The Little Review

I found this exercise to be very interesting, in part because I understood how to navigate Voyeur easier than I did Gephi. Manovich's article also helped, because I was able to see what Manovich referred to as "media visualization" (i.e. the tag cloud by which we select words to research.)

After a few random tries, I became interested by the graph that resulted from my search of the words "good" and great." In particular, in March of 1917, there is a decline in the usage of the word "good," and a sharp increase in the usage of the word "great."  I was curious why this could be. (An educated guess led me question whether the reason might result from articles of the "Great War").

Interestingly, there was no mention of the term "Great War" in the magazine.  However, it appears that the word "great" may have entered the subconcious of the public as they anticipated the US entry into the War in April of 1917. This may be supported by the fact that only about half of the uses of the word "great" in The Little Review held a positive connotation.  The term "great" occurs more often as a descriptive word with a negative context, or as a descriptive word with no obvious bent towards either a positive or negative view.

I think it is noteworthy that there were three different books advertised in the magazine in which the word "Great" appears in the title.  Perhaps there was great anxiety as well as understanding that the time at hand was distinguishable from any the world had every seen.

Lastly, I should mention that the only uses of the word "good" in the magazine were in reference to art (Examples: "good musician," "good work of art," "good art," etc.)  My guess is that the writers and editor of the magazine considered the humanities to be one of the only things a person might label as "good."  World War I expanded the human imagination in darker ways.  People, governments, militias, etc., were found to be "bad." People must have been floundering to identify something as inherantly "good," and in the case of The Little Review this label was concretely attached to the discipline of art.


I like your attempt here to toggle between the pattern in the corpus and an issue that represents one of its interesting moments. There's definitely room for an essay here about the usage of "good" and "great," two related terms that however seem to have starkely different uses in that particular issue.

The good/great n-gram is also a really neat pattern, which has a lot of parallel peaks and dips, as well as reverse proportional ones. What do you make of all that? Have you looked at any of the issues where these switches occur to gain a sense of how the editors were toggling those two terms?

By the way, one reason we see few references to the War itself is that criticism of it in a public setting was an actionable offense that could have gotten the magazine supressed. It was supressed anyway, later on, for serializing Joyce's Ulysses, but wartime censorship rules during the 1910s made it nearly impossible to address the war directly.