ABSTRACT

What difference did Hawthorne make in nineteenth-century US fiction? An unanswerable question, yet one that we can begin to address in a surprisingly literal way by using word embeddings to analyze the large corpora of nineteenth-century US fiction now available. To specify this question, how does a corpus of nineteenth-century US fiction including Hawthorne differ from one wherein his work is experimentally excluded? Using this approach, I show how Hawthorne’s work changed the vector semantics of US fiction. Readers of Hawthorne will be pleased if unsurprised to find his characteristic ambivalence reaffirmed by quantitative methods. More novel is the new evidence this method provides for measuring the ways in which Hawthorne distinctively differs from his peers. Because the model reveals which words Hawthorne embedded most similarly and most dissimilarly from his contemporaries, we can take these quantitative and qualitative differences in word usage as starting-points from which to address the question that began this abstract. The article concludes with a reading of Hawthorne’s distinctive use of the word “likewise,” focusing on how it advances the satire of “The Procession of Life.”

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