What Can We Learn from 100 Novels? —An Text Analytic Dictionary Approach

By Dr. Martin Gliserman and Dr. Abby Jones


This session illustrates a journey of discovery about the semantic networks of one hundred novels written in English between 1719 and 1997. The journey began before the era of consumer computing systems, digital texts and text analysis software, and evolved with those systems and tools. It came to fruition with Provalis’ software for analyzing texts by building dictionaries that could then search texts.  The analysis, in turn, revealed patterns of semantic distribution which in turn helps demonstrate how cultural artifacts transmit information.

Abby has 10+ years of experience with QDA Miner and WordStat. Her expertise includes design and analysis combined with teaching Research Methods at four universities to offer customized research services. Martin has been a professor of English at Rutgers University since 1971; he is as well as a psychoanalyst in private practice. He was the Editor in Chief of American Imago: Psychoanalysis and Culture from 1987 to 2002. The courses he teaches include Literature and Psychology, Digital Literary Studies and Introduction to Graphic Novels, as well as seminars on Virginia Woolf, Ralph Ellison, and Alison Bechdel. His first book, Psychoanalysis, Language and the Body of the Text (1996) focused on syntax in a select group of novels and demonstrated how dynamic and meaningful the seemingly abstract patterns of syntax are. His second book is Graphic Criticism: Semantics, Neurology and Cultural Transmission—A Study of 100 Classic Anglophone Novels (forthcoming, 2022); its focus is on the distribution of semantic networks and what they reveal about how cultural is transmitted by being encoded in texts. That project is currently being expanded to five hundred novels.