Influence of Classic Literature on Writers Declining, Study Claims (The Guardian)


After an extensive analysis of 7,733 works of English literature, Dartmouth researchers have found that modern-day writers appear to be influenced by their contemporary peers, rather than by works of classic literature, reports The Guardian.

Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Daniel Rockmore, along with Computer Science Department PhD students James Hughes and Nicholas Foti, used the digitized works from the Project Gutenberg library, to analyze “content-free” words, such as “of” and “by.”  The Guardian cites the researchers’ finding that, “When we consider content-free word frequencies from a large number of authors and works over a long period of time, we can ask questions related to temporal trends in similarity.”

“One hypothesis,” Rockmore explained to The Guardian, “is that there is so much more to read now and more kinds of ‘important’ work that if we believe that style is influenced by what one reads, then it is less likely that people generally devote the preponderance of their reading to the older ‘classics’.” The next step for Rockmore, The Guardian explains, is to find out how the mathematic formula can be used by his literary colleagues. “I do believe it is an interesting approach to literary analysis,“ Rockmore told The Guardian. ”We are hopeful that we can engage some colleagues expert in those areas to find what the interesting questions are. That is a necessary first step and we look forward to collaborations to those ends.“

Ready the full story, published 5/14/12 by The Guardian.

Office of Communications