I have talked about Sparrow Alden’s work before, the creative Digital Humanities project to stage all of the words in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Her “Words That You Were Saying” blog then offers up visual word studies that invite us to imagine dominant, peculiar, and hidden themes in this literary fairy tale. Digital Humanities work is not magic; we consider the data, doing all the work before we know if we will see a result. But I have found Sparrow’s word studies have consistently made me reflect on the text in fresh ways.
It’s a cool project, but I also have been able to make use of it in my scholarly work. In preparing for a lecture in Northwind’s Romantic Theology program, I began playing with words in the text, playing out an image that I think is a bit under-appreciated. Because she is entirely equipped, I reached out to Sparrow to see if she could run the data on “little” and “small” in her magic Digital Humanities project. This is the first part of that project and “Small,”was not far behind. I then spent some time visualizing the data, using it to enrich my close reading. The first picture is of the chapter list of The Hobbit, and some charts to capture Sparrow’s word data.
I think this is a good example of cooperative scholarship and digital humanities experimentation at work. Thanks to Sparrow and I hope students found the slight tilt in perspective enriched their reading as much as it did mine!
Finally! Thanks to the Rev. Dr. Dickieson over at A Pilgrim in Narnia, I have gotten un-stuck from the word which has held me in thrall since October. I hope this is of interest to his students in their study of the power of small ones:
• 1.004 and smaller than the bearded Dwarves.
• 1.004 the small river that ran at the foot of The Hill.
• 1.006 since they were all small hobbit-boys
• 1.059 and a couple of small tables
• 1.068 he sent a smaller smoke-ring from his short clay-pipe
• 1.109 Because it is too small.
• 1.113 a small and curious key.
• 2.022 There was a very small pony,
• 2.112 very small and secret.
• 2.113 too small for trolls,
• 2.123 our small stock of provisions.
• 3.009 some of which were small,
• 3.033 in the story of Bilbo’s…
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