Monday, August 20, 2012

A concordance (with love from Japan)

Two of the main works by Mary Wollstonecraft are available as a digital concordance, thanks to Nagoya University's Victorian Literary Studies Archive, and particularly Mitsu Matsuoka, of their Graduate School of Languages and Cultures. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Maria, or the Wrongs of Women (and, worryingly, Frankenstein, but we'll let that pass) are available for scholarly scrutiny and casual curiosity alike, line by line, word by word.

How many times is "husband" used in the essay? How does that compare to "wife"? Is it possible to tease out the use of "woman" as a singular and an abstract noun? How is "women" used, in contrast?

The ease of manipulating digital texts contrasts with the difficulty of doing it with pencil and paper. It amazes me that pre-digital concordances existed at all. The labour involved! The Bible was the main text for centuries, of course, but other works did get the treatment. Hyper-concordances have established themselves as one of the first and most visible arms of the digital humanities. Who knows what the next development will be?

wife: 34
husband: 65

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