Summer Internship: Haruki Murakami

As I mentioned in lecture on Tuesday, one of my favorite authors in Haruki Murakami. I first encountered Murakami in my AP Lit. class, and since then I have been making may way through his long list of books. Each is challenging, complex, and at times frustrating, but every one of Murakami’s texts I’ve read has been a pleasure to wade through.

Most of Murakami’s books circle around fictional worlds that are occupied by strange people and places. They are a bit sic-fi, a bit mystery, and a bit theoretical all at once. I find the stories really exciting and thoughtful. I’m also really drawn to the book covers–they’re beautiful.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

In terms of quantitative book history, I think that Murakami’s collection is really apt to utilize some of this field’s methods.

  • First, each of Murakami’s texts is a translation from an original Japanese publication. As translations, quantitative book history could be used to tell an interesting story of this process. During my internship we could explore when each book was translated, where it was distributed, and the relationships of Japan with each of these countries at the time. Or we could look at where the book sold best as a translation, possibly to draw some sort of correlation between country of sale and popularity or profit. Did it sell better in one place or another? Because each text has audiences globally, quantitative methods could be really helpful in understanding patterns in why Murakami has become such a phenomenon world-wide. Not every author can say the same, so maybe there is something important to learn in how Murakami’s books are marketed and distributed.
  • And second, quantitative book history methods could be used to track trends within Murakami’s entire collection. Although each book is a separate story, most, if not all, maintain common characters, places, and ideas. For example, a lot of the books have sheep in them–strange yes, but important to the stories. Trying to piece together these common threads is something I’m always looking to do while reading Murakami, but often it’s hard to decide which ones to look for/pay the most attention to. The books are complex, so you can’t really focus on all of them. I personally think it would be really interesting to track these reoccurring themes throughout all of Murakami’s books, and then use variations on mean, median, and mode to figure out which occur most often. It’s not exactly math per-say, but using these measures of frequency to monitor reoccurrences could help guide a new reader’s experience with Murakami’s complicated writing style.

I hope in giving examples like these that I would be able to persuade my internship scholar to use quantitative methods for lit. study. And even looking at our classes’ final presentations, I think that a number of the topics explored could also be looked at in Murakami’s works. Like fantasy and thrillers, each of Murakami’s books varies in page length. Some are shorter, while his most recent book 1Q84 is around 1,000 pages. As a case study, it could be interesting to look at his collection and see how page length has varied over time. Or like the texts of John Robert Seeley and Virginia Woolf, it could be fruitful to look at Murakami’s writing in terms of social and political spheres. Murakami’s books are often political/historical, and could interact with the phenomenology of reading in unique ways. And maybe it would be worth looking at word choices in Murakami’s writing. As translations, certain words may have been altered or kept in Japanese. Tracking the history of these specific words could be a cool tool in better understanding how translation has evolved throughout the history of books.

Maybe some of these projects would be a bit of stretch, but the more I’ve learned about quantitative book history, the more excited I am about its many outlets and possibilities. Books are massive, and it seems that the study of them is exponentially huge as well. Congrats on finishing up this semester everyone! It’s been a pleasure.

-Jeff

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Response to Conference Presentations

Although all of the presentations this past week were awesome, I’ve chosen to dedicate my blog post to Abby’s power point. As we’ve discussed before (I think…?), Abby and I are both English and Linguistics double majors, so I found her topic particularly relevant to my personal interests. And as I think we’ve also talked about (again, I can’t exactly remember…), we’ve both taken Anne Curzan’s History of English course, which makes a study of dictionaries and language change that much cooler!

First, I really enjoyed the opening slide of your power point. I like how you’ve grounded your presentation in a quote, and I also really like the play on words you have between woman/man. It was a cool and unique way to preface the gendered nature of your research from the very beginning. From there, I think that you have done a particularly good job of presenting your research in an accessible, and visually interesting way. There is a nice variety of images, graphs and charts that gave your presentation a good pacing. It was also cool to be able to see images of the dictionaries that you were using for your study. I always forget just how much the dictionary has changed over time, and really how many versions of the dictionary that there are, so the images you provided gave a nice context/historical legacy to your own research. And for me particularly, as a linguist it was interesting to see the dictionaries themselves. The data in a dictionary is never something I have paid any sort of interest to, but in the future it is something I am going to be more aware of while looking things up.

