My experience with Google NGram was as thrilling as it was head-scratching. I entered the words epistle and diary to see how the genres have shifted or which has dominated and I’m not too sure that’s what I got. My understanding is that it scans for words but I’m not sure if those words are in the titles of the books or in the body. Either way, it’s still helpful because it is showing how the preference has shifted for one versus the other. Letter writing seems to dominate the beginning of the 19th century, which corresponds with what I know from the historical development and flourishing of the genre and its decline towards the tail end of the 20th century is no surprise. What used to be under the epistle genre of letter writing is now replaced by emails, tweets and facebook, so this leads me to believe that one needs to do some thinking first before using the tool, or during or after entering the data, that could lead to a new realization. I was surprised to see that diaries have become more popular. Again, I’m not sure what this means. Is it fictional diaries, or diaries as autobiography? I was simply surprised to see that they’ve been given a boost.
MALS 78100: Digital Humanities in Research and Teaching