By Matthew L. Jockers
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Instead, through the study and processing of large amounts of literary data, the method calls our attention to general trends and missed patterns that we must explore in detail and account for with new theories. If we consider that this macroanalytic approach simply provides an alternative method for accessing texts and simply another way of harvesting facts from and around texts, then it may seem less threatening to those who worry that a quantification of the humanities is tantamount to the destruction of the humanities.
More Irish-born citizens should mean more Irishoriented books. Obviously, there are many other factors that could be at play here. Take, for example, economics. Would Irish writers in more vibrant local economies be more inclined to write? It is entirely possible. What is compelling and unquestionable here is the sheer number of Irish American books in the West—whatever the demographics. † A total of 758 texts spread over 250 years is only about 3 texts per year on average, and in reality the number of texts from the earlier years is much fewer.
Literary researchers understand that the “P” series is especially relevant to their work and that works classed as PR or PS have relevance at an even finer level of granularity—that is, English language and literature. This is an abundant, if somewhat general, form of literary data that can be processed and mined. Subject headings are an even richer source. Headings are added by human coders who take the time to check the text they are cataloging in order to determine, for example, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, whether it is folk literature or from the English Renaissance, and in the case of American literature whether it is a regional text from the northern, southern, central, or western region.