from the same delightful people who brought us Ngram, Bookworm, which I played with today to see if it could help me sort some of the “grammar of liberation,” which I tried, and failed, previously wiht Ngram

Bookworm only searches “one or two word phrases” and sadly for me, does not recognize “women’s culture” as one.  I play around with the various settings, which are super cool as they include subject, location, language and GENDER of the author, using these phrases which bookworm does recognize

Female Sensibility
Feminist Sensibility
culture
Female culture

using all sorts of cool tricks, like specifying field, language, location, and GENDER!

Since I’m working on art activists discourse of women’s culture today, and I already zeroed in on female sensibility as particularly unique to their rhetoric I decided to see how “zooming” in on Bookworm worked

First I search for male v female in U.S. revealing that 1801 Maria Edgeworth’s treatise on women’s education first to use phrase in U.S. context.  This “fact” way quicker to find via the drill downs possible in Bookworm.  However because Edgeworth’s book had multiple printings, it keeps appearing, over and over again. [note save your url or open in new window because once you click through to the book, the back function will not take you to your results].

So I switch settings to U.K. to see if Bookworn will pick up Mary Wollstonecraft, who I’ve already discovered was probably first in that country with the caveat that Bookworm works best after 1830.  Indeed it must, because no Wollstonecraft is found, although I quickly search manually and discover the sought after page from a copy on the Internet Archives, which is meant to be searched by Bookworm.

I then set the broadest parameters possible, parsing only by gender, which gleaned me a crucial fact in 1823 Ladies’ Magazine by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale used the phrase.  This incredibly influential magazine could be key to my argument, and because Bookworm works based on open access texts, I click, there is the magazine, click search, oh wait mousing over a few tagged pages reveal Female and sensibility in close proximity but not the exact phrase. Back to Bookworm “female sensibility” won’t work.  There seems to be no way to limit the search only to an exact phrase.

Reworking with the broadest search criteria possibly, no smoothing, full date range, and with results to be sorted by # of books, I see that female sensibility appears first in English in Memoirs Mary Queen of Scots

click through to search online text which reveals no results

check for sensibility give no results at all, but query for female reveals multiple results 
oh wait, the 8th page of which contains “female sensibility”
thinking that perhaps I made a typo, I retry the query sensibility, which still produces no results
I return to Ladies Magazine to see if the same error appears, searching for sensibility as the rarer word than female and I’m not overly surprised to find indeed the phrase DOES appear
so then I decided to go back to Edgeworth, oh wait, she isn’t showing up in the graph (which isn’t parsed by gender anymore) until 1825, which I know is wrong from a prior search. 
 I then  reset to divide by gender and she reappears at 1801. This time a search of the online text reveals mulitple hits using query female sensibility but when I mouse over I learn that all the pages, save for one contain only one of the two searched-for words. 
At this point I conclude that Bookworm, while cool, isn’t going to serve my purposes either.  It is too imprecise in it search abilities.  However it is, like Ngram, a useful starting point for diving in.  Finding Hale’s usage at 1823 is pretty cool, and probably worth the time I spent messing around with Bookworm, but I had very very few texts to work with.  If you are using a more common word or phrase it would be quite difficult I think, and probably not worthwhile unless you had a very very specific query, which is definitely the strength of Bookworm.   
Advertisements