Jessica Danielle Powell's English 170W Blog
The Long Development of a Short Story.
Digital Humanities
Posted on September 17th, 2011 at 7:19 pm by Jessica Danielle Powell and


Are the Digital Humanities a Diving Board?

My mother has often told me, “Jessica, stop texting everyone, phone calls work a lot better”. Although I put up a fight, she’s right, there are some things that we have to go the extra mile for although there is an alternative which is a lot more convenient for us. The study of literature is complex, abstract, time-consuming, and sometimes intangible, but it is able to be fully understood by “calling” the text and not “texting” the text. Traditional ways of analyzing and interpreting text, just like calling, allows the text and the reader to communicate with each other effectively. As the text is talking to you, you are listening, and as you are talking to the text, its meaning is becoming a lot clearer to you. Through the creation of a Wordle and a Google NGRAM search based on The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, it has been proven that Digital Humanities, the study of literature using technological sources, is like texting, it gets the point across, but only to a certain extent.

Using I was able to look at The Story of an Hour within seconds. The Wordle was very intriguing, forcing me to pay attention to words in the story that I would have never thought twice about. Words such as moment, eyes, and revealed caused me to connect the larger ideas of the story to the smaller pieces of the story. The creation of a Wordle exemplified the difference between “most important” and “most prominent”. Some of the words such as freedom, time, and death, to me, were the most important ideas in the story but the least prevalent words in the Wordle. The Wordle really shows that the size or quantity of something doesn’t matter it’s the importance or quality behind it. Most of the words in the Wordle did not hold any significant importance to the overall theme of The Story of an Hour, they acted like Snapple fun facts…they were fun to know. So, although the term “Digital Humanities” may seem to be the most prevalent term at this time its importance is minimal when interpreting literature.

The Google NGRAM Viewer results were not significantly helpful in interpreting The Story of an Hour. For example, I searched for books that included the words oppression and marriage within the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the results for marriage focused on the ideals of love while oppression focused on the judicial system and law. These results brought to my attention that marriage and oppression, one of the strongest underlying idea’s in The Story of an Hour, were not used in conjunction during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Two other words that I used from the Wordle were soul and glass and after searching for books written within the early 20th century, my results included The Soul of Prayer and Through the Looking Glass. None of the books results from this search were relevant to The Story of an Hour , proving that digital humanities is not a reliable tool in interpreting literature. If it was, no matter what was searched in the Google NGRAM machine all results would be relevant to the underlying theme in The Story of an Hour .When interpreting literature it is important to always be able to answer “What does this story mean?”, but after using the Google NGRAM search I was not able to answer that question fully.

Based on the NGRAM search and the Wordle the only conclusion I can really draw is that “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin is a story unlike any other, using idea’s that no other late 19th and early 20th century author sought to explore in detail. The question “What does The Story of an Hour mean” still hangs in the balance unanswered. By using the Digital Humanities I was only able to scratch the surface of the meaning behind The Story of an Hour. Using the Digital Humanities is convenient since the internet and new technology is all around us but it is less effective in the process of interpreting literature. In order to know what any piece of literature means, you have to dive deep into the sea of the text and the Digital Humanities is not a diving board.




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Comments so far:

Link Here | October 6, 2011,

Your Wordle could eat mine… I wonder if it’s so much larger because your story is far longer? Either way, love the color scheme. I feel as though the mesh of colors reflect the essence of a large portion of the words listed. Every words out there definitely has a color that it struts best in. Agreed?

  Henna |

Link Here | October 8, 2011,

LOL YUM! No…maybe my wordle looks monstrous because the colors are so “BAM in your face”. I tried to use colors that related to the idea of the story and also matched my blog. I AGREE! Every word does have on its best color 🙂

<3 your wordle is cool too.

  Jessica Danielle Powell |

Link Here | October 12, 2011,

Hi! =D
I like the part in your essay where you say, “These results brought to my attention that marriage and oppression, one of the strongest underlying idea’s in The Story of an Hour, were not used in conjunction during the late 19th century and early 20th century.” I think that’s a very important realization. But when you say that they’re not reliable tools to interpret literature, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I think it opens the door to more research, it’s not just going to give you too much to interpret. These tools give you raw data, so you’re right about them not giving much relevant data. It’s just that you have to use them as tools, and then go on to traditional methods of interpretation to get more to work with. But yeah, you’re right, these tools just aren’t enough by themselves D:

  sasha |

Link Here | October 12, 2011,

I happen to agree with some of your ideas with in your essay. I definitely agree with the fact that Wordle is a way better device than NGram Viewer. Wordle absolutely gives you the ability to pull out words and information that you might not at first have discovered. While I happen to disagree with the impressions you received after working with these devices. You might have learnt some new information about your story but I believe you were suppose to be able to draw deeper into the story not how distinct it was.

  morgan92 |

Link Here | October 15, 2011,

Hi Jessica,

Great response, I think it’s an interesting metaphor to think about “calling” versus “texting” a text–literature is like a form of communication, but what form? And–what if the text is speaking to you in a different language, or slang, or dialect? Do not all texts “talk” to everyone?

Do you think, since your story is also about secrets or hidden knowledge, that maybe your story in particular avoids using or repeating the key terms? That is, some stories might be better for Wordles, and yours might actually go to to lengths to avoid using the most important words.

I wonder why you were searching NGram for marriage and oppression together, or soul and glass? What was your hypothesis when looking at those particular words? For example, did you think “marriage” and “oppression” would have some relationship that changed over time?

Also–I think you misspelled oppression, which might be why it doesn’t appear in your ngram results. And I might have confused you, but you don’t need to click through the ngram results to see the actual books–I’m not sure what kind of information they could tell you, but they’re there for reference.

  Kevin L. Ferguson |

Link Here | October 17, 2011,

Text to Literature is a two way form of communication, this is the most effective form. If the text is speaking in a different language then we have to pull from outside resources no matter what they are. Every text talks to us, but its words only matter when we the reader’s go the extra mile to understand what its saying.

I know that my world over looked repeating key terms [makes me upset]. I do believe the the Wordle was helpful in helping me see other things besides what may be “obvious”. I guess I used those words for NGram because I was challenging the ability of technology to understand the way I think metaphorically or what I would expect form those results. I do believe that marriage and oppression would have had some relationship that changes over time because the negative inner workings of marriage (oppression) were not voiced in the past as they are now. I mean now if a woman or man feels oppressed in marriage they can fling the words divorce in the air. In the past divorce was not in everyday vocabulary.

Thanks you guys! For all of your responses I appreciate them all.

  Jessica Danielle Powell |

Link Here | October 25, 2011,

I totally had a similar situation with Ngram. I didn’t find it particularly useful, just another bit of info that I could use if I were to write a paper. It’s a tool, and it has uses (I guess). And in your response to previous comments, you mention Wordle overlooking key concepts or terms. I hate that it is based on usage of words, because that is not the sole factor in determining importance.

  clo120 |