Letters of 1916 – Creating History


As the one hundred year anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising approaches many commemoratory projects have commenced to mark the occasion; among these projects is the Letters of 1916. Letters of 1916 is the first public humanities project in Ireland that allows participants to collaborate by either contributing and uploading relevant letters and documents or digitising the letters and documents that have been contributed by others.


In order to digitise the documents for the project, a process of tagging various words is necessary. The tagging process is incredibly similar to other scripting languages such as Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML) but is in fact Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) compliant Extensible Mark-up Language (XML). TEI is often the standard language for encoding texts in the humanities academic community. With the use of TEI and tags, transcribers are instructed to indicate various attributes of the letters such as: paragraphs, dates, line-breaks, and salutations. The purpose of this is to create a digitised version of the letter that is as close to the original as possible while also facilitating the creation of a database of information that is open-access and searchable. For instance, with the data from the letters digitised, one could search the entire mass of letters for specific words, persons, or places. The availability and searchable nature of the information make it an important resource for the public but also an invaluable academic resource for future research projects.

As part of the University College Cork Masters in Digital Arts and Humanities, my class and I were asked to participate in this massive crowd-sourced digital collection project. For my contribution, I digitally transcribed two letters which were previously uploaded and to the project. The first is a letter titled ‘Letter from the Administrative Area Officer, Royal Hospital Dublin to the Chief Crown Solicitor in Dublin Castle, 14 March 1916.’. The process of transcription is relatively simple as the instructions to do so are very clear and easy to follow. As many of the letters are handwritten in cursive, it is, at times, difficult to decipher certain characters or words. However, the letter I chose was an administrative letter that had been typed and therefore the letter was legible and clear.  The transcription involved tagging relevant information such as addresses, dates, and structural details such as line breaks and paragraphs. The signature on the letter was illegible and I inserted a note into my transcription to indicate this. The second letter I chose to transcribe is titled ‘Letter from the Chief Crown Solicitor to the Chief Administrative Officer, Royal Hospital Dublin, 16 March 1916.’ As with the previous document, this was also a typed administrative letter, therefore legible and clear. Having had the experience of transcribing the first letter, the second one was a quicker process as I felt familiar with the instructions and the tags.


Overall, The Letters of 1916 Project is a very accessible and easy project to participate in. Owing to the crowd sourced collaborative nature of the project, each small contribution may be simple to provide but is also incredibly valuable to the project. The project exemplifies the ways in which digital skills and the Digital Humanities is an invaluable resource for the future. As the Digital Age shifts print work to digitised mediums, projects such as this are imperative to provide robust digital foundations from which innovative research can grow. Owing to the collaborative work of many contributors, the letters of 1916 may now be read by countless people as opposed to a small minority who had access to the archives and attics in which they were kept. Crowd sourced digitisation projects such as these exemplify the ways in which the Digital Humanities creates ease of access and democratises information, which in turn enriches our historical and cultural heritage.

Open Street Map



As part of my MA in Digital Arts and Humanities, I was required to contribute to the Open Street Map Project. Open Street Map is a massive collaborative project that aims to provide an open source and editable map of the world. As a crowd sourced project, openstreetmap allows anyone to digitally edit the online maps; one can edit information already provided, update maps as areas change and develop, or map areas that are not yet mapped.  For my contribution I focused on my local areas, mainly Mahon but I also added some map features to the surrounding Blackrock area. The Mahon area was already mapped; all of the prominent roads, rivers, and buildings had been mapped, however, many of the pedestrian paths and newer commercial buildings were unmapped. Using IDEditior, I added the commercial buildings (takeaways, a betting shop, a community development project building, a crèche, a charity shop, and a chemist) and the community centre on Avenue De Rennes which were previously unmapped.  In the same area, a HSE health centre was unmapped and I also added this and it’s accompanying carpark in. I updated residential streets where in the past number of years extra houses have been added and so the roads have changed to accommodate access and parking. The changes and additions that I made to my area in openstreetmap could contribute to people looking for directions to specific places or to people who wish to see the development in the area in recent years.

Owing to the experience, I learned how simple and easy it is to use digital tools that may seem intimidating to begin with. Openstreetmap, in particular, has well written tutorials in order for novice users to learn the capabilities of the editing tools and it also allows for practical use of the editors before users begin to edit the maps.

Although this particular project is not relevant to my research interests, it does serve as an example of the insurmountable power and potential of digital crowd sourcing. Crowd Sourced projects exemplify the ways in which information pooling and source gathering can be culled to create massively beneficial digital tools and resources. My research interests include the video game narrative and how gender effects immersion in the narrative. Little statistics are available in the area as few large scale studies have been done on gender in video gaming and video game companies are keen to keep their statistics and demographics private. If a project was in place whereby video gamers, both male and female, could log their gaming habits and experiences in a simple and effective way, this open-source information could be used to initiate numerous studies and research papers in the area; a crowd sourced and open sourced project such as that would be immensely beneficial to my own research.

Digital research tools: “R” – A Review


As stated in the description in the DIRT (Digital Research Tools) directory, “R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics. R can be run from the command line, or using any of the many graphical user interfaces available on a variety of platforms”. My particular research using R was conducted using the interface RStudio, also listed in the DIRT directory, and described as “an integrated development environment for the software R”.

R, as a digital tool, is a flexible statistical package that has a range of data analysis and data visualisation capabilities. RStudio is a smaller application that makes R more user-friendly as the interface doesn’t require the user to work from the command line.

