Victorian Romance Between Data and Literature

Two historians are charting how frequently words like "God," "love," "work," and "science" appear in turn-of-the-century Victorian literature.

Here's more information on the now thriving intersection between data analysis and the humanities. Two historians at George Mason University are charting how frequently words like "God," "love," "work," and "science" make appearances in turn-of-the-century English literature.

From The New York Times:

Victorians were enamored of the new science of statistics, so it seems fitting that these pioneering data hounds are now the subject of an unusual experiment in statistical analysis. The titles of every British book published in English in and around the 19th century — 1,681,161, to be exact — are being electronically scoured for key words and phrases that might offer fresh insight into the minds of the Victorians.

This research, which has only recently become possible, thanks to a new generation of powerful digital tools and databases, represents one of the many ways that technology is transforming the study of literature, philosophy and other humanistic fields that haven’t necessarily embraced large-scale quantitative analysis.


Data analysis can give an overview of the changing sensibilities of the time period, but these scholars are quick to point out that the stat-based approach is a complement, not a competitor, to close reading or interpretation.

Check out The Times's graphic exploring titles using the research (a bit of which is pictured above) here.