In terms of your graphs, I thought it was a smart choice to lead with a contextualization of why and how dictionaries can reflect social trends. Here, you seem to key in on not only gender, but also social class, education and personal family structure. Using your dictionary entries, you are able to make a number of interesting conjectures. The one I liked best was the idea that most of the women in school were unmarried, and therefore could be using the dictionary as a way to further education in an otherwise male dominated world. That was a thought process I’d never seen employed through studying a dictionary, and I found it to be a very insightful one. And in terms of these conclusions, I appreciated that you presented the data in a number of ways (again, the variety of your entire presentation was great). Being able to see the facts about female readers both graphically and in a table made the information easier to comprehend, and more impactful. Well done!

Outside of the powerpoint, I thought that you did a good job of giving the presentation itself. Notably, I really appreciated that you didn’t just read off of the slides. If anything, your slides really didn’t have that much text at all, which to me was a good thing. You provided a lot of other information otherwise, which just speaks to how comfortable you are with the topic you presented on. Combined with the strengths of your slides, your personal presentation of the research was really strong. I hope that the rest of your paper goes well! I am interested to hear how you tie in all of these great image with the text itself.

In terms of everyone’s presentations though, it was cool to seem how much work and development has happened over the past couple of weeks. I remember sitting in class together, all struggling to write basic abstracts, and now we all have so much interesting research done. I had already read John and Brie’s, but to see their final trajectory was great. I also really liked Tim and Ira’s, especially how personal the research of both was. I was excited to see how different all of our presentations were, it makes the sphere of book history seem so much more accessible. Best of luck to everyone as we finish up our papers!

John Robert Seeley

Although a bit basic, I’d like to use this blog post as an opportunity to more deeply delve into one of the most important parts of The Expansion of England, it’s author John Robert Seeley. It is clear that Seeley, and the works that he produced, had a lasting effect on the English Empire. In its moments of vast imperialism, Seeley’s lectures on national identity, expansion, and travel propagated a unique sense of ownership across a growing imperial globe.

First, I would like to compare the entries found on Seeley for Wikipedia and within an encyclopedia. Wikipedia focuses exclusively on the ‘Life’ and ‘Works’ of Seeley, noting his interest for history, religion, tutoring, and presence at Cambridge. It also documents his most famous works-

Ecce Homo: An evaluation of Christ and religion.
Natural Religion: A promotion of science in religion.
The Expansion of England: A defensive series of essays in favor of the British Empire (specific to England)
The Growth of British Policy: Documents the expansion of Britain.

These four titles are cited by Wikipedia as Seeley’s most crucial. I think it important to note that two conclusions can be drawn from this series. First, all four texts have an impressional effect on their readers. Whether covering religion or empire, each is plagued with a strong opinion and persuasive approach. And second, there is a general shift from religious to secular topics. Although this is probably just reflective of the environment that Seeley was writing in, I am curious to explore further how such a shift might have affected his later writing. Are there any significant influences of religion on imperialism?

In comparison to Wikipedia, the encyclopedia entry was much harder to find. I started my search with Encyclopedia Britannica, which has no account of Seeley. I found much of the same while skimming through other popular encyclopedias. It was only when I went to The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature that I encountered an entry. Although this is probably where I should have started in the first place, the struggle to find this entry in a more academic setting has provided me with guidance for the rest of my research. It seems that Seeley has a place in history, however, that place is exclusive to British history. As I continue my research it seems that I need to stick to British sources (although that might not be a fair generalization with the limited research I have already done).

