English, Department of


Date of this Version



Jockers, Matthew L. and Mimno, David. Significant Themes in 19th-Century Literature [pre-print], August 2012.


External factors such as author gender, author nationality, and date of publication affect both the choice of literary themes in novels and the expression of those themes, but the extent of this association is difficult to quantify. In this work, we apply statistical methods to identify and extract hundreds of "topics" from a corpus of 3,346 works of 19th-century British, Irish, and American fiction. We use these topics as a measurable, data-driven proxy for literary themes. External factors may predict fluctuations in the use of themes and the individual word choices within themes. We use topics to measure the evidence for these associations and whether that evidence is statistically significant.