Wednesday, August 14, 2013

LOUDNESS IN THE NOVEL

Some novels feel louder than others, yet reading is typically a silent process. From this paradox arises this exploration of a text’s ability to be loud or quiet (and thereby exhibit dynamic variation). As a starting point, we will attempt to quantify textual loudness by studying the words that tend to occur within loud dialogue – dialogue that is cried, exclaimed, shouted, roared, or screamed. When, for instance, in Alice in Wonderland we encounter the sentence, ‘“Are their heads off?” shouted the Queen’, we will focus on the words and punctuation inside the quotations (“Are,” “their,” “heads,” “off,” and the question mark) as typical of the semantics of loudness. The project will make use of the Literary Lab’s corpus of 19th century English novels to generate a large sample of loud dialogue and vehement exclamations in order to ask questions such as: Does loud dialogue have its own unique lexicon? What does this lexicon say about loudness and English culture, and how does it change over time? Does it occur most densely within dialogue, or narration – or dramatic scripts? As these questions demonstrate, literary loudness naturally taps into issues of literary form, affect, and historical change.
What ever did we do before the Stanford Literary Lab and their wonderful projects?
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