Monthly Archives: January 2014

Fun with Google’s N-Gram Viewer for my C18th students

Just the other day I was preparing to teach Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (1768). Usually, I ask students to try to historicise the meanings of the word ‘sentimental’, in effect placing it within the broader culture of sensibility. This year, wondering how I might emphasise how new and even fashionable the word sentimental became in the latter half of the century, I thought of Google’s N-Gram Viewer. I’d seen this in action in relation to the eighteenth-century on the Persistent Enlightenment blog. So  I thought I’d give it a go:

ngramsentimental

There’s a gratfyingly significant rise from around the 1750s (and a small dip around the 1790s when sentimentalism was perceived in Britain to be associated with the radical levelling tendencies of the French Revolution). Of course this does not give us insight into the meanings of the word, but Google also offers links to the word’s place in the source material so that I hope my students can look at the word in context. It’s also useful when used in context with title searches on ESTC.

On another note, and since my students also engage with eighteenth-century contextual material from ECCO, I’ve often warned that the practice of capitalising certain words did not necessarily indicate particular significance, and that this was more often a printer’s convention for certain nouns that gradually died away towards the end of the century. The N-Gram Viewer is case-sensitive, so to search for different cases I clicked ‘case-insensitive’ and searched for ‘virtue’ between 1700 and 1799:

ngramvirtue

It’s great to see that cross-over so clearly. Clearly, the idea of virtue wasn’t going out of fashion, but the fashion for capitalising it was.

Smock Races, Ageing Players and Lovely Libraries

More fine comment on BSECS 2014 from Conrad Brunstrom.

conradbrunstrom

Highlights of Day 2 of BSECS 2014….

I missed a lot of course – missed any number of alternative sessions and alternative panels – but I don’t know if I’d want to exchange what I did get yesterday.

The day began with Victoria Joule reminding us all to re-read The New Atalantis and to reimagine the relationship between politics and pleasure, and to reconsider the nature of women’s political engagement in terms other than some derogatory notion of “scandal”.  Peter Radford reminded us of wonderful things that we won’t soon forget – the elite women athletes of the eighteenth century.  Most professional runners were women.  In 1768,  in long anticipation of the Billie Jean King versus Bobbie Riggs tennis battle of the sexes, Mme Bunel beat Mr Tomkins.  Twice.  And Carolyn Williams then spoke eloquently about cards, and those “diversions” that sexist discourse has always sought to stygmatise.

Other highlights…

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Austerity, Beer Ballads, and Sexy Fruit

conradbrunstrom

A quick round up of some of the highlights of Day One of BSECS 2014…

This is not definitive – this is just my list, based on my own peculiar road map through the event.

This conference, like one more than a decade ago, was marked by floods.  Inundations.  As I ran around Didcot Parkway station yesterday it occurred to me that perhaps I loved this conference too much.  Perhaps there was something a little idolatrous about my love of BSECS and God as made wroth and had opened the heavens in order to take it from me.

Then a voice divine the storm allayed, a light propitious shone and a train was found to crawl, inch by inch along a narrow embankment in the middle of what had become a large lake – bubbling and eddying on either side of us.  Oxford had a moat, and our bridge looked…

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