Anyway, The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature details Seeley across a five page entry. Like Wikipedia, this encyclopedia stresses Seeley’s strong feelings about religion and the empire, noting the same texts. However, it also extends past this evolution of ‘work’ and explores the impressions that Seeley had as an academic and author. Importantly, the entry stresses the range and impact of his teaching, which seem to align with Seeley’s own personal views on widespread education regardless of gender. According to the encyclopedia, it feels like Seeley was an academic far ahead of his time.

So what have these two sources taught me? Arguably very little. However, I think this process has been insightful as I move forward. I now feel I know better where to find informative sources, at least when I am looking for academic ones. This process of elimination is valuable. I also think that learning more about the scope of Seeley’s influence is helpful. It is clear that his works were influential, and I am excited by the prospect of correlation therein. Happy researching!

 

Works Cited

“John Robert Seeley.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.

Kastan, David Scott. “John Robert Seeley.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.

Choosing Cambridge

Research has never been my strong suit. If anything, it’s often the part of being an English major that I have shied away from. I love reading; I love writing. And I especially enjoy thinking about what others have already written. It is the act of finding this writing though that I’ve always found frustrating. I am having much of this same problem as I begin researching Cambridge and the books that inspired social change in England.

So, I stated with a recommended text–A History of Cambridge University Press. Although daunting, the book outlines an extensive overview the history of book publishing in England between 1873-1972. I also thought this a good place to start because as ‘Volume Three’, I hoped that the book would be modern and relevant. In skimming this entry I was hoping to look for three things: 1–a specific book to focus on; 2–a narrowed time range in English history; 3–an individual social trend within the selected time range. The third objective has been the hardest to articulate because I am not entirely sure yet what I am looking for. I think that the connections I make between book and social movement will only be clarified through more and more research.

The book opens with a powerful notion–”books, the products of Cambridge University Press and the justification for its existence” (MiKitterick pg.1). This idea struck me because it seemed to represent the ‘idea’ I’m looking for, ie. the influence of books on people, and the influence of people on books. Neither can exist without the other. Well certainly people can exist without books, but our lives would be much harder, and less interesting. The introductory pages also note many practical changes to the Cambridge University Press (paper, printing, sulphite, consumers, etc.), however, it was this initial idea of justification and existence that I was really looking to explore more.

When reading this book one text that was covered struck me most–The Expansion of England (Macmillan July 1883) (pg.38). The Expansion of England documents the rising history of colonial movement (with new focus on India), and drew large audiences as well as a wide readership. The book writes, “seldom can a course of undergraduate lectures in the humanities have had such a long-term effect on public opinion” (pg.38). This book influenced travel, commerce, and opinions on foreign politics and affairs. It seems like it was monumental in shaping the opinions of a public that did not have access to learning and fact like we do now. I also thought this book was particularly relevant because it is a compilation of undergraduate lectures. As I leave college it is going to be strange to also leave behind lecture, one of the most dominant parts of my four years spend at Michigan. At least in terms of academics. Many of these lectures have helped to shape my opinions, so I am curious to see how the same phenomenon was happening in 1880 England.

So I’ve four the answers to my first two questions: 1–the book I’m focusing on is The Expansion of England; 2–I’ve narrowed my time period to around 1880. However, I am still a bit unsure about the conjectures and correlations that I will be able to make from this data. Even from just reading the introduction to A History of Cambridge University Press I’ve come across some trends that I wouldn’t have originally thought of. Maybe I can track movement to and from India, and see how the increasing publication of information influenced travel. Or perhaps I could explore the influence of this text on education trends and enrollment in the University. I’m not sure if either of these ideas are going to be feasible, but as I explore The Expansion of England more, I hope that I will find an answer to my third question that is both interesting and manageable.

While browsing online I was only able to read to about pg.70, but I am in the process of trying to locate the book in the library for further reading, and the hope of more resources in reference.

Works Cited

McKitterick, David. A History of Cambridge University Press. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 2004. Print.

