2 min read

Thesis: Pamela is a novel in the process of reckoning with its own existence—caught between older didactic traditions and developing questions of individual worth, the text shows us writers and readers both struggling to decide exactly what fiction is.


Paragraph 1) Pamela is meant to be instructive, and therefore is not wholly fictional; the character of Pamela isn’t referential but is meant to be referenced by the reader/to be someone whose moral clarity is attainable. Evidence: the novel’s preface, Pam’s sententiae, references to the letters being distributed among the aristocracy, closing line abt Ms. Goodwin. Theory: Gallagher on the purpose of fictional characters.

Paragraph 2) Pamela’s letters advocate for the worth of an ordinary person in the eyes of the narrative; Pamela’s testimony is meant to be riveting, and prioritizes her interiority over larger societal structures. Evidence: Pam’s insistence that she is being pressured against her will (historical context of rape as a nonentity due to male sovereignty over power/women’s bodies/the dominant narrative), the letters as the catalyst in her relationship w/ Mr. B., her attempted escape and conflicted feelings abt. suicide. Theory: Armstrong on interiority and domestic fiction, maybe some Watt or McKeon too?

Paragraph 3) Richardson’s struggle to determine what a novel should be manifests within the text: while Pamela the writer is Pamela’s central focus, the reader sees themself reflected many times over in the ways that other characters respond to Pamela’s letters. Evidence: Mr. B. (rage, accusations of slander/lying, appreciation, love) (Fielding’s perspective=the Mr. B. of Pamela’s beginning?), Pam’s parents (belief, value, investment), the greater public (circle back to conduct book idea). Theory: McKeon on the novel’s emerging from tensions within the literary community (Richardson testing out possible responses, trying to model possible readers and the way(s) they value truth and virtue).


Pamela and Autonomy - Thesis and overview

3 min read


Thesis: The epistolary form of Pamela, while initially appearing to give control to Pamela over the portrayal of herself and her reality, actually reflects and reinforces her lack of agency. This is seen in Pamela’s intercepted attempts to write to her parents, the sexualization of the letters over which she had little control, and the wall that physically keeps her in which also reinforces a similar lack of agency for the middle class in the social hierarchies of the time despite an assertion of growing mobility.


1. Pamela's ability to have agency over to whom to write, and what to write, initially seems to indicate autonomy. But Mr. B intercepts them, reads them, and denies her portrayl of him in a letter to her father. Thus this further reinforces that even her one avenue for self-expression is ultimately controlled and overseen by Mr. B.

2. The premise of Pamela is that she would rather die than give up her virtue. The sexualization of the letters (“hide the Letter in [her] Bosom”, sewed in [her] under-coat, about [her] hips”, Mr. B claims he wants to “strip [her] garment by garment, till [he] had found [her letters]”) and his reading them without her consent (or her knowing that he has read them) indicate she is not in control of her virtue, but rather at the mercy of Mr. B.

3. Armstrong and McKeon- The increase in women at the center of novels (such as Pamela) was not to give women increased autonomy, per say, but rather to “introduce a new form of political power” by representing women as separate from politics and thus allowing for a critique of political institutions that is more effective because “their gender identifies them as having no claim to political power” (471). In Pamela, her being rewarded for her virtue seems to indicate that virtue is rewarded by status and wealth, but therefore actually just reinforces the social heirarchies at the time by asserting that those with status and wealth have them as a reflection of their virtue. McKeon asserts that fiction reflects (rather than creates, as Armstrong says) social ideas. In this way, the appearance of control for women covered the lack of real change in power dynamics at the time.

4. The wall. Connecting McKeon's and Armstrong's ideas to Pamela in another way, as Pamela tries to escape from Mrs. Jervis, “in trying to climb over the door, [she] tumbled down, and was piteously bruised; the bricks giving way, and tumbling upon [her]”. Thus, not only can she not escape or control her fate, she is injured and worse off for trying to do so. Her need to climb in order to get out indicates a symbolic level of inferiority as a middle class woman. Furthermore, as the door is locked, Mr. B, and thus the male property owner, has control over who is allowed to leave and who isn’t, just as property owners at the time controlled the political scene and who was allowed more power or not.

