In defense of Topic Modeling in this Study

Being a Comparative literature major means dealing with literature across disciplinary boundaries. Philosophy, deconstructionism, gender studies, science, English, and the digital humanities have been entwined into this study on gender and monstrosity in 18th and 19th century texts. Authors such as Carol A. Senf, Toni Reed, Andrew Smith, and William Hughes have followed a long tradition that predates the 1980’s with Gilbert and Gubar’s monumental text, The Madwoman in the Attic, of exploring the relationship between gender and the monster metaphor. Literary criticism is all well and good, it is what inspired me to begin this project in the first place, and a great part of the final work will, without a doubt, consist of literary criticism. However, the great pool of scholars concentrating on how and when women and men were demonized and/or angelicized would of course then benefit from a study of hard numbers: a digital map outlining the structure of monstrosity in relationship to gender in 18-19th century texts.

When whole genders are largely being referred to as demons, vampires, ghosts, angels and other creatures that have certain ethical implications, over and over again, an approach via topic modeling will will hopefully illuminate that there are sociopolitical implications of theology leaking into percival of gender. In large part a quantitative analysis along the lines of, “how many times does the word male appear in conjunction with demon” or “how many times were women referred to as creatures of virtue in full body texts”–depending on the results it yields–is one that may represent the way it is a part of human nature to link ethics with gender. But this “generalization” says DH thinker Andrew Piper, “is one of the ways through our critiques assume greater social significance.”



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