R was created by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and is currently developed by the R Development Core Team. A roadmap of releases and changes made to R is available and maintained in the “R News” file at Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN). The R Journal is the open access journal of the R project “and features articles covering topics that may be of interest to users and developers of R”.

Work on RStudio began in late 2010 and the first release was announced in February 2011 in the official RStudio blog which is ran by its founder JJ Allaire. RStudio can be downloaded to a desktop or ran via a web browser and is available in both open source and commercial editions. Although a roadmap of planned releases has been requested by users of the software, an official roadmap is unavailable. Alternatively, much of the updates and software releases can be tracked on the official blog mentioned above.

In order to use R for my research purposes, I downloaded the R client to my desktop and then downloaded the RStudio package to work on my textual analyses with a more user-friendly interface. Once downloaded, R is relatively easy to install and set up, however, in order to conduct the textual analyses I was interested in, it required me to install the R package “stylo”. Installing the package is relatively simple and requires a line of text in the command line “install.packages (“stylo”)”. Once installed, I was able to conduct various data analyses on a multitude of literary texts. All of the analyses and subsequent results of my research can be replicated using the methods outlined with R and R Studio. The “stylo” package is just one of many packages available and is an example of how R can be easily extended via packages.

For the purposes of my research, I used R and RStudio to analyse particular literary texts for authorial style and signiture. As a digital analytical tool, R uses algorithms to analyse data. For my research, I uploaded the corpus of various authors and ran them through R in order to conduct a cluster analysis (just one of the data analyses offered by R) which evaluates the most frequently used words in a text in order to establish and analyse authorial style. In order to test the robustness of the analyses performed by R, I compared the works of authors who were notably similar in authorial style; each time the software successfully identified the unique authorial signature of each specific author and thereby was able to identify and cluster together texts written by the same author. The tool allows for powerful textual analysis and outputs images where the data is visualised on sophisticated graphs that can be exported by the user. The graphs allow users to clearly display the data they gain from the textual analyses they conduct. An example of my textual analysis work using R can be found here.

As a digital tool, R is sophisticated in its capabilities and has an abundance of potential for research and commercial purposes. Owing to this, the tool can be complicated and daunting to use for a novice user. The R interface allows for analysis to be performed when the user enters specific text code in a command line; as a novice user, this can be particularly daunting, however, various tutorials and online support are available to users, and I found that once you have performed a small number of analyses the tool is not as difficult to use as it initially appears to be. If the R interface is too difficult for a user to navigate, there are many GUI options available, RStudio being just one.

Overall R is a powerful and flexible open-source data analytical tool that can be implemented for a number of research and commercial purposes. As an open source, well established, and well sustained digital tool, it has the potential to thoroughly enhance a variety of digital research.

Reflections on “Electronic Scholarly Editions” by Kenneth M. Price

The digital Age has created a progressive migration from traditional print reading to digital reading. Moreover, it has produced a shift in academic publishing. Printed scholarly editions are becoming less frequent while digital and electronic scholarly editions are continuing to gain popularity. As with all new mediums, the shift from print scholarly editions to electronic scholarly editions has produced new editorial issues to be considered. In his article “Electronic Scholarly Editions” from A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, digital humanist Kenneth Price distinguishes between digitisation and scholarly editing, and outlines the reasons why the latter is an attractive medium to scholarly editors. Price mentions the capaciousness of the digital edition and compares the lack of spatial and economic limitations faced when publishing digital editions as opposed to print editions:

  • Digital editions may implement high quality colour images freely while they are comparatively expensive to produce for print editions.
  • Audio and video clips may be used in digital editions 
  • Interactive maps are available to use in digital editions while print edition maps are static and comparatively expensive to produce.


The article outlines several ways in which the medium has created new challenges for editors and publishers. “Should an editor try to capture all variants of a particular work, or even all variants of all works?” is among the questions raised by Price. When faced with various versions of edited literary works and the editorial choice of which version to publish, the digital medium allows for a multi-faceted hypertext that can display all versions and annotations made to the text during the original editing process. Hypertexts allow for context and annotations to be provided whilst also displaying the original and finalised literary work. Many digital archives and scholarly editions are given as an illustration of the potential the digital medium has:

Price acknowledges the flexibility of the digital medium, its ability to reach a wide and diverse audience, and its potential for providing open access material to many, however, as a new and growing medium, the digital scholarly edition also faces obstacles. As an example, Price outlines the imbalance of attempting to provide free open access material that is not free to produce. As a solution, Price suggests that government grants are necessary for the digital scholarly edition to have an open access future. Furthermore, in relation to mark-up languages used for digital humanities projects such as XML and TEI, Price calls for “practices to be normalised by user communities and expressed in detailed and precise profiles” in order to create a universal and consistent medium standard.

As we progress through the Digital Age and engage with the new literary mediums it provides, editorial practices are being transformed and challenged. The above examples provide an insight into the expansive potential of electronic editions which allow editors to provide interactivity and illuminate texts. Although questions are raised as to how such future projects may be funded, edited, and preserved, the exciting potential of the digital edition resides.



Works Cited


Price, Kenneth M. “Electronic Scholarly Editions.” Ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. N. pag. A Companion to Digital Literary Studies. Web. 1 Jan. 2015.


