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Anna and Krishnan, Final Presentation Images/Write-Up

cr88's picture

 Attached are the word clouds Anna and I used for our presentation, and below is our outline for how we wanted to structure the discussion. We wanted to base our discussion primarily on the class's input, but as you may notice, many of the things we had planned to talk about or found interesting beforehand were also what people found interesting in class.


Project Presentation


1.     Introduction

a.     Comp Lit Majors – skeptical of interrelations between science/literature

b.     Used to canonical “texts” and standard forms of literary analysis; class has opened eyes to studying alternative texts, new mediums of literature, new ways of literary analysis

c.      In this presentation, we hope to explore these questions: How are scientific and literary texts similar/different? How can we make use of new media tools to inform literary analysis?

d.     In this project, we put “The Origin of Species” and “The Plague” into Word Cloud generators (Does anybody know what Word Clouds are/like to explain it to the class? Explain if not)/Emphasize that have chosen one scientific, one literary text

e.     Visual, quantitative examination of text interesting in comparison with usual qualitative literary analysis – characteristic of social media forms (Twitter, texts, etc.)

2.     Origin of Species

a.     Show first one with outsize “species”, explain we removed because eclipsed all other words but is still interesting

b.     Show second version – ask what people’s initial reactions are

                                               i.     Words we expected to see – “plants”, “animals”, “natural”, “selection”

                                              ii.     Words that surprised us, ask class? - denoting uncertainty, demanding some degree of “faith” – “may”, “believe”, “probably”, “generally”

                                            iii.     Words that are surprisingly absent, ask class first – “survival”, “fit/fittest”, “evolution”, “man”

c.      Last thoughts?

3.     The Plague

a.     Show first one, explain that Rieux’s name appears most frequently thus rather giving away whom the narrator is, took out proper nouns to analyze the “text”

b.     Show second version – ask for initial reactions

                                               i.     Unsurprising words, “plague”, “town”, “doctor” – interesting that title is again given prominence in text

                                              ii.     Thought it was interesting that both “death” and “life” appear, but that the word life is larger than the word death

                                            iii.     Temporality is very central here – “now,” “time,” “day”

                                            iv.     Other observations?

4.     Both together

a.     What do you think are striking similarities and differences? Initial thoughts?

b.     Quantitative: We expected to see quantitatively oriented results in the science word cloud (one, two, many, several), but we also saw this in Camus which surprised us (one, two). Shows how even a non quantitative text uses quantitative tools.

c.      Uncertainty: before we showed how Darwin’s uncertainty manifested itself in the word cloud, but this format also shows how uncertainty is a central theme of Camus (seemed, might). We expected to see words dealing with uncertainty in the Plague, but we were surprised to also find them in Darwin (and actually, there are even more in Darwin).

5.     Conclusion

a.     Do you feel this medium / type of visual representation accurately represents the text? Is there anything it gives us that other representations don’t? Do you feel that one more accurately represents the text than the other?

b.     We were surprised because after having done a reading of the text, we would not have noticed these patterns in the same way. This kind of hypertextual representation which condenses hundreds of pages into a small number of words can actually add something to our understanding and comparison of these texts, although we do not think it is a direct substitute because our previous analysis enriched and engaged in a dialogue with this one.

c.      We hope that this gives the class a sense of what has engaged us in this course, and that it will open up new stories and ways of storytelling.




Origin Original.jpg135.39 KB
Origin No Species.jpg223.78 KB
Plague Original.jpg157.67 KB
Plague No Names.jpg169.02 KB


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