By Matthew L. Jockers
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Extra resources for Macroanalysis : digital methods and literary history
For historical and stylistic questions in particular, a macroanalytic approach has distinct advantages over the more traditional practice of studying literary periods and genres by means of a close study of “representative” texts. Franco Moretti has noted how “a field this large cannot be understood by stitching together separate bits of knowledge about individual cases, because it isn’t a sum of individual cases: it’s a collective system, that should be grasped as a whole” (2005, 4). To generalize about a “period” of literature based on a study of a relatively small number of books is to take a significant leap from the specific to the general.
Naturally, it is also problematic to draw conclusions about specific texts based on some general sense of the whole. This, however, is not the aim of macroanalysis. Rather, the macroscale perspective should inform our close readings of the individual texts by providing, if nothing else, a fuller sense of the literary-historical milieu in which a given book exists. It is through the application of both approaches that we reach a new and better-informed understanding of the primary materials. indd 28 1/11/13 3:05 PM Macroanalysis 29 vide irrefutable conclusions about what a text might mean.
One approach to making this argument would be to pull representative sentences, phrases, and paragraphs from the works of both authors and from some sampling of journalistic prose in order to compare them and highlight the differences and similarities. An alternative approach would involve “processing” the entire corpus of both authors, as well as the journalistic samples, and then to compute the differences and similarities using features that computers can recognize or calculate, features such as average sentence length, frequent syntactical patterns, lexical richness, and so on.
Macroanalysis : digital methods and literary history by Matthew L. Jockers