SuperXclusivo's La Comay

Dethroning “La Comay”: A Rhetorical View of the Issue

SuperXclusivo's La Comay

SuperXclusivo’s La Comay

When a country considers a puppet a legitimate source of news and information, you know that there is something questionable and downright baffling going on. Above is the picture of the infamous puppet known as La Comay (puppeteered by actor Kobo Santarrosa), the hostess of the #1 showed aired in WAPA television titled SuperXclusivo, which is seen mostly by Puerto Rican audiences in and out of the island.

I was never a fan of the show. Although on one hand this could be due to how downright creepy the puppet is, it mostly has to do with how judicious, unethical, and biased La Comay’s so-called reporting process is. Unfortunately, I have had to deal with her ridiculous commentary more than I would like to, for the show is a staple within Puerto Rican communities, and many of my family members watch it religiously.

As a news article points out in Latino Rebels, the show “is a bastion of all that is bad about mass entertainment—the yellow journalism, the unethical investigative tactics, the flat-out misreporting, the playing to the lowest common denominator.” I have found myself appalled with some of the discussions that take place in the show. Perhaps the most “memorable” moment I had with La Comay was during late 2010, when Ricky Martin announced that he would ultimately like to get married in Puerto Rico, where gay marriage is currently illegal. Unsurprisingly, La Comay responded to this with contempt and disgust–and she was already in hot water when she called Ricky Martin a pato (the Spanish pejorative equivalent to the English word “fag”) after he publicly came out of the closet. Needless to say, La Comay faced serious backlash from these remarks, to the point that she had to air a public apology for her socially irresponsible use of language.

Recently, there has been a call to boycott SuperXclusivo, which has been fueled immensely by the use of social media and networks (particularly Twitter and Facebook). As of now, the boycott’s official Facebook page has over 73,500 likes, and its official Twitter page has over 4,000 followers. These numbers are slowly but steadily growing.

Although the causes and the implications of the boycott have been discussed extensively by other sources such as the Huffington Postin a nutshell, it was mostly sparked by the death of publicist José Enrique Gómez Saladín. La Comay implied that José Enrique deserved his fate because he was “looking for it,” and she even went as far as to posit that he was involved in gay prostitution scandals without having concrete evidence on these matters. The boycott has been quite successful, and numerous companies have retracted their sponsorship of the show.

60719_481473841895512_1064114402_n

Companies and enterprises that have retracted their sponsorship of “SuperXclusivo” after the boycott began. Taken from the boycott’s official Facebook page.

It is interesting that many have posited that this boycott is compromising freedom of speech and of press, and that it is leading to an unprecedented degree of social and cultural censorship. Others that I personally know are simply downright angry at the possibility of their lovely puppet disappearing from the small screen. However, from a humanistic perspective, the boycott is not about censorship or oppression, but rather, it is targeted at eliminating hatred and discrimination from primetime television–and trust me, there is enough hate and violence as is within the island. There is a difference between portraying honest and unbiased news, and fabricating honesty with malicious intent solely for the sake of boosting ratings. La Comay must be commended for knowing that it’s not just what you say, but it is mostly how you say it… but what is the cost of this so-called honesty? Does the news really need to be embellished with lies, deceit, and hatred?

On one hand, delivering “news” in La Comay’s fashion is definitely a way to reach an audience. People do tune in, after all, in order to determine what scandalous or outrageous thing she will say next–living up to her catchphrase ¡Que bochinche! (“What a commotion!”). The show’s immense outreach has also led to an increase in La Comay’s authority. Let’s face it: La Comay has so much power and influence over the Puerto Rican population that even prominent figures such as the island’s governor, Luis Fortuño, are interviewed in the show. Yes, even the most powerful political figure in the island found himself “coerced” to share his perspectives on a scandal in SuperXclusivo, a show devoted to slanderous news and gossip. To demonstrate the ridiculousness of this notion, think of it as the equivalent of Barrack Obama being interviewed by Perez Hilton.