Thesis draft (very in-progress and fragmented)

1 min read

Virtue and the victim's narrative in Pamela (option A):

Richardson's Pamela is explicitly intended as a model for potential victims of sexual assault and harassment—her sense of propriety, her unwavering commitment to (nonviolent) resistance, and her preoccupation with virtue all serve to instruct women on how to be a "good" victim.

(tie-in with current events [if this were a longer paper?], expectation that victimhood is easily defined, recognizable, unchanging, has substantiated proof [letters as testimony, characters as witnesses], challenging and toxic aspects of a narrative in which a victim redeems her attacker [maybe too reliant on a contemporary lens? need to recognize historical context and shifts in what the readership will expect)

The novel's depiction of its central character thus verges on the unrealistic, positioning Pamela both within and without Nancy Armstrong's theory on the function of fictional characters—Pamela the character, by virtue of her unchanging innocence, makes her readers feel more skeptical and real; but Pamela the novel, by presenting itself as an instructive text, encourages us to believe that Pamela herself could be real (could [and should] exist when the narrative is done). 


Armstrong claims in Desire and Domestic Fiction that, in separating virtue and desire from political motivation—in making identity apolitical—the novel challenged dominant societal paradigms. I argue that even though Richardson used the epistolary form to bolster the novel’s believability, Pamela was clearly an ideal member of her gender, not a particular person, and as such her gender stands in contrast to her identity, rather than her gender forming her identity.

Pamela and Shamela are encapsulations of, as McKeon identifies, the social changes on how to portray truth and virtue through the novel. They are examples of true history (naïve empiricism), Pamela, and extreme skepticism, Shamela. Both present unique viewpoints on how truth and virtue might be conveyed, as well as what they actually are. By looking at the text of these three pieces, and the conversations between them all, we can uncover ways in which the framework proposed by McKeon might be an incredibly telling one for how we can define the novel at the beginnings of its meteoric ascent to bookshelves across the universe. Particularly we will see how Shamela is a response to Pamela in ways beyond the plot, and how Pamela is actually in some ways, a response to the romance novels that came before it. Novel building is a process.

Words of Religion in "Pamela" and Its Fellows (Assignment 3)

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Something I am curious about, in regard to Pamela, is the presence and function of religious terminology in the text. While examining the word cloud generated by Voyant for the novel, it struck me that only two evidently religious terms--"god" and "pray"--appeared in a cloud of 55 words (with auto-detected stopwords). Moreover, both of these words were relatively small and disappeared when I restricted the cloud to 25 words. Is it not odd that a novel purporting to instill religious virtue in its readers does not make more extensive use of explicitly religious words?

I investigated this theme further while comparing the seven corpuses (corpi?), using the Trends tool to examine the relative frequencies of four religious words: "god*," "pray*," "religion*," and "virtue*." A few observations from the graph of that comparison (which I had trouble including in this post): "God" appears, as might be expected, far more frequently in Pamela than in Anti-PamelaShamela, or Joseph Andrews--but also more frequently than in Clarissa or Grandison. "Pray" follows a similar pattern but actually appears quite frequently in Shamela. The frequency of "virtue," interestingly, does not vary much among the texts. And, somehow, the frequency of "religion" is seemingly negligible in all of the texts except for Shamela, where it appears relatively often! What do these observations tell us about how Haywood and Fielding went about writing their satires--particularly in relation to how Richardson constructed Pamela and his other works?