Female Representation in Video Games


During the past few decades video games have evolved into narratively complex literary mediums and a multi-billion euro industry.  Statistics show that the gender ratio of video gamers is fairly equal, with about 48% of all gamers identifying as female and 52% as male. Although women represent half of the demographic of gamers, they are massively under-represented as characters in video games, particularly as lead characters or protagonists. A 2012 and study by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research researched games using a sample size of 689 shooter, action, and role-playing games. The data revealed that of all of the games studies only 4% had an exclusively female protagonist. When females are respresented in video games they are often presented as peripheral characters who are unplayable. They are often sexualised and subject to sexual objectification. A basic example is costume. In games set in medieval times, such as World of Warcraft, the costume of female characters differs greatly to the costume of male characters. Male characters are equipped with sufficient armour plating in order to cohere with the narrative that they are warriors equipped for battle. The female characters in the same game are equipped with “armour” that displays their midriffs and legs in an overly sexualised way, with little to no concern to the coherence discrepancy to the battle narrative.



Female characters in video games are often depicted as useless damsels in distress that the male protagonists must save from the male antagonist; think Super Mario and Princess Peach as a classic example. The ways in which females are firstly under-represented and secondly represented as one dimensional sexual objects with little else to contribute is a damaging concept that perpetuates gender stereotypes.

A study done by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research revealed that there is an industry bias when it comes to marketing budgets for male and female led games. According to the data gathered female led games were given 60% less marketing budgets compared to male led games. The data indicates that there is an industry bias that suggests video game developers and investors believe female led video games are less likely to sell and make profit.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of a female led game is Tomb Raider. Tomb Raider, with the help of character of Lara Croft, became a massively successful franchise that includes 13 video games, 2 motion picture movies, comic books, and related merchandise. In early releases, the character of Lara Croft, although the independent and active female protagonist, received criticism for her unrealistic body shape and sexualised appearance. Following the controversy, in later releases Lara Croft underwent a radical character model transformation, appearing less sexualised. Why have more video game developers failed to follow suit and create more female led video games?


As a viable and contemporary literary medium that is engaged with equally by both genders, it is important for video games to represent females adequately. Racial diversity and representations of LGBT characters are also major areas that need to be improved on in future games. If we ever want to consider video games to be an artistic model for our contemporary culture, it is important to represent that culture, and all of its diversities, adequately.


Works Cited

“2014 Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry.” Entertainment Software Association. N.p., Apr. 2014. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

Kuchera, Ben. “Games with Exclusively Female Heroes Don’t Sell (because Publishers Don’t Support Them).” Penny Arcade. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.

Tomb Raider. San Francisco, CA: Eidos Interactive, 2002. Computer software.


Mind Maps and their Effectiveness


Mind maps are a type of spider diagram that are common way for educators and students to visually map information and ideas. The concept involves using a semantic network or branching system to visualise a key concept. The key concept is placed at the centre of the diagram and the sub titles and sub categories branching off and positioned radially around the centre node.
The term “mind map” was popularised by British popular psychology author Tony Buzan during the 20th century, however, the use of visually representing information in a radial map can be traced back to the 3rd century when the concepts of Aristotle were graphically visualised by philosophers. Buzan identifies and outlines four essential characteristics of a mind map:
1. The subject of attention is crystallized in a central image
2. The main themes of the subject radiate from the central image as branches
3. Branches compromise a key image or key word printed on an associated line. Topics of lesser importance are also represented as branches attached to higher level branches.
4. The branches form a connected nodal structure
(Buzan and Buzan)

In the Digital age, and with the advent of the personal computer, mind maps can now be created digitally as opposed to being hand drawn on a page. My question is how effective are they? Are mind maps an efficient way of displaying complex textual information and do they aid in the retention of that information?
The effectiveness of mind maps can be linked to the process of surface reading, whereby the reader scans text looking for keywords and clues that indicate passages that may be of interest to them, as opposed to symptomatically or closely reading an entire text. Studies cited in N. Katherine Hayles’ article, ‘How We Read Now: Close, Hyper, Machine’ illustrate that repeated and habitual actions are an effective way to create new neural pathways in our brains. Mind mapping provides visual clues in this way, where the use of colours, diagrams, and keywords can reinforce patterns which can activate the neural pathways in our brains and help us to remember the patterns of information. Buzan maintains that the reason mind mapping is so successful is because it involves radiant thinking, which for Buzan, is the human brains natural and automatic way of functioning.


Below is a TedTalk from Buzan, talking about the effectiveness of Mind Maps.


Works Cited

Buzan, Tony, and Barry Buzan. The Mind Map Book. London: BBC, 1993. Print.

Hayles, N. Katherine. “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine.” ADE Bulletin 150 (2010): 62-72. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

Conclusive Answers in Tim O’Brien’s In The Lake of the Woods

in the lake

Tim O Brien’s novel In the Lake of the Woods, both narratively and structurally, conveys the ways in which America has been built on violent atrocities and the subsequent concealment of those atrocities. Throughout the novel the theme of concealment and denial is both “elaborately sublimated” and “candidly blunt” (Franklin 1).  The narrator’s refusal to draw a definitive conclusion regarding he disappearance of Kathy Wade not only reflects the concealment and denial of violence that mars the history of the United States but also reflects the nation’s complicity toward this perpetual concealment.