My concern is the following: although La Comay gains authority through her use of questionable pathos, at what point do ethics challenge this authority? It is simply a matter of how things are being said? Even more importantly, when do we stop approaching La Comay’s ideas as entertainment and start approaching them as ideas?

True, we have all the duty to fight censorship. We have freedom of speech and freedom of press, and nobody should suppress one’s desire to express their thoughts and opinions. The “problem” with ideas, however, is that they not only carry ideological weight, but they are also not isolated within a vacuum. Ideas are part of a circuitous network of exchange and deliberation. Ideas always have consequences.

Even more so, although we have the right to say anything that comes to mind, we have to keep in mind that anything that is said or written can have repercussions (both negative and positive). At the end of the day, La Comay has all the right in the world to say what she thinks and feels–as long as she is willing to accept the consequences that come with doing so. In this case, however, it is easy to hind behind the mask of a puppet. At first glance, it can be said that the man underneath the hideous fabric shell believes that anything said under the disguise is said for the sake of entertainment. However, matters become convoluted when realizing that the puppet approaches her work as serious reporting and investigation. The fact that “truth” must be delivered under the guise of a puppet leaves me pondering and questioning the scope and purpose of what is being said.

Ultimately, I am simply amazed with the fact that  so many people have become the puppet’s marionettes. Oh, the irony.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog post contains some copyrighted material whose use has not been authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as defined in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). No infringement is intended.

Book cover for Kelley York's "Hushed"

A Brilliantly Transgressive YA Novel: Kelley York’s “Hushed” (A Review)

Book cover for Kelley York's "Hushed"

Book cover for Kelley York’s “Hushed”

Murder. Love. Torment. Loss. Redemption. What more can you ask for in a book?

When first approaching Kelley York’s Hushed, it would be easy to classify the novel as a young adult adaptation of Showtime’s notorious show Dexter (a television program that one of my friends calls “every English major’s favorite show”). And while the novel’s main character has strong ties to Dexter‘s protagonist–in the sense that we see a serial killer who only murders “bad” people–Archer (the novel’s protagonist) is characterized by being able to feel remorse, empathy, and regret. York’s novel is a powerhouse of emotion driven by strong lead characters and a gripping plot that literally gave me goosebumps multiple times. The novel’s twist of events is quite unexpected, and until the very end of the novel, you have no clue what the outcome of the plot will be.

In a nutshell, college student Archer is unable to live with the fact that he was unable to protect Vivian (his best friend) from harm when they were younger. Vowing to protect her from then on, Archer is bent on killing all of the people that hurt Vivian in the past, including but not limited to her own brother.

Archer becomes obsessed with Vivian to the point of infatuation, and he remains faithfully by her side even when she clearly uses him and manipulates him for her own devious devices. This co-dependence develops to the point where Vivian becomes Archer’s everything. He soon recognizes that once he loses his everything, he will end up with nothing. That is, until Archer befriends Evan: the one person who seems to care about Archer without expecting anything in return. Archer and Evan’s friendship slowly but steadily blossoms into a romance… a romance that Vivian isn’t willing to tolerate.

There are many things I loved about this novel. First and foremost, I absolutely loved the dark, serious, and downright violent tone that the novel embraced. It was quite refreshing to see this novel deviate from the safe and the suggestive nature that is usually incorporated in habitual YA novels. This one was not afraid to shy away from violence; however, this violence is anything but gratuitous. Everything that happens in the novel, in spite of its graphic nature, immensely adds to the complexity and the development of its characters. I thought it was wonderful how various elements of the novel transgressed the norms of YA fiction without entirely obliterating them.