Exercise 3: Indexing Pamela - Frequency of Words

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While working with Voyant, I was struck by the novel’s little mentioning of Pamela’s value of her virtue, as well as the factors of religion and honor associated with that mindset. From the title page, Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded, Richardson demonstrates to the reader the possibilities and benefits of maintaining virtue, despite environmental pressures. However, in looking at the number of times the word “virtue” was used in Pamela, I found that the word was only heavily used in the first segment, much of which is counted due to its use in the title and our use of a clean Text document. From there, the use of the term significantly decreases, only returning to more use in the final segment of the novel. Also, some of the support and reasoning behind her prioritization of her virtue, such as religion and honor, are not mentioned as much. Looking at the ranking system, God, Pray, Honour, Honesty, Virtue, and Duty are ranked 32, 38, 44, 118, 166, and 210 respectively. Meanwhile, terms that reduce her strength and autonomy as a character, such as her use of the word master more than even her name, can imply dominance over the character. Thus, Richardson risks reducing the assertion and impact of such morals on the reader.
In looking at the word usage in other novels, I found that one possible method the spoof authors intended to reduce the dynamic of Pamela was by subtly not acknowledging her ability to change social status and the importance of her virtue. From Pamela to Pamela II, the use of the word lady significantly increases, emphasizing Pamela’s success to rise above her social status thanks to her resilience towards maintaining her virtue. The novels Sir Charles Grandison and Joseph Andrews use the term more than Shamela and Anti-Pamela. In addition, those parody novels mention virtue less than Charles Grandison. Thus, we can the authors subtly attempting to reduce the impact of Pamela by not acknowledging her ability to overcome societal and class norms. However, in both cases, the question remains whether the readers were able to pick up on the subtle used of words like lady and virtue by the authors to get their points about Pamela across. 

Pamela vs. Shamela: An investigation of "feminine" word choice

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Armstrong makes a central claim in "Desire and Domestic Fiction" that the reproducibility of Pamela's domestic themes and sentimental language were crucial to creating the modern novel because, as she argues throughout, they made space for the individual outside of political rank. "Novels early on assumed the distinctive features of a specialized language for women," she writes (472). "Inasmuch as his masculine form of heroism could not be reproduced by other authors, we cannot say Crusoe inaguarated the tradition of the novel as we know it" (471). With this in mind, I wanted to find out which words made up this "specialized language" and how Pamela's parodies and sequel reproduced it. I found out two things that seem to go along with Armstrong's argument. Firstly, "feminine" language such as "kiss," "feel," "desire" and "sweet" appears as often as or more often in Shamela than it does in Pamela--showing us that Fielding understood what was distinctive about Pamela and capitalized on it.

But on the flip side of this, we see how Fielding avoided language that conveyed some of Richardson's messaging about class and moralism: many kinds of political/economic/religious language appear much more in Pamela than in Shamela (except servant, which he mentioned often, probably to highlight the threat of class solidarity; that's for a later discussion). 

There are a few conclusions we could draw here. One is that it is true, as Armstrong says, that Pamela was very reproducible because of its language and content. But the more interesting conclusion we could possibly come up with is that she may have been reductive of Robinson Crusoe when she said its language prohibited it from conveying the kind of interiority that is distinctive to the novel, because he talks about God and himself about as much as Pamela does. 


Indexing Pamela

2 min read

Of Voyant's list of most frequently occuring words, I found the most interesting to be: said, good, sir, master, and poor. These words, in particular, have a clear implication of social status, highlighting intersections of gender and class. Pamela is a radical text that is inherently about class and economic mobility, but is often reduced to a conflict "between the sexes." Richardson seems to have very clear moral intent with his writing of Pamela, observable even on the title page, which states that the narrative "has its Foundation in TRUTH and NATURE." While Voyant's list of words do hint at the narrative's teachings on morality, I had anticipated more specificity, with the more frequent inclusion of terms such as virtue, pride, honesty, clothing, jewels, riches.

Armstrong's core argument in Desire and Domestic Fiction illustrates the domestic novel as both an agent and a product of widespread cultural changes. Gender and sexuality were represented as entirely removed from social, political, and economic spheres -- thus, Armstrong argues that female narration, perceived as without claim to political legitimacy, allowed for a different and new form of political critique.

Fielding's representations of the original narrative in Shamela critique those who praise Pamela as an educational and informative piece, rather than how he sees it: as a form of entertainment. The Voyant tools provide us with a new perspective on the argument, one rooted in the occupation of quantifiable space in print texts.