Through carefully constructed ideologies and myth America has emerged from a violent history that includes mass murder and genocide seemingly clean and absolved. As discussed by critic Stephen Walt, since its colonisation, the United States has been one of “the most expansionist powers in modern history” (Walt, “The Myth of American Exceptionalism”). The development and expansion of America during the frontier was promoted as a process to settle and civilize free and “waste spaces” (Roosevelt 1).The Frontier however was responsible for the genocide of the Native Americans who inhabited those seemingly vacant spaces; millions of indigenous men, women, and children were slaughtered as a matter of national policy.  Moreover, the genocide of the Native Americans was justified as a necessary and noble quest to rid the land of savage “wild animals” (In the Lake of the Woods 264) in order to create a free and civilized nation. America continued its litany of violence in a string of wars that followed the genocide of its own indigenous people and also justified those wars as a virtuous crusade for freedom and democracy. Violence occurred in America’s domestic civil war but the most atrocious violence was exported to other countries that saw careless and often calculated deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. It serves as an example of the hypocrisy that surrounds American foreign policy that, as a nation that is publicly and exceptionally concerned with the construction and possession of nuclear weapons they are in fact the only nation to date who has deployed nuclear weapons during a war; it is estimated that in excess of 200,000 people, most of whom were civilians, were killed by atomic bombs deployed by the United States in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Approximately 20 years after the bombing of Japan, the United States deployed troops to wage war in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, in what became known as the My Lai Massacre, American troops committed war crimes that included mass murder, rape, and mutilation of innocent and defenceless Vietnamese civilians. Moreover, the war crimes committed by American troops during the My Lai Massacre were systematically concealed and denied. Following public exposure and a subsequent investigation into the massacre only one, of the twenty six men charged, was convicted.


Tim O’Brien’s novel In the Lake of the Woods repeatedly references the aforementioned atrocities that blemish American history. Within the chapters titled ‘Evidence’, scattered amongst the evidence gathered for the fictional investigation into Kathy Wade’s disappearance, quotations from characters both real and fake exhibit the catalogue of concealed violence embedded in American history. Quotations reference the brutality in the battles of Lexington and Concord where the colonists were “as bad as the Indians for scalping and cutting the dead men’s ears and noses off” (262). Further references contained in the Evidence chapters regarding the Native Americans repeat the words “exterminate” (260) and speak of the “horrible carnage” that characterised America’s expansion. The evidence chapters also contain extracts, both fictional and real, from the soldiers who were court marshalled for their role in the My Lai Massacre. The chilling and candid quotations speak of the “brutal degeneracy” (261) of war but simultaneously attempt to justify the violence, deny any responsibility, or simply deny any memory of it; numerous references to revenge, retribution and necessity are scattered amongst the quotations. O’Brien’s inclusion of actual quotations from war veterans along with fictional quotations from fictional characters regarding Kathy and John Wade’s disappearance prompts the reader to associate their disappearance with real acts of concealed violence and his refusal to draw a conclusive answer regarding the couple’s disappearance allows the reader to experience the frustration felt because of the perpetual relationship between atrocity and concealment.

The characters John and Kathy both indulge in the fantasy of denial rather than face the reality and truth surrounding them. John identifies himself as a magician and uses magic as a means to distance himself from reality; the act of concealment is simply an innocent magic trick whereby John can make things disappear. During his time in the Vietnam War, John adopts the persona of Sorcerer as a means of displacing himself from the violence and describes the heinous acts he commits in terms of harmless magic tricks. Sorcerer, not John, performs cards tricks and “makes an entire village disappear” (65). Kathy also participates in this reverie of denial. Details emerge in the evidence chapters that Kathy was aware that John stalked her but she never confronts him. Numerous allusions are made to the affair Kathy had but John refuses to discuss it. Similarly, John refuses to discuss the termination of a pregnancy he persuaded Kathy to have and Kathy accepts this. Although Kathy makes some feeble attempts to discuss the actuality of their relationship she is complicit in the denial of reality and truth and instead chooses to indulge in “invented happy stories… where nothing in real life ended badly” (3). Although Kathy’s unwillingness to accept the truth is relatively innocent in comparison to the concealment of outrageous acts of violence seen elsewhere in the novel, her complicity in denying the actuality of her relationship is continuously marked by the wider and more serious implications of concealment and denial. Much like The United States, a large gap exists between the myth of John Wade and the actuality of him and, much like the nation, Kathy prefers to indulge in the constructed myth rather than face the reality.

Throughout the fragmented and fractured novel, chapters entitled ‘Hypothesis’ consider the various possible scenarios regarding the disappearance of Kathy and John. One hypothesis postulates that during an episode of post-traumatic stress John Wade poured a kettle full of boiling hot water onto Kathy’s face while she slept and later disposed of her body in the lake. This version of events is repeated a number of times in the novel, each time with the addition of new details. In his text ‘How to Tell a True War Story’ Tim O’Brien addresses the nature of truth in stories recalled from traumatic experiences. O’Brien argues that “a true war story is never moral” and if you happen to feel in anyway “uplifted” upon hearing a war story then “you have been the victim of a very old and terrible lie” (1). Moreover, O’Brien explains that stories detailing the most outrageous acts of violence, which contain a “surreal seemingness” and the stories that people find most impossible to believe, are the ones that “represent the hard and exact truth” (3). The most violent and horrifying hypothesis offered by the narrator of In the Lake of the Woods is the one that suggests Kathy was barbarously killed in her sleep by her husband. The familiar rhetoric of concealment and the language of denial are carefully employed in the chapters that relay this hypothesis; words such as “impossible” and “unreal” are repeated over and over. The same discourse is used in earlier chapters where John Wade recalls deeply disturbing events from the My Lai massacre and admits that in the years to come he will consider them “impossible events” (111) that “could not have happened. Therefore they [sic] did not happen” (111). Wade acknowledges that he possesses an awareness of truth and also admits that he has the ability to conceal the truth even from himself. The novel repeatedly conveys this complex relationship between truth and concealment as a means to explore the ways in which truth and concealment are ingrained in American History. The novel equates the impossibility of the My Lai massacre with the impossibility of Kate’s gruesome death, however, the reader is aware that at least one occurrence, the My Lai Massacre, is not too appalling to be possible and the surreal events John Wade describes did in fact occur. Although John Wade denies any memory of killing his wife, enough details emerge from the novel for the reader to draw a somewhat conclusive answer. However, the reader may also choose to engage with the complex fantasy of denial rather than accept the truth.

