Computers and the Humanities

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 339-361

First online:

A concept analysis of Jonathan Swift'sA tale of a Tub andGulliver's Travels

  • Julius LaffalAffiliated with

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Part 1. The core of the concept analysis method is a dictionary of 43,000 words to each of which is assigned up to 5 of 168 concepts. Computer programs read each word of a text and produce a concept frequency profile of the text.Part 2. Comparisons of concept profiles ofTub andGulliver and Swift's own contemporary texts, as well as a composite text of 18th century writers, reveal thatGulliver is conceptually different fromTub and its coevals. The fourth book ofGulliver (Houyhnhnms) is significantly different from the first three books. The last two books ofGulliver (Laputa and Houyhnhnms) are more likeTub than are the first two books (Lilliput and Brobdingnag).Part 3. The concepts and words supporting these distinctions suggest two strands in Swift's thinking: the first, pessimism about the human condition; the second, interest in the quotidian world. Finally, such issues as disambiguation of homonyms, scoring of phrases, and the role of syntax are considered.

Key words

concept analysis analysis categories concept dictionary content analysis computerized text analysis Gulliver's Travels Tale of a Tub Jonathan Swift 18th century writers