Measuring the Victorians
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I also think this point is great: "Scholars should also remember that the past contains more than the written record, Mr. Bevis said in an interview. Fewer references to a subject do not necessarily mean that it has disappeared from the culture, but rather that it has become such a part of the fabric of life that it no longer arouses discussion."
I think certainly it a great resource to have these texts easily accessible. I just hope that the research done is a bit more sophisticated than merely counting instances of the word "cheese" and deciding that the word's presence or absence reveals something deep about the Victorian psyche.
Here's the link for anyone interested: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/04/books/04victorian.html?_r=1&ref=books
Two things stuck, both of which the article discussed. This tool gives people the ability to look at the numbers, but didn't Dickens have a villian who spoke of "just the facts?" We could consider these numbers "the facts" of the printed word in this time period.
Second, and not unrelated, these numbers don't touch on the soul of the work. So a novel mentions "love" 100 times and "God" 83, but it doesn't give us the meaning of these words. The final idea might be that love is ridiculous. Anyone who uses an index knows that some references to words have very little to do with the topic they want to know about. Such tallying becomes more difficult in fiction or poetry.
One still must read the work to understand it, and be able to speak with authority.
As everyone else seems to agree so far, while this might eventually be helpful (or not) for those searching the literature, it tells us more or less nothing about the books. A study into the proximity of words might be the next thing and might prove slightly more helpful but concentrating on the words that appear in a book tells us nothing about the book itself and can only be useful as an addition to proper reading of the texts. You don't study the scale and then think you know all about Mozart. At which point, I can't help but rememer the very old comment by Eric Morecambe (US Readers may not have a clue who I'm talking about) when told by Andre Previn that he was playing "all the wrong notes" to Grieg. His reply was "No, I'm playing all the right notes. Just not necessarily in the right order."