Text Mining, Travel Writing, and the Semantics of the Global
An AntConc Analysis of Alexander von Humboldt's Reise in die Aequinoktial-Gegenden des Neuen Kontinents
The following paper uses text mining tools to analyze the specific ways in which Alexander von Humboldt engages with the world and the global in his travel writing. It focuses on Herman Hauff's influential German translation of the »Relation Historique« (1814 ff.), the »Reise in die Aequinoktial-Gegenden des neuen Kontinents« (1859). The paper proceeds from the assumption that we can indeed gain some further insight into how Humboldt's travel writing engages with the world by identifying a set of relevant lexical features throughout a relatively small-sized corpus. Using AntConc as a concordancing and text analysis toolkit, the paper argues for the interpretative productivity of combining »distant« reading methods with a more traditional »close« reading approach. The analysis shows that Humboldt's travel writing does not so much engage with the global on a lexical level – the lexical layout of the text displays a strong focus on regional space – but rather creates a global perspective by means of comparative and relational text strategies. The results also point towards the different ways in which different genres and texts can engage with the global: Whereas the travelogue engages with the global in a rather implicit way, other texts such as Humboldt's Kosmos address the world in its totality on an explicit lexical level.