By implementing the discourse of concealment and exploring the nature of truth O’Brien closes the gap between the mythologised ideology of America and the actuality of its history of violence. In the Lake of the Woods equates the fictional disappearance of Kathy to the real disappearance of America’s history of atrocious violence and by refusing to provide a conclusive answer regarding Kathy’s disappearance the novel ultimately allows the reader to decide whether or not to participate in this plausible deniability or to confront the intolerable and “impossible” truth.

Works Cited

Franklin, H. Bruce. “Plausibility of Denial: Tim O’Brien, My Lai, and America.” The Progressive (1994): n. pag. Rutgers-Newark. Rutgers. Web. 02 Jan. 2014.

O’Brien, Tim. “How to Tell a True War Story.” The Things They Carried. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. 64-81. Print.

O’Brien, Tim. In the Lake of the Woods. Boston: Houghton Mifflin/Seymour Lawrence, 1994. Print.

O’Brien, Tim. “Plausibility of Denial.” Web log post. Tim O’Brien’s Word. BlogSpot, 9 Dec. 2007. Web. 02 Jan. 2014.

Roosevelt, Theodore. The Winning of the West. New York: Putnam’s, 1889. Print.

Walt, Stephen M. “The Myth of American Exceptionalism.” Foreign Policy. 11 Oct. 2011. Web. 04 Jan. 2014.

Intertextuality & Video Games: An Analysis of ‘Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’.

As a relatively new artistic medium video games tend to be intertextually rich. Interestingly, intertextuality operates on different levels and registers which vary from game to game. In relation to the intertextually rich medium, this paper will explore the complex interdependent relationship that video games share with cinema and analyse Grand Theft Auto: Vice City in relation to that exploration.

The term intertextuality was initially conceived in 1966 by French scholar Julia Kristeva in her essay ‘Word, Dialogue, and Novel’. In the essay, Kristeva coined the term in order to describe the theory that “any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another” (66). French theorist Roland Barthes later elaborated on the implications of intertextuality in a series of papers where he argues that because all texts are intertextual and “any text is a new tissue of past citations” the notion of an author is dead (39). Barthes asserts that because a text is assembled from knowledge and understandings of pre-existing texts, the author no longer exists. Barthes interpretation of the implications of intertextuality is interesting in terms of our understandings or notions of innovative or unique texts; what we may generally consider to be an original or unique text is in fact so heavily interdependent and reliant on language and previously existing text that it’s simply a construction assembled from already existing parts (Allen 5).

In terms of video game studies, intertextuality is a fascinating aspect to explore.  Modern, large, cross-platform games with steady narrative structures most often provide numerous cultural references and choose to capitalize on the intertextual nature of the genre. With regards to video games, perhaps the most prevalent intertextual link lies with cinema. Author Roz Kaveney argues that specific genre-based texts are consciously intertextual in order to encourage fans of the genre to engage with the text on a deeper more personal level. Fans of a specific genre are likely to have a broad knowledge of the subject which allows the creator of a text to functionalize intertextuality in order to include narrative intricacies without the need for superfluous and broad generic explanations (Kaveney 7). Many contemporary video game developers have created a connected interdependent relationship between video games and cinema in order to construct a game-based experience around an already popular narrative. Cross-platform adventure style video game Tomb Raider draws on the hugely popular cinematic franchise Indiana Jones; the player controls protagonist Lara Croft as she raids caves for treasure. Action-adventure stealth video game Metal Gear Solid has obvious resonances with the 1981 film Escape from New York and the 1996 sequel Escape from L.A.. Massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft relies on users to have an awareness of high fantasy and mythological narratives.  At the very least the game narrative assumes the player has a certain familiarity with the fantastical rhetoric of medieval heroic quests. Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s high fantasy Middle Earth may enjoy the narrative of World of Warcraft on a deeper level than those who are merely aware of it. Owing to this, intertextuality allows World of Warcraft to operate at numerous registers which allows for multifaceted interpretation and creates a unique player experience based on the users existing knowledge of the genre.