A History of Book Publishing: Cambridge

After completing essay one, I was particularly interested in the effects of reading on personal development-how the books we choose to purchase (or not to purchase) speak to the person that we are. Although conjecture, I concluded that the books I purchase reflect the person I am (those being the books that I have already read, and read many times) as well as the person I hope to be (books I have purchased but not yet read). Is it really as simple as that? Hardly. There are many other factors involved in the purchase of books, notably the availability of books themselves. Although I can make assumptions about how the books I’ve purchased reflect parts of my identity, the choices I make when browsing the shelves are equally dictated by what publishers choose to put there. I’d like to think that my choice are my own (maybe a misguided need for self expression or free will…), but the choices I make are often dictated for me.

In order to better understand this process, I am using Essay 3 to learn more about the history of book publishing, specifically Cambridge University Press, the oldest registered publishing house in England. Publishing has changed in many amazing ways since the creation of the printing press in 1440. Although not entirely helpful to my research, I thought that this graphic was a cool representation of publishing, especially for its inclusion of more modern publishing outlets like Twitter.

The Evolution of Publishing: from 1400 to Today

Image Courtesy of Visual.ly

Cambridge University Press began in 1534, and is connected to the Cambridge University. The publishing house is also known for its ties to the Royal Family, as well as its educational programs. In terms of the research paper, the following statements are what I am hoping to explore:

I am studying: the historical uprising of the Cambridge publishing house after 1534…
Because: I want to better understanding the connections between what was popularly published by the Cambridge publishing house and what was happening in the world of England
So That: I can evaluate the effects of books (and what is published) on human socialization.

Clearly that’s a bit confusing, if not entirely convoluted. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to research, and I realize that looking at the social history of an entire country is way too much. And I’m not even entirely sure what I mean by ‘socialization’, but right now my brain just can’t find the right words. I am really interesting in seeing if there is a connection between the books that were being published in England and how people were acting in terms of social movements. If there is even a correlation at all. I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding sources/research on the topic (again, it might not even be researchable), so fine-tuning the goals of this paper is something that I will definitely be working on in the next week or two. As I find more research, hopefully I will be able to better express the question I am trying to answer.

In terms of finding more research though, I am a bit stuck. This is where any suggestions/tips would be more than welcome! I have yet to fully compile a list of resources yet, which I apologize for. I am applying for a fellowship that has been consuming all ton of my time, but as soon as I finish the application I will more actively be searching for sources. I have been browsing on the University site though, and there is a fair amount of information pertaining to Cambridge itself. Similarly, there is a ton of information that documents the large social movements of England. Now though, is the task of looking for connections between the two. It is logical that books about social things are written after the fact, but what I am more curious in exploring is books that were written before social things. Again, I need to refine this search, but I think this is something that will happen more naturally through the research project itself. It seems like I have a lot of library time ahead of me. That said, here is my timeline moving forward-

March 18: Go to the library to talk with a specialist on British Lit (if that exists)
March 20: blog post critiquing one source for the project
March 21: Rework my Research Question for clarity and feasibility
March 23-24: Document and summarize 3 academic sources
March 27: Individual Meeting
April 1: ‘Rough’ rough draft finished
April 6: Rough Draft due!

I am having trouble planning more than this though, just because I am not really sure where my research is going to end up taking me. I’m excited to move forward, and answers to any of these questions would be helpful!

Q: Any relevant sources/places to look? I don’t have much experience with research papers, so any advice on where to go online or in the libraries would be awesome! Really any suggestions here would be SUPER helpful!
Q: Is this a topic of interest? I don’t want to pursue something that’s simply boring.
Q: Is it unrealistic to think that there is a connection between book production and social actions?

Thanks!

Data Visualization: Wind

At first I was a bit confused about what Data Visualization was (ie. I had to email Prof. Modey and ask). After a quick search on Google Images though, I think it was just that I didn’t know that this type of representation was called ‘Data Visualization’. I’ve definitely seen these images before; really, I see them all of the time. It’s cool to put a name to this type of image.

