Research related to my MLA conference paper, “The Genius of Vampires,” focused on the overlap of romantic manifestos and writing on the fantastic. The four core texts I studied are Stendhal’s “Racine et Shakespeare” (1823), Victor Hugo’s “Préface de Cromwell” (1827), Walter Scott’s “On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition” (1827, trans. 1829) and Charles Nodier’s “Du Fantastique en littérature” (1830). I was interested to see in what ways these texts overlap in their references to authors and works of literature, and key terms associated with the romantique, classique and fantastique. My colleague Kirk Anne, Director of Research Technology and Strategic Projects, created these lexical dispersion charts using lists of keywords that I developed.
The following three charts show how often Hugo, Stendhal and Nodier cite certain works, authors and characters. I developed this list by working from Nodier’s text, which was written after Hugo’s and Stendhal’s, but I also included some works and authors that Stendhal or Hugo cite but Nodier does not.
While not terribly evocative, the charts allow readers to see commonalities, differences, patterns and anomalies in a corpus at a glance. They show how often and a what point in their works Stendhal, Hugo and Nodier cite certain authors, works and characters. The reader can look at the charts for clusters of references to a particular keyword, paired of references, a steady rhythm of a particular reference throughout the text. Looking at the charts, the reader is stepping back from the texts to gain a new perspective that will complement a close reading by filling in the gaps, and sending the reader to specific moments of the texts once again.