Speaking of character development, this is clearly York’s forte (as it should be with any well-written novel). I particularly appreciated how York approached the protagonist’s sexual identity. He is never depicted or described as an overtly gay character, and he does admit that he is infatuated by Vivian. Yet, the development of his romance with Evan seems completely organic and appropriate, and York does a splendid job at illustrating Archer’s venture into this unexplored territory, without ever dwelling on the repercussions or implications of being in a same-sex relationship. This is most certainly NOT a “coming-out” novel. Unless my memory is failing me, I don’t recall the word gay being used once, which is more than welcome in my book. It’s about time that homosexuality is presented as a non-issue!

Vivian and Evan are also very strong characters: while Vivian is clearly the villain that we love to hate, Evan assumes the role of the moral compass able to see the gray areas between good and evil. Even minor characters such as Archer’s cold and distant mom manage to invoke and stir strong emotions and reactions!

In due course, this book is simply one of the best young adult novels that I’ve read all year. Well, I would go as far as to say that regardless of genre, it’s one of the best books I’ve read within the last couple of years. I find that the content and the style of the novel will please younger and older readers alike. I also love how the novel doesn’t hesitate to explore the trenches of the human mind that all of us are afraid to explore. It’s ironic that the novel is called Hushed, yet it has so much to say.

You can purchase a copy of Hushed in the following web sites:

Amazon.com – Kelley York’s Hushed

BarnesAndNoble.com – Kelley York’s Hushed

sf (740x800)

Oscar Wilde and the Graphic Novel: [The Picture of Dorian Gray]

The following post is an excerpt from my seminar paper written for my class on Wilde and Synge: Art as Subversion, offered by Dr. Declan Kiberd at the University of Notre Dame (fall 2012). In this paper, I evaluate the artistic merit of literary comics adaptations using Wilde’s views on aesthetics. I then perform a series of close “readings” in order to assess how comics adaptations of The Picture of Dorian Gray take advantage of the conventions of the comics medium in order to offer a standalone artistic expression. This excerpt displays my analysis of Basil Hallward’s death as depicted in the comics adaptations I selected.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog post contains some copyrighted material  (samples from the comics adaptations used in this study) whose use has not been authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as defined in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). No infringement is intended.

– – –

ACTION versus PASSIVITY: The Death of Basil Hallward

Basil’s death is a key moment in Dorian Gray, not only because it is the novel’s climactic point of no return, but also because it is the moment that Dorian truly obfuscates any light he had remaining in his soul. Part of what makes this instance so memorable in Wilde’s novel is that he certainly had no reservations in illustrating the graphic and violent nature of Hallward’s death. Everything from the sounds of Basil choking on blood, to the repeated stabbing motions delivered by Dorian, are emphasized by Wilde in his uncensored version of Dorian Gray:

He rushed at him, and dug the knife into the great vein that is behind the ear, crushing the man’s head down on the table, and stabbing again and again. There was a stifled groan, and the horrible sound of someone choking with blood. The outstretched arms shot up convulsively three times, waving grotesque stiff-fingered hands in the air. He stabbed him once more, but the man didn’t move. (Wilde 223-224)

Perhaps the overt violence in this passage can be approached as gratuitous, but on the other hand, it emphasizes the rage and the loss of sanity that Dorian was undergoing at the moment. Surprisingly, despite how descriptive Wilde was in this passage, adapters of the novel tend to diverge in terms of how Basil’s death take place, and the adaptations differ drastically in terms of the grotesqueness and detail that characterizes the murder. I will first focus my attention on John Coulthart’s adaptation of the text, in which he combines quotes from the source text with pen and ink drawings of the actions taking place.

Coulthart’s depiction of Basil’s death (see Figure 1 below) is nowhere near as explicit or overt as Wilde’s text is. Rather than depicting Basil’s death or focusing on the depiction of Basil’s lifeless body, the comic shows an image of Basil looming towards the painting, raising his candle in the air as he stares in horror at the disfigured painting. Interestingly, in Coulthart’s collages of Dorian Gray, the decay of the painting is not shown until the very end—an interesting choice when considering that the degeneration of the picture is one of the most vivid and concrete images that Wilde portrays in his novel. Coulthart develops a sense of anticipation and avoids showing the monstrosity of the painting until the final reveal at the end of his collage sequence. Coulthart’s interpretation of Basil’s death illustrates Dorian’s arm and hand approaching the shocked victim with a knife in hand, suggesting the murder rather than directly illustrating it. Note that the image alludes the idiomatic expression of ‘stabbing someone in the back,’ strengthening the element of betrayal present within the narrative.

