The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term ‘clairvoyance’ as ‘keenness of mental perception, clearness of insight; insight into things beyond the range of ordinary perception’. Voyant allows users to access a ‘web-based reading and analysis environment’ that encourages scholars with a variety of interests to gain this type of insight into the texts they study.
For my CHI project, I will be using Voyant to explore Shakespeare’s corpus, visually. By searching for terms related to the rise of English artistic theory (see my previous posts for more thorough descriptions of my project), I hope to uncover new ways of understanding some of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays (or even his most hated plays—I’m looking at you, Timon).
Below is a very basic, but useful example of what Voyant can do. I searched for the following key terms: shadow, painted, counterfeit, image, and shadowes. These words in particular interest me as they relate to English artistic theory, but also for their other possible meanings. ‘Counterfeit’ in particular, as you might imagine, is especially juicy.
The first thing to note is that these graphs are interactive—so have at it! Feel free to click on particular points or terms to explore what is of interest to you. For me, the frequency of these terms in the Henry plays seems interesting and worthy of more exploration. The same goes for Macbeth. I’ve done some work with The Two Gentlemen of Verona and so these results are what I expected to find for that play. And while this graph is organized alphabetically, it might be interesting to rearrange it chronologically to see if patterns emerge in relation to time.
This second graph is more useful for my project. Not only does it plot the frequency of my key terms (indicated by the size of the colored circles that correspond to each play), but it also shows terms in relation to each other and where these terms exist within each text. I am particularly interested in places where my key terms converge; these areas indicate important moments for my study. Again, this graph is clickable so feel free to play around with these findings.
So that’s it for now. In the next month I plan to work with my data a bit more, play around with the tools Voyant offers, and look for any new and/or surprising outcomes that deserve more attention. In the meantime, I encourage you to explore Voyant for yourself; the results might be surprising!