voyant

Green and Yellow in The Egoist and The Crisis

Megan Grier and Katie Boul

 

We decided to look at the words yellow and green (our two favorite colors), in The Crisis and The Egoist.

We were surprised to find that in The Crisis, yellow was actually a frequently used word. Then, when we looked at the KWIC panel, it became apparent that yellow was actually referring to the Japanese race. Taking into account the fact that The Crisis was a magazine aimed towards the advancement of African Americans and therefore talked mainly about the issues of racism and prejudice, it actually made sense that yellow would be so frequently used. The word green was surprisingly used more frequently than yellow, but upon further investigation, it became clear that most of the usages were for last names, which skewed the data pretty significantly.

The use of the words yellow and green follow a similar trend in the Egoist as they do in the Crisis. Green occurs the most (12 times) in the February 1914 issue, and the primary user of the word is James Joyce in his first installment of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In this volume, at least, green is never used as a last name, a distinction that does set it apart from the Crisis. Yellow is used a bit less, maxing out at 8 times in the December 1919 issue. Interestingly, James Joyce is, again, the author that employs the word yellow the majority of the times it appears in the magazine. The Joyce piece in this issue is Episode X of Ulysses.

One other note on the word yellow in the December 1919 issue: Voyant claims that the word yellow is used 8 times. However, when you search for the word in a PDF version of the document, it comes up 9 times. This must be an instance of the “dirty” data that Dr. Drouin referenced.

In regards to the entire corpus, green was still a pretty frequently used term, but again due to being a last name, so it’s not really a true representation of the term in the whole corpus. Yellow was used pretty frequently as well (though not as often as green). This probably has something to do with the fact that The Crisis, in which yellow was a frequently used term, accounts for a huge chunk of the corpus.

A question that came from this is if there would possibly be some way to filter out certain uses of a word. If we could’ve filtered out all uses of green as a last name, we would have gotten a better representation of the definition of the term that we were using. We’re not sure if that is already possible within Voyant, but it would be really neat to be able to filter out certain uses of words and I think it would help give a true representation of a term if you’re looking for a really specific term.

 

 

Voyant as a search tool

While playing with Voyant was fun, I did not find it particularly helpful in reading the Little Review corpus as a whole. Like Hope mentioned, the word cloud is a really nice feature, one that helps the reader get a sense of the overarching topics that pervade the corpus. Beyond that, though, I didn’t feel like the features gave me much insight as to the overall nature of the content of the magazine (although, this could certainly be a problem with the user and not the program).

Though maybe not the best for producing an overarching picture of a massive body of work, Voyant is really good for revealing which issues of the Little Review contain pieces on certain topics. Out of curiosity, I plugged “Ireland” into the word search. This produced two main peaks, one from the June/July 1916 issue, and one in the January 1920 issue. It turns out that the June/July 1916 issue contains an article titled “The Irish Revolutionists” by Irish poet Padraic Colum. In this article, Colum calls attention to the execution of three Irish poets who were also leaders of the Easter Rising. Colum equates their deaths to the death of WWI poet Rupert Brooke. The difference is in the fact that the British executed the Irish poets, while they mourn the loss of the poetry that Brooke would have produced. The January 1920 issue contains Episode XII of Ulysses, the episode that highlights an Irish nationalist in a pub. Unsurprisingly, the word Ireland comes up quite a bit in this issue.

Overall, my experience with Voyant has led me to believe that it is more useful in searching for specific items in a text than in painting an overall picture of the text.

Voyant as a searching tool

While playing with Voyant was fun, I did not find it particularly helpful in reading the Little Review corpus as a whole. Like Hope mentioned, the word cloud is a really nice feature, one that helps the reader get a sense of the overarching topics that pervade the corpus. Beyond that, though, I didn’t feel like the features gave me much insight as to the overall nature of the content of the magazine (although, this could certainly be a problem with the user and not the program).

Using Voyant

Using Voyeur Tools to read The Little Review was an interesting experience. As others have commented, the word trend search and graph was a fun tool, but as far as helping one read The Little Review it is only a jumping off point. It provides interesting data sets, but without going back to the text of the magazine(s) one may easily get a false sense of the key terms and key trends in the magazine. I liked that one of the provided Voyant tools allows one to view a given word in context. I used the word in context tool to look at the most frequently used key word "life." Looking through the given text of the first magazine, I was able to see that "life" and specifically life as seen through art,literature, poetry, and music truly was a key theme in the magazine, particularly the first issue. Of course this was the intent of the editors of the magazine.
 
in playing around Voyant more, one of my favorite aspects of Voyant became the Corpus Reader and the ability to hover over a word and see its usage frequency and see it highlighted throughout the rest of the text. I realized that Voyant is undoubtedly a helpful tool for close examining of a text, but that it requires the reader or researcher to be an active participant and manipulator of the tools. I came to realize that using a combination of the tools was the best means of gaining insight into The Little Review and patterns within the magazine.

Visualization Tools: Voyant

Using Voyant felt like using a more specific Google Ngrams. That's not a bad thing--or a good thing, at that, necessarily. It all depends on what one is trying to use the tool for. I enjoyed comparing word fequences in The Little Review, but I didn't feel as though I was gleaning much (if any) meaningful information, simply because I'm well aware of all the ways word frequency data can be skewed.

One thing I really liked about Voyant was the ease with which I could access the original text and the spots in which the words I searched for showed up. That helped to provide context that I am not accustomed to seeing with Ngrams. But in terms of analytical tools, I still prefer Gephi. But maybe that's still because of how impressed I was with Gephi's programming and manner of information visualization. (Our previous Manovich reading was rather enlightening on the matter of why Gephi might more naturally appeal to me than Voyant.)