Looking for Textual Evidence
Digital Humanities, Middling-Class Morality, and the Eighteenth-Century English Novel
Ralf Schneider, Marcus Hartner and Anne Lappert's article explores the benefits and limits of Digital Humanities (DH) for the study of prose fiction. It discusses computation-driven research in literary studies by engaging with the construction of middle-class morality manifest in eighteenth-century British novels. Applying a combination of distant (digital) reading and traditional close reading to a corpus of fifty-five novels, the authors argue that the novels' literary negotiation of morality does not predominantly occur by explicitly mentioning underlying values that could be quantified, for example, in form of word frequencies and co-occurrence(s). Eighteenth-century novels, they suggest, rather tend to employ indirect techniques of (re)presenting moral behaviour. By reflecting the role of DH in their analysis, the authors suggest to move towards an understanding of the quantitative research methods of DH as a tool for the critical analysis of hypotheses and applied research methods in literary studies.