John Unsworth gave a talk at Harvard tonight teasingly titled "How Not to Read a Million Books: Text Mining, and Reading the Unreadable." He spoke mostly about the MONK project,a Mellon-funded collaboration that's familiar, I'm sure, to many HASTACers.MONK applies text mining techniques and visualizations to discover newdimensions to literary and historical texts.
Unsworth describedthe work of several scholars already using the MONK toolkit in theirwork. For instance, Tanya Clement, a PhD candidate in EnglishLiterature and Digital Studies, has successfully applied MONK to herresearch on Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans, as she described in a recent article for Literary and Linguistic Computing:
"The particular reading difficulties engendered by the complicated patterns of repetition in The Making of Americansmirror those a reader might face attempting to read a large collectionof like texts at once without getting lost?likewise, it is almostimpossible to read this text in a traditional, linear manner. However,
SaraSteger, a PhD candidate in English at University of Georgia, issimilarly using MONK in her study of sentimentalism innineteenth-century novels. Not only could she train the program torecognize sentimental scenes, she then was able to mine a collection oftexts for over-represented words in, for instance, Victorian deathbedscenes:
Her results invite new research into the absence of formal expressions ofmourning ("holy," "country," "lord"), and the presence of physical and emotional closeness ("pillow," "cheek," "breath") in deathbed scenes.
I want to underscore that I think these tools