What’s so delightful about Hope and Witmore’s work is how it’s genuinely a cyborg, centaur piece of literary analysis. They started by pondering a phenomenon that has puzzled Shakespeare fans for centuries. They did some data analysis that pointed to the word “the”. But to figure out why “the” was so key, they had to go back and reread the play closely, engaging in a very rich line-by-line literary analysis. The computation existed as a set of fresh alien eyes, telling the humans where to direct their attention. But it was up to the humans to find the meaning.
Clive Thompson discusses the research of Jonathon Hope and Michael Witmore and their discovery through a mixture of textual analysis and close reading to uncover the power of the word ‘the’ in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. For a simple introduction to textual analysis, Plotting Plots allows users to plot the frequency of words associated with a range of books.