Anyway… in my short research time I stumbled upon this image-

Image Courtesy of theregister.co.uk

 

First, I was struck by how beautiful the image was. There is something classic about a black and white image, and I was immediately drawn to the subtle elegance of the sweeping lines across it (even before I realized what the lines were supposed to be representative of). I really found it to be an ascetically appealing image. Looking closer, I was able to deduce that the lines were wind patterns. They look a lot like the images of wind seen on the news, and because of that association I think I was able to make the right guess. And looking outside my window into the blustery snowpocalypse of Ann Arbor, the weather was certainly on my mind. That, and the beauty of the image itself, were what first caught my attention.

Technically speaking, this Data Visualization has a lot of interesting strengths. In terms of Tufte’s graphical integrity, this Data Visualization seems to do a decent job. Dimensionally, the number of dimensions do not exceed the number of data types being represented–two dimensions; two datas [wind speed and direction] (Tufte 77). Similarly, the labels for this image seem good (Tufte 77). Although sparse, I feel like they are sufficient considering the visual aid of the wind representations. It looks like the Data Visualization might have also initially been interactive (allowing you to focus in on specific locations and get wind speed and direction). However, this was no longer an option with the copy of the image I found on Google. This interactive aspect could explain the lack of labels on the image I found (more labels would appear as you scrolled). The labels might also be lacking because the image does have an independent movement that make sense for its claims (Miller). The wind on the page is frozen in a movement aligned with the real world.

And in light of our most recent readings, it is important that I personally found that data here interesting. It is relevant to my current environment, and in bridging the gap between Topic-Question-Significance (Ch.4 Booth).

These strengths stated, there are a few significant flaws with this Data Visualization. Again, looking at Tufte, there is an emphasis here on design variation, not data variation (Tufte 77). Although the two are closely connected in Data Visualization, the data variation can be a bit ambiguous, and resultantly a bit subjective (which I find a real problem in terms of evaluating data). There could be a bit of reader bias here, which is something that Miller would tell us to avoid. Similarly, this bias could lead to distortions and misrepresentations, again things Miller warns us against when creating visualizations from data.

It seems that this Data Visualization captures the imaginative beauty that a good image should, but falls a bit short in terms of tangible/usable data. It creates a thought provoking image, however, this image is somewhat unclear and could lead to severe reader bias and misinterpretation. It did catch my eye though, and in the onslaught that is Google Images, I think that is still worth noting.

Table Analysis and Evaluation

In the article “Reading Becomes a Necessity of Life,” author William Gilmore uses both tables and graphs to effectively represent data in his text. On page 273, Gilmore uses a table to express the ‘Size of Windsor District Family Libraries’. However, I think he would have found more success in using a graph.

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 6.25.00 PM

Although the table is straight forward after a second or third read, it feels a bit cluttered. The table is divided in a number of ways. First, the table looks at the number of books present in libraries for three different year ranges: 1787-1800, 1801-15, and 1816-30. The library holdings are divided into clusters, ranging from 1 to 15+, and are given in both percentages and whole number form. Under all of this data there are also cumulative percentages based upon the same time frames. Again, these library holdings are divided into clusters, although here they are only listed by percentage. I feel like the complexity (and frankly lack of clarity) in this explanation of the table demonstrates is cumbersome nature. I’m having a hard time writing about it, because there is a lot of data and it is densely organized. There is a lot going on, and although I understand its material now, I was initially very confused about what the table was covering.

There are two things that confuse me most about this table. The first is that there are so many things being evaluated in this single chart. It lacks focus, looking at number of volumes, percentages, cumulative percentages, three timeframes, and many other divisions, all in a graph that does not even cover half a page of text. I think that the table would have been stronger if divided into two tables–one that focused on the ‘Number of Volumes in Library,’ and another that looked at the ‘Cumulative Percentages’ of the libraries. My second major issue with the table is that the data it represents is not uniform. For the ‘Number of Volumes in Library’ section the conclusions are given in both No. and %. However, these two numbers do not match up exactly because the percentages are not always out of 100%, which can skew the data. Although the data might be consistent in terms of the table itself, I found the data hard to compare. And for the ‘Cumulative Percentages’ section, the conclusions are only listed as percentages, however, these percentages are not clear at first read. The divisions compound on each other. I think that it is neat to be able to look at the table and see that between 1787-1800 43% of libraries had Over 3 Volumes, but again I don’t find these numbers particularly comparable. I think that the biggest flaw here is that too many types of data are being calculated in the table.

