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Rise of the Novel 2018
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The results of this modeling offered particularly interesting insights when contextualized against Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. The Topic list of, “told young time manner replied till room love words home behaviour give found company received ill account gentleman lover power,” might corroborate or even expand upon the Anderson’s claims that the early novel provided “the technical means” for adopting of “‘homogenous empty time’ in which simultaneity is, as it were, transverse, cross-time, marked not by prefiguring and fulfillment, but by temporal coincidence, and measured by clock and calendar” (423). While Anderson considers Dynastic sexual politics in his analysis, our topic modeling might suggest there would also be merit in examining how the etiquette of more ordinary might have contributed to these conceptions of time. The grouping of “Time, love and lover” suggests that the marriage plot might be linked to rise of empty time. In addition to offering a possible link topic modeling offers us a list of texts from which we might examine this connection in greater detail.
Despite its benefits, using topic modeling is not necessarily intuitive and I find Ross’s lament initially relatable. The parameters are delicate and require a decent amount of tinkering to get at helpful information. At the scale of 50 topics, studying a wide swarth of texts by their most common word clusters can be dizzying, and some often include misspellings (although perhaps these are a product of the digitization of texts and actually present in the bodies of work.) Conversely at the scale 10 topics, they begin to reflect the formal conventions of the time with words lists like, “dear letter lady…” reflecting the epistolary novel and “king people england english war prince power army time earl ... “ reflecting the history. Consequently this tool presents a bit of paradox in that it is most rigorous when applied to a large data set, but perhaps most helpful when exploring a specific set of questions.

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.