Coulthart’s images are known for depicting Modernist, decadent, and intertextual elements. Close attention to the squared background of the image reveals that it is divided equally into back and white colors. However, the parameters within these boundaries of space are not respected; not only does Basil’s candle provide illumination into the darkened area of the background, but the white side of the background melds into the darkness with the prominent splatter of blood (which foreshadows Basil’s death). This can be interpreted as a sign of transgression, in which certain limits and socio-cultural parameters are not respected—thus forcing the decoder to rethink the image of innocence that Dorian initially projects. This use of imagery can also be interpreted in a moralistic sense, for we see that although Basil is trying to provide some illumination to the darkness present within the scene, it is darkness that ultimately prevails.

019

Figure 1. “The Death of Basil Hallward—The Graphic Canon Edition.” Designed by John Coulthart. “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The Graphic Canon (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2012). 481. Print.

The intertextuality at play in this image is quite stark as well. In the upper corner of the image, emphasis is put on the curtain that is draping over the painting. When thinking of curtains within the context of a stabbing, it is nearly impossible to avoid invoking the image of Prince Hamlet stabbing Polonius as a consequence of invading a private space[1]. The connotations of this invasion of privacy and its murderous consequences are eerily similar to those that take place in the murder of Basil. The other objects depicted in the painting, such as the candle stand and the book holder, also emphasize the lavishness and decadence present within Dorian’s lifestyle. Note that within the context of the original novel, these objects seem out of place because the painting is supposed to be located within Dorian’s childhood room. Their baroque nature and depiction of nudity certainly creates a clash with the simplicity and the purity that is typically expected within a child’s room.

Coulthart’s suggestive and subtle interpretation differs immensely from the artistic direction that Roy Thomas and Sebastian Fiumara take in the Marvel Illustrated adaptation (see Figure 2 below). Thomas and Fiumara certainly invoke the graphic and brutal nature of Basil’s death in Wilde’s novel, and unlike Coulthart’s version of the death, these adapters want their decoders to be disturbed and shocked by Dorian’s violent and transgressive act. Mirroring the description offered in the source text, one can observe a knife being pugnaciously jammed into the vein behind Basil’s ear. Blood gushes out of the puncture would in a hyperbolic fashion—accompanied by the onomatopoeic word “SHUNK,” which verbally simulates the sound the knife makes as it punctures Basil’s flesh. The image also places emphasis on the fact that Basil is choking on his own blood, as evidenced by the streams of scarlet spewing from his mouth, and the disturbing sound effect that accompanies this ghastly discharge.

016

Figure 2. “The Death of Basil Hallward—Marvel Illustrated Edition.” Adapted by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Sebastian Fiumara. The Picture of Dorian Gray (New York: Marvel Publishing, 2008). No page number available. Print.

The image is not only meant to shock, but it also demands pause and careful observation. It is not a coincidence that this image is not placed alongside other comic panels, but rather, the artists use an entire page of the comic to depict Basil’s death. The use of color is particularly effective in this panel. Unlike the bulk of this comic adaptation, which makes use of vivid colors and tones in most of the panels, this image is depicted with an opaque crimson hue, further adding to the aggressive and ferocious nature of the act taking place. Basil’s expression also denotes an element of shock and surprise—his mouth is wide open and his pupils are positioned upwards as if he were mirroring the reader’s reaction towards Dorian’s slightly unexpected transgression. His eyes are quite reminiscent of a martyr’s countenance during the moment of sacrifice—looking upward as if they were surrendering themselves to God. This interpretation definitely fits within the context of Wilde’s work. Recall that Basil implores Dorian to give up his evil ways, and to embrace piousness as a form of salvation. As Basil beseeches in Wilde’s uncensored version of the novel:

“Pray, Dorian, pray,” he murmured. “What is it that one was taught to say in one’s boyhood? ‘Lead us not into temptation. Forgive us our sins. Wash away our iniquities.’ Let us say that together. The prayer of your pride has been answered. The prayer of your repentance will be answered also. I worshipped you too much. I am punished for it. You worshipped yourself too much. We are both punished.” (223)

This plea greatly mirrors the narrative of most martyrs, for after they implore a non-believer to be reverent and to turn their faith into a higher power, they are then sacrificed under the hand of the non-believer. Although this sense of martyrdom can be implied by the Wildean text, Thomas and Fiumara make this notion overt with their visual depiction of Basil’s countenance. Dorian’s act was violent, but in this case, the artists focus on Basil’s self-sacrificial attempt to save the remnants of Dorian’s soul—an attempt that failed miserably.

Alex Burrows and Lisa K. Weber take a subtler approach to Basil’s murder (see Figure 3 below). As mentioned previously, their adaptation is part of the Graphic Classics series, which similar to the Classics Illustrated series, is aimed at a younger audience. With this in mind, the violence and aggression in this adaptation has to be more subtle than that which is seen in the Marvel Illustrated edition, yet it has to be less abstract and open to interpretation than it is the case of Coulthart’s collages. In the images depicting Basil’s murder, none of the panels represent the actual insertion of the knife into the victim’s body. Rather, the decoder is offered a silhouette image of Dorian mounted over Basil’s lifeless body with a bloody knife in hand, preparing to stab the body once again. The inversion of black and white in this particular panel forces the decoder to pay close and sustained attention to the action occurring in this image. The panel that follows in this sequence depicts Dorian in a raged and infuriated stance, covered in blood. The final panel in this particular sequence depicts Dorian hunched over Basil’s body, vis-à-vis the cursed painting—which now portrays Dorian gray in a decrepit and grotesque fashion reminiscent of the crypt keeper[2].

011

Figure 3. “The Death of Basil Hallward—Graphic Classics Edition.” Adapted by Alex Burrows and illustrated by Lisa K. Weber. Graphic Classics: Oscar Wilde (Wisconsin: Eureka Productions, 2009). 31. Print.

The greatest difference between Burrows and Weber’s interpretation of Wilde’s text, and the other adaptations discussed previously, is their choice of subject for the murder of Basil. Whereas Coulthart and Thomas/Fiumara approach the victim as the subject of the murder, Burrows and Weber place more emphasis on Dorian Gray and the heinous deed that he committed. This difference in subject has resounding interpretive effects—Burrows and Weber’s interpretation pushes the decoder to attribute agency to Dorian, thus enforcing an understanding of the climax based on an actual change within his persona. This adaptation approaches this point as a moment of transformation, for although he was partially responsible for other deaths in the narrative, this is the first death that he is directly responsible for. This notion of change is capitalized when Dorian himself is forced to come face to face with the decay of the painting. On the other hand, the other adaptations offer a sympathetic interpretation that focuses on Basil as a victim—thus reinforcing a reading centered on the grotesque nature of the act itself rather than its transformational effects on Dorian Gray. It all comes down to the issue of passivity versus activity: Does one focus on the fact that Dorian murdered Basil, or does one focus on the fact that Basil was murdered by Dorian? Despite the superficial similarity between these approaches, they do manage to highlight different concerns and issues that affect the interpretive possibilities of the novel.


[1] I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Leanne MacDonald, for pointing out this possible allusion to Shakespeare’s Hamlet as we were scrutinizing the imagery used in my selection of comics.

[2] See HBO’s television series titled Tales from the Crypt.

Works Cited

Burrows, Alex. “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Illustrated by Lisa K. Weber. Graphic Classics: Oscar Wilde. Wisconsin: Eureka Productions, 2009. Print.