Wow, it’s really easy to critique someone else’s table, but I’m sure that I won’t feel the same way when I have to turn my own into a graph. However, I do think that this table could be a lot stronger if graphically represented. First, I would start by breaking the table into two sections. I would leave the ‘Cumulative Percentages’ information as a table because I can’t really imagine how it could be represented graphically. At first I was thinking of a bar graph, but I think that with how the data is separated the graph would be misleading. The divisions are so dependent on each other that I think comparing them as bars would be strange. But I would make the ‘Number of Volumes in Library’ section into a bar graph. I think that it would work best if each year range was its own color bar, and the horizontal axis was separated by the number divisions given in the table. I would also get rid of the percentage representation, because again I think that these values can be misleading because they are not always out of 100%. I would stick with the whole number representations, because I think that these numbers lend themselves well to a bar graph. Ideally, this table would be turned into a graph much like the one we looked at toward the end of last class. Together, I think that this more simplified table and the new graph would explain the information in the original table more effectively.

Talking about tables and graphs was a lot harder than I had anticipated. I was genuinely confused on how to convert some of what I was seeing into words, so sorry if my post was a bit scattered. That said, I am excited to have my own try at making a graph for paper 2. I guess we will see how it goes.

Book Inventory

Collecting and inventorying all of the books I have at school was much a more complex process than I had anticipated. I never realized how different books are in terms of the set up of their basic information–genre, page number, city of publication, ect. Rather than being uniform (as I had expected), each book had its own unique pattern of distributing these fact from cover to cover. These pages of a book are ones that I normally skip over when reading, so maybe it was my own naivety that led me astray, but I was genuinely perplexed by how complicated the individual formations of books could be. I also found it challenging to then take these facts, and present them in a uniform way. I found this especially difficult with older books/books that have had more than one publication. For these titles I often felt that I was having to choose between options (and even trying to choose between options in a consistent way was hard). Laments aside though, I found this inventory really insightful. I’ve always prided myself as a reader, and strive to own more and more texts, so being able to sift back through them was a rewarding process.

What does the data collection process reveal?

In overview then, this process reveals the challenges in data collection. Having gone through this exercise, I now have a better understanding of the challenging that face a modern book historian. The lack of data, the inconsistencies between texts, the tiresome process of literally flipping pages (which did get a bet boring…)–all of these issues make the study of books a daunting task. This process also revealed the vast number of things than can be studied while looking at texts. For our collection we only focused on a limited number of attributes, however, while searching for those I kept coming across other qualities that I thought would be equally interesting to study. Books are complex, and the study of them can be equally as complex.

There are also many specific claims that can be made about my individual data. I haven’t noticed anything concrete just yet (hopefully this will change with more close, and comparative analysis), but I am thinking that there might be some interesting trends in genre shifts, city of publication, and new/used purchases. I’m excited to see what kind of conclusions I can draw over the next few days!

What does it conceal?

As stated above, in focusing only on specific attributes of text, we are disregarding many other aspects of books. It seems then, that our data inherently conceals certain aspects of books in promotion of others. However, I don’t take much issue with this concealment because if we had chosen to look at all aspects of books it would have been an extremely overwhelming process. There just would have been too much information.

However, one concealment I am interesting in studying the implications of is the scope of our inventory–ie. only looking at the books we have at school. I know that I personally only have a small portion of the books I own at school with me. While they are my favorites (and as such might give the best overall representation of my reading habits), in choosing to inventory only these we are definitely concealing major portions of data. Again, I take little issue with this because, again, inventorying every book we own would be overwhelming and almost impossible (I really have no way of getting home right now). The concealments in our data do not seem hugely problematic, however, I think they are interesting biases to keep in mind while analyzing and conjecturing for Essay One.

