Follies in Project Design

Discoveries from Networking
Dec 07, 2021

While word-counts and N-gram/concordance plots are interesting in their own right, the crown-jewel of text analysis is, in my opinion, networks (NTA). They’re extremely useful in visually representing for an audience the intricate, interwoven nature of a piece of text, demonstrating how two or more aspects of a text (characters, settings, themes, word choice, etc.) are related to one another. They can be stunningly beautiful, while also providing a great resource for better understanding a work!

When constructing the network for my poetry, I came across multiple, interesting insights into my body of work that I had not previously even considered, similar to my other escapades into analysis.

I had no idea that my poems were so interconnected in the way that they are, that you can draw a path from one poem to another through shared themes so easily. Take, for example, the two poems Virga and Clockface. I wouldn’t expect any relationship between these poems on the surface, but with the network, you can reveal that they share not one but two topics: Fear and Imagery. Something true of both, yet they are so different in their core…

We can go even further. If we start with Witness, we can get to Virga via Fear (as said above), then we can get to Host via the topic of Paranoia, which lets us get to Hollow via the Illness tag, then to Lorn through Depression… You get it.

It’s quite intriguing to me, how I tend to tread similar ground, but explore different aspects of each theme while doing so. Both Rotten and Host cover the idea of physical illness, but from different perspectives and used to symbolize different things. Rotten uses illness (from exposure to mold) as a metaphor for a toxic relationship and the damage it can do to your mental health, while Host is a poem from the point-of-view of a parasite infecting a host, using that imagery as a commentary on the nature of mental illness and how one can often feel “taken over” by their issues. I love being able to see these correlations, it helps me to appreciate my own work that much more.

Network analysis is a wonder, a great spider web of connections and parallels, that I only just discovered and something I’ll continue to rely on.