As discussed by critic Tanya Krzywinska, “Intertextuality informs genre-based games at different levels and in different registers” (Corneliussen and Walker 124). The massively successful video game franchise Grand Theft Auto has been built on intertextuality. The series produces narrative worlds that immediately evoke a sense of familiarity for the players of the games. Many of the games in the GTA series parody or imitate popular film releases with an established fan base and large cult followings. Grand Theft Auto 3, for example, is set in the fictional city Liberty City which closely resembles the city of New York and the narrative is based on that of The Godfather movies. Similarly Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is set in Rockstar’s fictional version of California and echoes the narrative and setting of the critically acclaimed film Boyz in the Hood. Rockstar’s fourth instalment in the series, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, is incredibly similar to the hugely popular gangster movie Scarface. Since its release in 1983 Scarface is one of the most popular and iconic mob movies to date. The film is heavily referenced throughout the game both subtly and obviously. The title Grand Theft Auto: Vice City makes reference to the popular 1980’s television show Miami Vice; Vice City acts as a fictional version of the city of Miami where Scarface is also set. Both the game and Scarface are temporally set in the 1980s and within Vice City’s fictional game world players are immersed in 1980’s American culture. Through the functionalization of intertextuality the game can parody everything from the time period including cars, fashion, landmarks, and the famous soundtrack which is diegetically inserted into the game narrative by playing tracks through the character’s car radios.

The first cut-scene in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City immediately draws similarities with the Scarface. The scene takes place in a dark room where the camera circles a table, littered with champagne bottles and large wads of cash, is surrounded by a group of dubious looking men who are talking about the game’s protagonist Tommy Vercetti. The name Tommy shares a similarity with the name Tony, the name of the lead protagonist in Scarface, and that sense of familiarity is compounded when the men mention sending Tommy to Vice City where “even those Cuban refugees are cutting themselves a piece of some nice action” (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, 2002). The opening credits of Scarface famously feature real-life video footage of the Cuban asylum seekers leaving Cuba during the Mariel boatlift. Owing to this, from the very first cut scene in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, players are made aware of the intertextual link between the game and previously existing texts, in this case, Scarface. The plot of the game is quickly established to resemble the plot of Scarface. Both protagonists Tommy Vercetti and Tony Montana are ambitious ex-convicts who find themselves at the bottom of the criminal hierarchy. Similarly, both the game and film employ a failed cocaine deal between the respective protagonists and Columbian drug dealers as a method to springboard the narrative into action.


Once the storyline of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is underway it tends to deviate from such a close resemblance to the plot of Scarface to a more subtle affinity, however, numerous nods to the film can be found throughout the open world of the game.  For instance, Vice City is home to a nightclub called ‘The Malibu’ in which players can enter and walk around doing various activities. The interior of ‘The Malibu’ is designed to appear exactly like the fictional nightclub ‘The Babylon’ featured in a number of Scarface scenes. Other nods include a blood splattered apartment bathroom within the game that bears a striking resemblance to the bathroom featured in the famous chainsaw scene in Scarface. Furthermore, in order to carry out crime in the game players may choose a chainsaw as a weapon, identical to the one used in the film.


Once the game’s storyline draws to a close the plot once again reverts back to the plot of Scarface. In both the game and the film the penultimate scenes are staged within the lavish mansion the protagonists acquired through violent drug related crime. The famous climactic battle scenes in Scarface are replicated in the game; the set is a direct copy of its movie counterpart. Although the battle scene is much the same the results of the battle differ. In the notoriously violent scene in Scarface, after being shot an inordinate amount of times Tony Montana falls to his death from the indoor balcony of his lavish mansion. Although the death of the protagonist works well in the film it would signify a fail state in the video game or at the very least close off for players the open world which operates outside of the storyline missions in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Owing to this, once the player completes the final mission and the protagonist defeats all of the foes attempting to kill him, the character survives which allows the player to continue to play the game outside of the main storyline.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is not only aware of the richly intertextual nature of the video game medium, it actively functionalises intertextuality in order for the game to operate at multiple registers. Players feel an immediate sense of familiarity with the characters, plot, and culture of the game while those who are fans of Scarface may act out its notoriously violent narrative through a video game. Through its open-end game world and intertextuality players each receive a somewhat unique gaming experience. While some players may understand and enjoy the intertextually rich narratives, others may experience the narratives for the first time, while others may choose not to play the storyline at all. The game connects itself to popular cult cinema through intertextuality, both blatantly and subtly, yet through deviations establishes itself as a cult classic of its own medium.





Works Cited

Allen, Graham. Intertextuality. London: Routledge, 2000. Print.

Barthes, Roland, and Stephen Heath. “The Death of the Author.” Image, Music, Text. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. 142-48. Print.

Barthes, Roland, Richard Miller, and Richard Howard. The Pleasure of the Text. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975. Print.

Corneliussen, Hilde, and Jill Walker. Rettberg. Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008. Print.

Escape from New York. Dir. John Carpenter. Perf. Kurt Russell. An Avco Embassy Release, 1981.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. New York, NY: Rockstar Games, 2002. Video Game.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Prod. George Lucas. Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan. Perf. Harrison Ford. Paramount, 1981.

Kaveney, Roz. From Alien to The Matrix: Reading Science Fiction Film. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005. Print.

Kristeva, Julia. “Word, Dialogue, and Novel.” Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. New York: Columbia UP, 1980. 64-91. Print.

Metal Gear Solid. El Segundo, CA: Konami of America Inc, 2008. Video Game.

Scarface. Dir. Brian De Palma. Prod. Martin Bregman. By Oliver Stone. Perf. Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Universal, 1983. DVD.

Tomb Raider. Derby, United Kingdom: Core Design, 1996. Video Game.

World of Warcraft. Irvine, CA: Blizzard Entertainment, 2005. Video Game.

