Scholars read texts in new ways in order to create new narratives about how we understand those texts. The recent increase in digital tools enables texts to be viewed from new perspectives. As a free and open resource, the Voyant suite of digital tools helps students and researchers to perform text analysis via new methods, guide close reading, test previous interpretations, and open new lines of enquiry. At JCU, your instructor might use this suite of tools to generate questions about specific texts, and to create new possibilities for text analysis.
Why read texts digitally? Rereading texts through a variety of digital tools fosters the production of analytical possibilities and visually animates new questions. It encourages the exploration of scholarly intuition and guides close reading creating a foundation for interpretive work. As a student of literary studies, you can use the tools in the Voyant suite to develop your analytical and interpretive skills. In reading the text from a variety of novel perspectives you can create new narratives through which to understand it.
The Voyant suite offers a number of tools for the exploration of texts. Below is a small selection of tools with which you might like to begin your digital rereading, although it should not limit your experimentation with others in the suite.
Word clouds generated in Voyant’s Cirrus tool offer a means to view the most frequent words in a text or collection of texts. Examining the most frequent words opens possible lines of further enquiry that you can complement with close reading skills. For instance, which words are surprising inclusions in the Shakespearean word cloud below? What questions might the words ‘know’, ‘say’, and ‘make’ lead us to ask?
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The clustered circles in Voyant’s TermsBerry tool combine the frequency of words and their collocates (words they commonly occur alongside). Hovering over a word turns it green and indicates that it is the keyword, while the other circles change colour in response. The darker a circle the more often it is found in the text/s with the keyword. In the example using Jane Austen’s works, making ‘said’ the keyword produces interesting results. What questions might this raise about who speaks in Austen?
Click the image to go to this example on the web
Image source: Voyant. (n.d.). TermsBerry. Retrieved from https://voyant-tools.org/docs/#!/guide/termsberry
Graphs generated by Voyant’s Trends tool visually represents the distribution of word occurrences across texts in a corpus or across a single text. In presenting the text differently, the trend tool can indicate words of interest for further study. In the graph of Milton’s pamphlet Areopagitica below, the word ‘book’ suddenly drops off in section six (6), and ‘ye’ sharply increases near the end of the text in section nine (9). How could we reread the text with these sharp inclines and declines in mind, and what might they tell us of Milton’s structuring of his pamphlet?
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Voyant’s Microsearch combines a high-level view and the ability to search for terms in a corpus of texts. Each text is visualised as a vertical block with the height of the block indicating the length of the work and the selected search term/s shown as red blocks. Consider the Microsearch of the Jane Austen corpus below that has ‘Mr’ selected as the search term. What might the distribution of the terms across the corpus suggest about the each of Austen’s texts? How might this high-level view of Austen’s works guide strategies for close reading?
Click the image to go to this example on the webhttps://voyant-tools.org/docs/#!/guide/trends
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