The following is a series of tests run on Lunar Baedecker‘s blank text using Voyant Tools. These tests provide quantitative support to our qualitative hypothesis regarding the importance of celestial bodies.
Note: These data visualizations are live; please feel free click on and interact with them.
Test ONE: Overall Word Frequency Visualization
This Voyant tool visualizes word frequency in Lunar Baedecker. The larger the word, more frequently the word appears in the collection.
Interpretation: The most frequent word is “rose,” which appears 18 times. As a rose, a flower, is not explicitly a celestial word, this prevalence complicates our hypothesis. Rose, in the collection, occurs most prevalently in the poem “English Rose.” In fact, the word occurs 15 out of the 18 times in this poem. While Loy may have been desirously looking at the heavens for inspiration in Lunar Baedecker, she also remained politically grounded, writing about political concerns and her own father’s emigration to England. Within the poem “English Rose”, the flower symbolizes both (her mother’s) feminity as an “English Rose” colloquially refers to a “beautiful woman” and a masculine imperial England. The image of the rose occurs earlier in the poem “Joyce’s Ulysses” as a symbol for English imperial conquests in Ireland. Our analysis here only scratches the surface of Loy’s use of “rose” as a symbol in “English Rose” and “Joyce’s Ulysses.”
We would like to acknowledge three important lessons from the preponderance of the word “rose.” First, Lunar Baedecker is a complex collection with many different images. Although our hypothesis focuses on astronomical and celestial imagery, we concede that this focus is a limited perspective. Loy wrote about myriad topics with various and multi-purpose images. Second, we recognize our word sample size in Lunar Baedecker is small enough that if one poem in the collection uses the same word repetitiously then our results may be skewed. “Rose” plays an important role in these poems but never recurs in any other poem. In this sense, word frequencies tools are limited in how much they can help us understand the collection as a whole. Third, we notice that Loy rarely repeats celestial imagery in the collection and favors a diverse set of astronomical allusions. For instance, the poem “Lunar Baedeker” references the astronomical 7+ times with each instance referring to a different celestial body (Lucifer, sky-light, lunar, ZODIAC, Eros, moon, the fossil virgin of the skies). This detection later informs our close reading.
However much other images also appear, Voyant’s word frequency tool verifies our hypothesis that celestial words recur in the collection (sun – 8, sky – 6, moon – 4, and so on).
Test TWO: Celestial Word Frequency vs. Document Segments
This Voyant tool charts celestial word frequencies against the linear contents of the book, arbitrarily dividing the book into ten segments. Voyant then quantifies frequent words within each of those ten parts. This tool allows the user to track how different words interact both with one another and with the book’s linear progression. In this test, we have only included a sample of words related to celestial bodies. (For example, try selecting “rose” and “eyes” from the bottom left drop-down corner box.)
Interpretation: This tool again can only reveal so much about the collection. As we are unable to set delimiters (i.e. when the .txt file is segmented) within Voyant, we are unable to segment our x-axis in the above scale and thus have to manually correlate the occurrence of each word with the poem. This, unfortunately, is our mistake, and we challenge readers to try their own delimiter technique to circumvent these issues. That is to say, this tool allows us to see general trends within the collection but does not provide the context and relationship between a word and a poem.
At face value, the above trend graph indicates that these two words seem to occur at similar points in the collection. Because celestial and religious imagery recurs in the collection, we became interested in the correlation between the two and whether or not the celestial imagery in the collection reflected the influence of Christian Science on Lunar Baedecker. While the Voyant graph does initially suggest a thematic link between these two words (and perhaps the celestial and the Christan more broadly), consulting our lexicon or the collection itself reveals that these two words do not actually occur in the same poem.
We learned two things from this case study. First, as we mentioned before, this Voyant tool is limited and can be misleading. To be useful, we needed a hypothesis after reading the collection. This tool does not, in our experience, reveal trends as much as it can verify a hypothesis that a scholar thinks up by close reading or researching Loy’s cultural context. Second, although our “Christian Science” was not “verified” by our Voyant tools, we do not believe this discourages or disavows this possible reading with regards to Lunar Baedecker. We take this hypothesis and dead end up in our cultural contexts.
Test THREE: Celestial Words in Context
This third Voyant tool allows us to see the context in which Loy uses her most frequent words. Below, the term “light” is isolated along with the phrases before and after “light”.
Interpretation: Our case study here is regarding the word “light.” Based on our findings, the word “light” correlates with phrases that relate to celestial bodies. For example “the eye-white ski-light / white-light district / of lunar lusts” (“Lunar Baedeker”) and “The celestial conservatories / blooming with light / are all blown out” (“‘The Starry Sky’ of Wyndham Lewis”). This finding supports the relationship we have posited between words relating to light (dark, shadow, white) and celestial bodies. We explore this relationship further in our close reading.
You are able to see the context of each word in our defined terms list in our lexicon.
Test FOUR: A Visual Summary
The following is a more complex visualization that runs through the text of Lunar Baedecker. The blue line charts a linear progression through the collection. The green lines indicate how each word connects to other words in any particular instance of its use. You can also click on words to see this same non-linear visualization in red.
Interpretation: While this “TextualArc” visualization indicates to a certain degree how words relate to one another, we found it more visually reminiscent to celestial bodies than analytical helpful in understanding how celestial bodies are discussed in the Lunar Baedecker. We challenge future scholars to find uses with this tool.