The Bronte Sisters, a Stylometric Analysis

Following Jane Austen’s literary triumph in the Georgian Era, the ensuing Victorian Era saw the emergence of phenomenal works from female writers such as George Eliot (real name Maryanne Evans) and the Bronte sisters: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne.  Although many scholars and academics question the gender based difference, if any, between male and female styles of writing during the period, this paper is concerned with analysing how stylistically similar the Bronte sisters are in their individually accomplished works. This paper will outline the results of a series of quantitative analyses focused on the collective corpus of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte, both on its own and as part of a wider analysis that includes the corpus of George Eliot and Jane Austen, followed by some literary interpretations.

The Bronte sisters have long been celebrated on their own merits for their individually accomplished works; both Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and Emily’s Wuthering Heights remain at the centre of the English literary canon while Anne’s lesser known but equally great The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is now held up by critics as the first sustained feminist novel. Although the sisters are separately acclaimed novelists some academic criticism has been focused on drawing comparisons between their works.  Critic N.M. Jacobs acknowledges the similarities between The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Wuthering Heights in relation to gender and layered narrative. While Jacobs notes that all three of the Bronte sisters explore the theme of gender and gender roles in their novels she outlines their different approaches. Jacobs considers Anne and Emily’s approach to be similar and only differing in intensity and overtness while she accuses the eldest Bronte, Charlotte, of eroticizing the dominant/submissive dynamic of gender relations in her novels (Jacobs, 1986). Critic Laura Berry also discusses the narrative similarities between Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, particularly arguing that the acts of marriage are replaced by acts of custody and incarceration in the novels in order for both Anne and Emily to explore the concerns of domesticity during the 19th century period (Berry, 1996). Other critics such as Jacqueline Simpson illustrate the similarity between Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights where folklore and folk belief are prominent in both works (Simpson, 1974).

Although some comparative criticism exists on the Bronte sisters this paper offers a precise and unique stylistic comparison on their collective corpus. Through the implementation of quantitative methods and computational stylistics relevant passages are precisely selected and focused on for literary analysis.

Methodology and Results

Using the software R and R package “stylo” (Eder et al., 2013) a number of multivariate stylometric methods where used to analyse the Bronte corpus in this study.  An initial cluster analysis of the Bronte sister’s collective corpus provided a preliminary insight into a comparison of their style based on the one hundred most frequent words. Following this, another cluster analysis was conducted featuring the corpus of Jane Austen and George Eliot, two other noted 19th century female authors, in order to provide a more comprehensive analysis of stylistic similarities. Owing to the intriguing results found in the cluster analysis of the 19th century female writers a more robust analysis was conducted by generating a Bootstrap Consensus Tree of the same corpus.  As opposed to analysing the one hundred most frequent words, as the cluster analysis does, the Bootstrap Consensus Tree analyses the texts by the thousand most frequent words which provides a more extensive investigation of stylistic similarities. Finally, in order to identify relevant passages for literary interpretation a Rolling Delta (Rybicki et al., 2013) analysis was carried out on the Bronte sister’s corpus. The Rolling Delta determines an identifiable authorial signature based on one of the texts provided and then compares all other texts provided to the aforementioned authorial style in order to determine stylistic similarities at precise sections of the texts. For this study, Emily’s only novel Wuthering Heights was used as the authorial baseline for the Rolling Delta analysis and all of Charlotte’s and Anne’s novels were compared to it to determine the relevant sections of similarity.

Initially, the following novels where put through R in a cluster analysis:

  • Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights (1847)
  • Charlotte Bronte. The Professor (Published in 1857 but written before Jane Eyre)
  • Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre (1847)
  • Charlotte Bronte. Shirley (1849)
  • Charlotte Bronte. Villette (1853)
  • Anne Bronte. Agnes Grey (1846)
  • Anne Bronte. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)

The cluster analysis produced the following results:


The computational analysis successfully clustered the novels together according to the specific Bronte sister who wrote them thereby indicating the unique authorial style of each writer; Charlotte Bronte’s four novels appear together in green, Emily’s only novel in Blue, and Anne Bronte’s novels in red.

As previously mentioned, other noted 19th century female authors were considered in order to compare them to the Bronte sister’s collective corpus for a more comprehensive stylistic analysis. A selection of Jane Austen’s novels and all of George Eliot’s known novels, both of whom published in the 19th century, were added to the list of texts to be assessed for style. In addition to the Bronte collection, the second Cluster Analysis conducted for the purposes of this study included the following novels:

  • Jane Austen. Emma (1815)
  • Jane Austen. Sense and sensibility (1811)
  • Jane Austen. Northanger Abbey (1818)
  • Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • Jane Austen. Mansfield Park (1814)
  • George Eliot. Adam Bede (1859)
  • George Eliot. Middlemarch (1871/72)
  • George Eliot. Silas Marner (1861)
  • George Eliot. The Mill on the Floss (1860)


The inclusion of fellow 19th century female authors had a considerable effect on the results of the Cluster Analysis. Jane Austen’s novels cluster together in red, George Eliot’s novels in blue and the Bronte’s in green. The software clusters the Bronte sisters together indicating a notably similar style within their collective corpus. A more robust Bootstrap Consensus Tree of the same collection of novels provides similar results:


Austen’s work branches off from the other authors indicating her renowned unique style of writing and a prominent authorial signature within her work.  Austen’s work splits into subsequent branches illustrating her distinct style in use within various genres and allowing for a progression in authorial style over time. Similarly, George Eliot’s work assembles as a collection very similar in style, demonstrating an individual authorial signature is also prominent within her work. The Brontes, however, cluster together and appear almost like a singular author with malleable style rather than three separate authors with a distinct style.  Moreover, the data indicates a marked similarity between Anne Bronte and Emily Bronte’s style.

