Lab: Distant-Reading “The Crisis” with Voyant Tools

Zach, Tyler, Wolfgang

According to the Voyant word frequency graphs, peace in used often throughout the articles, but there was a large spike in its usage in one particular volume (17.3). It allows us to find the most relevant articles to the topic we are trying to find without having to read through every individual article. The problem that arises through just using Voyant is that without reading the article itself, you do not understand the dialogue or context in which the words were used. The reader loses the real meaning behind the word. It would be best to use distance and close reading together, with distance reading techniques such as Voyant allowing us to identify the key sections to our research, then using common close reading to analyze the information found in those sections.

The second word we searched, emancipation, also experienced a large spike in usage during one volume (5.4), but was fairly low and consistent throughout the rest of the magazine. Both peace and emancipation followed an identical trend, and we would assume that the reason for the spike is a single article or volume that uses the word more frequently than the others, much like the volume we read from “The Free Woman” in which one author made dozens of references to the word “psychic”, increasing the word frequency for the entire article and creating an unusual spike which did not reflect the volume as a whole. It is also possible that an event during that time period may have caused an increase in the talk of peace and emancipation. The volume that experienced a spike in the word frequency of emancipation was, as we discovered, published within a few weeks of the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Similarly, the volume in which peace experienced a spike in usage was published in 1919, during the negotiations of peace and recovery after WWI.

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