Data Project: Ellipses in James Joyce’s Dubliners

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Introduction

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 My data project is, in part, a response to a project over at Joyce Goes Digital, a website from Boston College that seeks to approach the work of Joyce through a “digital” or “digital humanities” lens. The specific project I am responding to focuses on the ellipses that occur throughout James Joyce’s Dubliners. The (unnamed) people who worked on this project came to the conclusion that “Joyce portrayed female characters as simple and flat.” The project in its entirety can be found here:

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 There are two reasons I chose to engage with this project. The first reason has more to do with my skill level; in short, I have little first-hand experience with datasets or data analysis, and working from someone else’s data (especially such easily replicable data) allowed me to use this project as a guide of sorts. Because the data was in fact so replicable, I could follow along step by step, which meant that I could learn how to utilize the tools I had never used before in a way that gave me easy goals to strive towards. The second reason is that, as we’ve discussed in class, people who use the same dataset can come to varying conclusions about what exactly the data means (or is saying). And although I think the conclusion that these originators of this project came up with is, in a sense, correct, I ultimately came to a different conclusion, mainly because I decided to expand upon this conclusion through further data analysis.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Data

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Like the project before me, I used TextWrangler to find all the sentences in which an ellipsis occurred. There were 150 occurrences (the same number the Joyce Goes Digital got—yay, I’m on the right track!). The complete dataset can be found here, and thankfully, it didn’t require much cleaning up: dubliners_ellipses

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 The website with the list of characters in Dubliners, which I discuss later on, can be found here:

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Preliminary Analysis

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 To begin, I was also interested in the gender of the characters who either took pauses in their dialogue or were mentioned in proximity to ellipses (the previous project referred to this as “female-centric ellipses” and “male-centric ellipses”). Because I’m (still) not technically knowledgeable, I decided to closely read all of the sentences, taking careful note of whether the subject was a male or female. This was easily doable with a dataset of 150 sentences. I, however, ran into a problem: some sentences didn’t contain a subject of any kind, at least in the sentences TextWrangler had given me. However, this was easily solved by returning to the original text and searching for the individual sentences, which then led me to the paragraphs in which they were imbedded. This allowed me to define a (male or female) subject for every ellipsis. And, like the previous project, I created a pie chart of the percentage of female-centric and male-centric ellipses

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 dubliners_ellipses

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 We can definitely see that male-centered ellipses are overrepresented in Dubliners. However, I was curious to see what the total amount of important female characters in Dubliners is, and whether or not the almost complete absence of female-centered ellipses could be explained by the relative absence of important female characters. So I compiled a second dataset, this time of proper names within Dubliners (this time I stole the data from the Sparknotes’ character list for Dubliners), and then I displayed the results on another pie chart:

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 dubliners_characters

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 A problem that I ran into was the following: I wasn’t sure how exactly Sparknotes differentiates between “important” and “unimportant characters,” but because this was a relatively small dataset, and there are relatively few characters within Dubliners, I chose to trust Sparknotes. And the results didn’t surprise me: as the pie chart above illustrates, the characters within Dubliners are 31 % female and 69 % male.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 What I’ve Learned So Far

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 I started this project with an answer that was provided to me by someone else, namely that the ellipses present within Dubliners indicate that “Joyce portrayed female characters as simple and flat.” My findings could be seen as either a supplement or refutation of this claim. For example, if we are to take said conclusion as fact, then my analysis of the second dataset (the amount of male and female characters) certainty seems to indicate that Joyce had little interest in female characters, which could then explain their relative “flatness.” However, my findings could also be a refutation of this conclusion, mainly because the amount of ellipses may actually correspond to the amount of female characters, and therefore ellipses aren’t a measure of “flatness” at all, but are instead relative to the amount of female characters.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 But the most important thing I learned from this experience was, as I stated before, the ways in which I could analyze data. This is what I think was most essential to my future (perhaps even what will be most essential for my final project).

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 29, 2016 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Michael, I like the way you puzzled your way through this, which is the essence of what takes to do digital data work like this. You grabbed what you could from other work and you adapted what was available to figure out how to proceed with your own data inquiry. There are obviously no cookie cutter answers to data questions or decisions. But reading your post I still don’t have a clear sense of exactly what you think the presence or absences of ellipses means in Joyce. You haven’t explained the larger import of that absence or presence, at least insofar as I can understand it (and I say this as someone who is not a Joyce scholar in any way, shape or form). Also several actual examples of Joyce’s technique with ellipses would be useful.

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