Week 4

Text Analysis (Computer Aided)

Text analysis can be used for close or distant reading. Let's consider what kinds of questions are involved, what sort of research approaches they invite, and what some benefits and challenges might be.

  • Hammond, Adam. from Literature in the Digital Age.

External Link

  • Sinclair and Rockwell. Textual Analysis and Visualization: Making Meaning Count. External Link

Broad Topics

  • What is distant reading? (is all quantitative analysis of texts distant?) (Hammond 101)
  • How are text analysis and visualization related?


  • text is computable (machine readable) (83)
  • quantitative “controversy” (86-7) and Hammond's proposed resolution: both (88)


  • Discuss “the appeal to computers as an aid to processing”
  • “For texts with which I am already familiar …” (282)
  • “ … texts with which I am not familiar …”
  • Making Meaning count (288)
  • “Don't expect too much from the tools” (288)
  • “Try things out…”

Important Terms

  • machine readable text (format, markup; ascii txt, html, PDF, docx)
  • Type, Token (and type/token ratio)
  • corpus
  • “Stop Words”
  • sample size standardization
  • stylistics (Sinclair); see also Lexos
  • collocates
  • topics / Topic modeling
  • sentiment analysis

General Text Analysis Methodlogy

  1. Text Selection
  2. Text Preparation
  3. Formation of a question
  4. Analysis
  5. Interpretation

Vary and Repeat?




Mondernist Poetry Coursepack - selections converted to ASCII automatically

Ascii text conversion of coursepack

four Frost volumes in Voyant

Essays will be of good, general preparation. The tool also features some good documentation.

For the purposes of the class, experienced Voyant visualizers will work in a small group to learn and then give a class demonstration of Lexos.


About Lexos

Other Tools

The pace of change in DH can be both stimulating and frustrating. Some tools and sites you read about may no longer be developed; some are now offline. However, new tools are also being created.
Tapor is a valuable resource for discovering tools that MAY be useful for other research questions. Some are very user-friendly; others may take significant time to learn.


Read T. S. Eliot selections, critical overview and Sherwood's essay Elaborate Versionings about listening to the poetry reading.

Spend some time beginning to explore what kind of computer-assisted textual analysis intererests you. Do you want to compare twenty Frost poems with each other? Do you want to compare two authors? Do you want to explore the change in time without a given writer's corpus?

Your distant reading will NOT be due next week. Our missed class requires some postponement. But we'll discuss it next class with an eye towards the following week

Also, spend at least 30 minutes listening to one of the first three poets via Pennsound.