Coulthart, John. “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The Graphic Canon. Ed. Russ Kick. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2012. Print.

Thomas, Roy. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Illustrated by Sebastian Fiumara. New York: Marvel Publishing, 2008. Print.

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition. Ed. Nicholas Frankel. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. Print.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog post contains some copyrighted material  (samples from the comics adaptations used in this study) whose use has not been authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as defined in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). No infringement is intended.

Generated Br

Land Ho! Navigating the Geospatial Imagination of 19th Century British and American Maritime Fiction

Since the end of October, seven of my colleagues (Douglas E. Duhaime, Ana M. Jimenez-Moreno, Melissa McCoul, Daniel Murphy, Santiago Quintero, Bryan Santin, Suen Wong) and I have been working on a massive project in which we are trying to “anchor” the geographical imagination of 19th Century British and American sea fiction (based on a similar project developed by Dr. Matt Wilkens). Although this project is part of the requirements for a Digital Humanities course that we are currently taking, we are beginning to see a lot of potential in our work, and we are seriously considering some future possibilities with this project.

We are just concluding with the data collection and organization phase, and we are quite ready to study and interpret our results. Although to some extent we are aiming to see what our data yields, we are contemplating on interpreting our data through the lens of Orientalism… for now. In terms of our data, our aim was to create a database of locations mentioned in a large corpus of British and American sea fiction and to chart said locations within geographical maps. In this post, I will share our “methodology” and the technical details of our project. Once we begin interpreting the data, I might just share some of our findings with you as well!

The Corpus

The Literary corpus of our project is based on John Kohnen’s Nautical Fiction List, which contains an annotated bibliography of sea fiction (drama, fiction, and poetry) that currently includes 806 authors and 2,190 titles. Our corpus is also based on another nautical fiction list compiled by the library of the California State University – Maritime (CSUM) campus. All bibliographical entries cited in these sources were distributed evenly among us. Within this distribution, we identified all of the 19th century texts and classified them as either British or American texts. Once this concentrated list was compiled, we searched for digital full-text versions of these works, which were most obtained via Project Gutenberg and The Internet Archive.

Priority was given to texts found within Gutenberg due to their superior textual quality. Most texts found in the Internet Archive are simply physical copies of manuscripts and facsimiles translated into digital formats using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, whereas texts available in Gutenberg are transcribed and revised multiple times by human agents—thus, the margin of error for Project Gutenberg texts is significantly lower. All of the information not available in the original version of the text—such as Project Gutenberg’s legal and copyright disclaimers—was stripped from the document, and each fiction work as saved into separate .TXT files classified by author, title, year of publication, and nationality (British or American).

In total, we were able to create a digital corpus of approximately seventy-four (74) 19th Century British maritime fiction texts, and approximately thirty-five (35) 19th Century American maritime texts. This amounts to a total of one-hundred and nine (109) full-text versions of 19th Century maritime fiction. There are obvious issues that need to be addressed with this corpus. First and foremost, we are unaware of what percentage our data represents in terms of all of the maritime fiction published in the 19th century. Nonetheless, our goals are not to discuss every maritime text, but rather, to take into consideration a larger corpus of this genre of fiction in order to make claims and interpretations that go in accordance with the goals of distance reading. Additionally, it is clear that our British corpus is more than twice the size of the American corpus. This, however, this is completely understandable when taking into account that the publishing industry was way more advanced and developed in the British context, and perhaps due to the prominence of shipping and sea travel in the British empire.

Named Entity Extraction and Database Creation

Locations within the texts were identified using Stanford CoreNLP, a software set of language analysis tools that processes digital English texts. In essence, each word within the text is tagged with meta-linguistic information according to markers established by the user. The software creates an .XML output file that contains all of the tokenized words in the source text tagged with their features, including but not limited to part of speech, dates, locations, times, names, among others. A sample token produced by the Stanford CoreNLP with Part of Speech (POS – the word’s syntactic category) and Named Entity Recognizer (NER – Labels for the name of things) tags would look somewhat similar to this (words written in red are explanations of the token):

<token id=”1″> # ID number assigned to this particular token.

