Knowledge Discovery

Friday, November 1, 2013, 3:30pm

Canonical Values vs. the Law of Large Numbers: The Literary Canon in the Age of Digital Humanities

Carolina Ferrer


In this article, I propose an alternative technique to the traditional method of constitution of the literary canon. Instead of basing the determination of the canon on different values, I scrutinize the Modern Language Association International Bibliography database in order to determine the most cited authors and literary works. Specifically, I study Canadian literature. Thus, through the process of data mining, I obtain a sample of over 25,000 references that allows us to observe the chronological evolution and the linguistic distribution of the critical bibliography about Canadian literature. This quantitative technique yields a corpus of 151 titles and 295 writers that are cited more than 10 times in the database. Consequently, this bibliography is not the result of subjective selection criteria, but is based on the law of large numbers. Furthermore, this study shows that the quantitative analysis of bibliographic databases is an effective way to bring new light to the field of literary studies. 

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