As both the Cluster Analysis and the Bootstrap Consensus Tree confirm a striking similarity in style between the three Bronte sisters, particularly Emily and Anne Bronte, a Rolling Delta was carried out in order to locate specific sections of the novels where a marked correlation in style occurs. As previously mentioned, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights was implemented as the baseline text to which all of Charlotte and Anne’s novels were compared:


As evidenced above, there are a number of incidences where the Bronte sister’s authorial style correlates. Jane Eyre appears to have a distinct similarity to specific sections of Wuthering Heights. Moreover, Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall appears most consistently stylometrically similar to Wuthering Heights particularly in the latter half of the text which confirms the original Cluster Analysis and Bootstrap Consensus results.

Literary Interpretations

The results of the stylometric analysis offer a significant contribution to limited existing comparative scholarship on the Bronte sisters, particularly the scholarship focused on the comparisons drawn between Anne and Emily Bronte’s work. Below is a literary interpretation specifically focused on the correlations between Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as outlined by the results of the computational analyses.

As previously mentioned, the Rolling Delta analysis indicated a marked stylistic similarity between specific sections of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Wuthering Heights. Although the novels are distinctly different both in theme and genre, Wuthering Heights is considered a work gothic fiction while The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is considered to be a work of social criticism, there are a number of reasons for the stylistic similarities.

Interestingly, the shared biographical details of both sisters account for a considerable similarity in their authorial style. Aside from a shared genetic predisposition the Bronte sisters also shared a childhood environment and had access to the same reading materials. Numerous biographies account the close relationship Anne and Emily shared. As children both Anne and Emily created a complex imaginary world they called Gondal in which they created characters and acted out narratives and poetry together centred on this imaginary world (Fraser, 1988). The creation of narratives together as children created a stylistic framework from which the sisters would draw on later in life when they began their independent narratives.  Moreover, both Anne and Emily adopted shared biographical details and implemented them in their respective novels. The settings for both Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are adapted from the Yorkshire moors where the sisters grew up. Numerous passages in the novels are devoted to descriptions of the rich countryside landscapes that the sisters shared an experiential familiarity with. Furthermore, Emily and Anne chose to chronicle their experience with their older brother Branwell Bronte in their respective novels. Branwell suffered a steady and violent decline into alcohol and opiate addiction which the sisters were witness to.  Both Emily and Anne went on to expose the destructive nature of addiction through the characters Hindley Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights and the vicious character of Arthur Huntington in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, both of whom drink themselves to death. Through the Branwell based characters “each book depicts an unpleasant and often violent domestic reality” (Jacobs, 1986). Owing to the influence of biographical details the novels, although markedly different, appear to have a considerable correlation in authorial style.  The influence of biography explains the aforementioned correlation as both novels touch on similar issues which the sisters write about from a mutual experience.

Additionally, both The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Wuthering Heights share a similar narrative framework.  Wuthering Heights employs an internal male narrator who writes the narrative as an entry in his diary, the details of which are recalled to him by the female character Nelly. Similarly The Tenant of Wildfell Hall utilizes an internal male narrator who writes the narrative as a letter, however, within the letter are the diary entries of the female protagonist Helen Graham.  Critics argue that the male narrator represents the public ideologies of the time while the female narrators within the frameworks give access to the “pervasively violent private reality” (Jacobs, 1986). Intriguingly, the precise sections of significant similarities in authorial style within the novels, as indicated by the Rolling Delta, are sections told through the perspective and experience of the female characters. The select passages from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are the sections of Helen Graham’s diaries in which she catalogues the decline of her marriage, her tyrannical husband’s deplorable behaviour, his humiliation of her, and the effect this has on her.  Both the Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Wuthering Heights resolve the violent domestic worlds at the end of the narratives; the novels end in harmonious marriages where the characters enjoy happier domestic lives which accounts for the similarities in the latter half of the novels indicated by the Rolling Delta analysis.

Although the Bronte sisters are celebrated as individuals for their independently accomplished works, stylometric evidence suggests a much closer correlation in style than previously thought. Closer reading and literary analysis advocates this correlation in style and suggests that although the sisters wrote in different genres and explored different themes their authorial style remains incredibly similar.

Works Cited

Berry, Laura C. “Acts of Custody and Incarceration in “Wuthering Heights” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 30.1 (1996): 32-55. Print.

Brontë, Anne. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979. Print.

Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1996. Print.

Eder, Maciej, Mike Kestemont, and Jan Rybicki. “Stylometry with R: A Suite of Tools.”Digital Humanities 2013: Conference Abstracts (2013): 487-89. Web. 06 Dec.     2013.

Fraser, Rebecca. The Brontës: Charlotte Brontë and Her Family. New York: Crown, 1988. Print.

Jacobs, N. M. “Gender and Layered Narrative in “Wuthering Heights” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”” The Journal of Narrative Technique 16.3 (1986): 204-19. Print.

Rybicki, Jan, Mike Kestemont, and D. L. Hoover. “Collaborative Authorship: Conrad, Ford and Rolling Delta.” Digital Humanities 2013: Conference Abstracts (2013): 368-71. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.

Simpson, Jacqueline. “The Function of Folklore in ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights'” Folklore 85.1 (1974): 47-61. JSTOR. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.