How might the process be changed to tell a different story?

Having gone through the inventorying process, it seems that the information being collected most directly dictates the story being told. In looking only at the books in our rooms, the story told is manipulated by connivence, school, and the physical limitations of travel and movement (amongst many other factors). However, it also reveals many interesting social ideas–what books we find most important to bring with us, the books we read for school vs. pleasure, ect. There seems to be a give & take in results when choosing the specific data to analyze.

That said, in order to tell a different story we would need to change the trajectory of the data we collected. Maybe to tell an economic story we could look at the how much each book cost, or if we bought them with cash or a gift card (though that might be too hard to remember?). Or maybe we want to tell a literacy story–which books have we completed, and at what age did we complete them. Again, these facts might be too far removed to go back and remember, but I think that they would be interesting to study nonetheless. The story told is dependent upon the data collected, so in changing the data collected is seems that we could change the story, too.

A Timeless Reader

While it seems that in his text “Procuring Books and Consuming Text: The Reading Experience of a Sheffield Apprentice”, Colclough looks to highlight and explore the specific reading choices of one man (15 year old Joseph Hunter), I can’t help but notice the parallels between a reader of 1798 and the present. This is actually the motif I found myself most critically focusing on through the duration of my reading. Hunter’s life is undoubtedly different than mine (for the sake of this post I am using myself as an ‘archetype’ for a modern reader, even if I might not be completely representative). His world was smaller, his resources fewer, and his contacts arguably less progressive. While these are issues of a more social nature, they all apply to the sphere of reading. Our worlds were/are different, and our lives unique to time, however, the similarities between our approaches to reading are incredibly related.

The most obvious parallel I found was that of book selection. Hunter’s books were selected from his environment–local shops, libraries, friends, and families. When selecting from libraries Hunter was presented with a limited option of choices. “Periodicals stimulated Hunter’s desire to see a particular text or to read a particular author,” however, texts had to be nominated and then voted on in order to be added to the collection of a library (33). For Hunter, access to books was limited in a similar way to a modern reader. While I have access to many more books than Hunter (a process aided by online shopping), I am still restricted to a certain degree. Similarly, like Hunter, bestseller lists and prizes like the Pulitzer (even the Academy for other areas of popular culture-ie. awards season) often dictate which texts become available to a wide audience of readers. Even in terms of genre, there are striking similarities between choice and accessibility. Colclough argues that, for Hunter, “by far the greatest number of new texts purchased by Evans and Hunter were periodicals and newspapers” (25). While periodicals and newspapers have transformed into avenues like blogs, online periodicals/newspapers, and other forms of social media, modern readers nonetheless consume a vast number of these daily news sources. Again, as with the selection of texts, the consumption of daily news demonstrates similarities between Hunter and myself. While the texts themselves may have changed, reading trends seems to be somewhat timeless. 

I also noticed many parallels that dealt with the idea of the ‘reader’.

  • First, Colclough’s study of Hunter’s diaries indicates that Hunter was “conscious of his own different from the majority of readers” (34). Like Hunter, I as a reader often find myself in relation to the community of readers I have aligned myself with (a comparison magnified by the expedient nature of modern communication).
  • Second, the diaries suggest that “the review had some influence over the war in which the Fragments were interpreted,” ie. that one text influences another (35). Like Hunter, when choosing books I often allow my past reads to influence future choices and lit. interpretations.
  • Third, the diaries note that “Hunter’s reading experience provides evidence that he used travel lit. in ways far different than… expected” (37). Like Hunter, I often read journals for pleasure, novels for content–the fluidity of genre is continuously changing (as is the creation of new genres affecting the act of reading).
  • And fourth, the diaries stress the collection of notes taken from borrowed (and often expensive) texts (38-39). Like Hunter, I take notes when reading, often preparing for the “interrogative reading practice and the desire to reread” after a book has been returned (39).

