Visualization of the Week: Visualizing Jane Austen

Microsoft scientist Matthew Hurst puts a new spin on literary analysis.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

That’s the famous opening line of one of the best-loved novels in English literature, Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” The novel has been read, reprinted, analyzed and dramatized aplenty. And now, add to the ways in which we can look at Austen’s works a series of visualizations by Microsoft scientist Matthew Hurst.

On his Data Mining blog, Hurst has posted a number of visualizations of Austen’s novels. “A simple experiment,” he says — “render a book in a summary form and highlight specific terms by changing the color of the paragraph.”

In the visualizations below, we can see the position and the frequency of mentions of the character Mr. Collins — “not a sensible man” but one with a “sufficient income” and who, as the opening sentence of the novel predicts, is in search of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice visualization
Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” with the term “Collins” highlighted. See more Jane Austen visualizations.

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This post is part of an ongoing series exploring visualizations. We’re always looking for leads, so please drop a line if there’s a visualization you think we should know about.

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