<word>Beaconsfield</word> # Token extracted from the source text.

<lemma>Beaconsfield</lemma>

<POS>NNP</POS> # Part of speech. In this case, the word represents a noun phrase.

<NER>LOCATION</NER> # NER Classification, in this case, the word is tagged as a location.

</token>

Using an original code written in the Python programming language, we devised a method to extract and list all tokens with a LOCATION NER marker for every respective text within our corpus. The CoreNLP output for each of these texts was briefly revised and corrected by hand. Tokens that were recognizably not locations (e.g. “esq,” “French,” “John,” “Sandwich King”) or locations that simply cannot be mapped geographically (e.g. “moon,” “Jupiter,” “Neptune”) were eliminated from the data. In total, our current data consists of 37,542 location mentions across all of our texts.

The cleaned-up version of the data was then organized into a spreadsheet. Every instance of a location token was accompanied by the following information: input file, shortened file name, title of the text, author, publication date, and nationality. This spreadsheet was then converted into a .CSV file and imported into an online database server using MySQL Workbench (for Windows), which allows us to perform advanced functions not available through Microsoft Excel, such as keeping a tally of the count of each location mentioned in our corpus. The following query was used in MySQL workbench to generate the counts of each location:

SELECT location, count(*) from Maritime_Fiction WHERE nationality = BR or US GROUP by location ORDER by count(*) DESC

This query, performed for both British and American texts, generated two lists, which mentioned the top 1,000 locations mentioned in the corpus along with their total counts (for both British and American texts). Here are some tables listing the most common locations found within our corpus:

Table 1. Top 15 Locations Mentioned in AMERICAN 19th Century Maritime Fiction:

LOCATIONS TOTAL COUNT
England 454
America 357
London 282
New York 276
Mardi 223
Israel 191
Samoa 182
Atlantic 160
Pacific 151
Paris 142
France 139
Europe 126
Tahiti 116
Boston 115
Rio 110
Cape Horn 105
Taji 100
Nantucket 96
Wallingford 95

Table 2. Top 15 Locations Mentioned in BRITISH 19th Century Maritime Fiction:

LOCATION TOTAL COUNT
England 1523
London 604
Portsmouth 367
France 360
India 332
Malta 266
Jamaica 251
Europe 234
Africa 234
Spain 232
West Indies 207
Gibraltar 193
Greenwich 179
America 177
Atlantic 169
Plymouth 168
Mediterranean 167
China 159
Ireland 154

Needless to say, there are very interesting results yielded in our data, and I am very anxious to see what findings we’ll discover and what interpretations will be made!

Geospacial Information and Mapping

The complete British and American tables were uploaded to Google Fusion Tables, experimental data management and online visualization software that allows one to process and create maps and charts of large sets of data. Luckily, Google Fusion Tables counts with the integration of Google’s Geocoding API services, which modernizes archaic locations into their contemporary places, standardizes alternate spellings of a location’s name, and translates the written location into a particular coordinate consisting of a latitude and longitude. These coordinates are then used to create stunning visualizations of all the locations present within a data set. Every location mentioned in the corpus is marked by a colored dot. When one hovers the computer’s cursor over one of these dots, the dot’s meta-information (such as location name and count) is displayed. Here are some snapshots of what these visualizations look like from afar:

Generated British Map

Locations mentioned within our British corpus. Places marked in blue are the top locations mentioned in our collection of texts.

Locations mentioned within our American corpus.

Locations mentioned within our American corpus.

Well, that’s all I’m sharing with you for now. Our data seems to have a lot a potential, and theoretically, there are dozens of interesting claims that we can make, and there are definitely other venues that we will explore in terms of creating visualizations for out data.

Wish us luck!