Textual Analysis of Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter

#Literature

Tue, Nov 26th, 2013 20:00 by capnasty NEWS

Slate's Ben Blatt used textual analysis to know why people who like The Hunger Games are very often not fans of Twilight, noting that the opposite was also true. For good measure, he threw in Harry Potter in the mix to complete his benchmark.

“Textual analysis” sounds complicated, but it’s actually quite simple—a better term for it might be “counting words.” In 1963, statisticians Frederick Mosteller and David Wallace published one of the most famous “counting words” papers of all time when they determined, through analysis of word frequencies, that James Madison most likely wrote 10 of the anonymously penned Federalist Papers. Using similar methods, but with help from a modern computer, which makes the “counting” portions of a “counting words” study much easier to perform, I conducted an equivalent analysis of the fantasy series in question.

Once the words have been counted, the most obvious question to ask is: Which words are used most frequently by each author? But this returns uninteresting results, as basic words like the, a, and and turn up most often in every author's work. The more interesting question is not which words are used most frequently, but which words are used most frequently in comparison to similar authors—that is, which words are most distinctive to a given author’s work. While studying the Federalist Papers, Mosteller and Wallace found that Hamilton used the conjunction while, as opposed to Madison, who preferred whilst, a distinctive word choice that, in combination with others, could be used to tell the writers apart. Below is a table listing the most distinctive adjectives used by Collins, Meyer, and Rowling. Words that were used by only one author or less than 10 times total between the three authors are not included in the lists, as they might only appear because they’re so rare, not because they’re characteristic of an author’s writing.

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