These are just a few examples of parallels I found between Hunter and myself as readers, and I believe that many others poignant examples exist.

Even the act of keeping this diary is oddly similar to the data collection for our first essay–”Hunter recorded the date on which he acquired a text; the library, individual, or shop from which it was borrowed or bought…” (22). Though hundreds of years have passed, the credentials we are using to evaluate our collections strongly echo those implemented by Hunter. It seems, that while our world may change, the fundamental aspect of ‘reader’ will remain the same. It’s a pretty cool concept. 

However, I am left wondering two things. First, is this connection specific to Hunter? Colclough does note that the evidence found in Hunter’s diaries only give insight into his “specific reading community” (39). Would these parallels to a modern reader exist for a different reader within a different community? And second, are the parallels drawn here specific to the concerns of a book historian? In removing the personal attributes of reader (intent, interpretation, ect.) in exchange for focus on the ‘material text’, book historian effectively eliminate many issues of time, space, and environment. These are the qualities that I believe most directly threaten the parallels I have found. I’d like to believe that both questions drawn here are inconsequential, but as of now my conjectures cannot be sure. I am curious to see what others think!

Apples and Oranges

Aside from the books being studied, it seems that quantitative methods and literary studies have little in common. The former utilize a narrow approach, specified data, and techniques independent of the books themselves (ie. math); the later relies on conjecture. Comparing the two feels like looking at apples and oranges–while both are fruits, their particular distinctions greatly overshadow their limited similarities.   

Ultimately though, it does seem poignant to remember the close dependence of both quantitative methods and literary studies on variables like time, environment, technology, ect. This shared history critically shapes the circumstances of both approaches, however, the efforts of each in reaction are highly different. Quantitative methods, whether empirical or derived, function under the direct presence (and often absence) of data. As Weedon and Eliot both recognize, these data sets available are often insufficient. Time and loss challenge the data of book history, and as such quantitative methods have turned to narrower data sets and studies that can be more assuredly relied on. It is this ‘material’ world (coined by Eliot), though riddled with its own scope of inconsistencies in fact, from which a more accurate understanding of book history can be made. While such a rationalized perspective is probably best attributed to the passage of time Weedon/Eliot have, I found their more realistic favorable to the broad, and overreaching claims of Febre, Martin, and Darnton. Unlike quantitative methods, in the face of historical variables, literary studied have turned to guess.    

It’s as Eliot says, “I needed to see the forest, not a host of additional trees” (285). After the passage of time, the destruction of texts/records, and the basic uncertainty of history, it is seemingly impossible to ‘recreate this forest’. Although both quantitative methods and literary studies rightfully recognize the interdisciplinary nature of this forest, the trees have been cleared for both. It is only quantitative methods of book history though, that have looked to supplement this absence. Quantitative methods focus on actual data available, and although this pool is ever-changing (technology, discoveries, ect.), it has always been more consistent than the claims made in literary studies like Sociology of Text, Annales School, or Communication Circuit. These literary studies rely on uncertainties–authorial intent, context of place and person, culture. Although arguably more entertaining and flashy than quantitative methods (even Eliot and Miller admit the oft boring practice of collecting and analyzing data), literary study will never have the same verified credibility that the more recent field of quantitative methods allot to the ‘history of the book’. I’m curious to see how the two approaches to the history of books interact throughout the rest of this course (if at all).

Finally, as an aside, I am curious how quantitative methods manipulate data to the interests of their studies. Eliot remarks that data sets are categorized, simplified, and ordered (291). Weedon similarly offers many quantitative methods, each of which can be applied to a specific scenario and data set. These techniques reminded me of the practices of the bestseller lists we first looked at. In both, the data seems manipulated for some purpose. I’m curious if quantitative methods have applied this manipulation out of necessity, or intent? To me, this paradox seems to lean toward necessity, but I am curious to see what others think.