Can Statistics Reveal the Secrets of Great Writing?

ACADEME BLOG

In an article published by Smithsonian Magazine, Megan Gambino interviews data journalist Ben Blatt on his recent efforts to apply data analysis to literary works.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Gambino’s article, which frame the interview:

In most college-­level literature courses, you find students dissecting small portions of literary classics: Shakespeare’s soliloquies, Joyce’s stream of consciousness and Hemingway’s staccato sentences. No  doubt, there is so much that can be learned about a writer, his or her craft and a story’s meaning by this type of close reading.

But Ben Blatt makes a strong argument for another approach. By focusing on certain sentences and paragraphs, he posits in his new book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, readers are neglecting all of the other words, which, in an average­length novel amount to tens of thousands of data  points.

The journalist and statistician created a database of the text from…

View original post 678 more words

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