Allegory in Single Authors

I’ve been following up a suggestion from Jan Rybicki about discovering statistically distinguishing features of allegorical and non-allegorical writing by comparing individual works by single authors rather than (or preliminary to) large corpora. This has some downsides (I don’t expect it to be much good for detecting characteristic terms/lemmata, for instance, which will be dominated by the specific content of the individual texts), but it might be a useful quick and dirty way to get a better feel for where to direct my attention.

Results to come in the next week or so, but in the interim I’m interested in thoughts on especially useful pairings. What I’m looking for are pairs of works by an author, one of which is decidedly allegorical, the other of which is not. Some examples are below.

Note that there are practical constraints: I need books that are available in full-text electronic form, which rules out most things published after 1923. And I’d like to use works that are reasonably familiar, if only so other literary folks can evaluate for themselves whether or not I’ve classified them correctly. Roughly matching word counts couldn’t hurt, but aren’t terribly important, since I’m mostly looking at frequency-regularized Dunning log likelihoods (and because length itself might be a marker of allegoricalness, though I don’t expect to answer that question with so small a sample). The more of these pairs, the better, but the point is that this isn’t true corpus work, so I’m not feeling like I need hundreds (that’s for later!).

Some suggestions thus far:

Author Allegorical Nonallegorical
Alcott Little Women (1868) Work (1873)
Bunyan Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) Grace Abounding (1666)
Defoe Robinson Crusoe (1719) Journal of the Plague Year (1722)
Moll Flanders (1722)
Dickens Christmas Carol (1843) Bleak House (1853)
Martin Chuzzlewit (1844)
Eliot Adam Bede (1859) Middlemarch (1871)
Silas Marner (1861) Mill on the Floss (1860)
Melville Confidence Man (1857) Israel Potter (1856)
Moby-Dick (1851)
Orwell* Animal Farm (1945) Burmese Days (1934)
1984 (1949) Road to Wigan Pier (1937)
Shelley Frankenstein (1818) Mathilda (1819)

* God bless wonky Australian copyright

A couple of comments: There’s a regrettable skew toward the middle of the nineteenth century here, but my sample will probably always be nineteenth-century rich due to both the historical development of novel writing and the realities of copyright law.

Poetry would be an interesting addition. I’m not sure to what extent the vagaries of rhyme, meter, etc. would impact the comparisons, but I’d like to find out. So … what should I use over against Paradise Lost, for instance? Also, did Bunyan ever write something non-allegorical? (I can’t think of anything.) (Grace Abounding; thanks to Suzanne Keen, by way of the narrative list.) What about Langland? (Ditto, no hope.)

I’d like to have decent national and gender balance, which seems OK in the tiny sample I’ve given here. More variety would always be better.

I’ve tried to avoid overt Bildungsromane, on the theory that they’re always at least a little allegorical, even when they’re not. Alcott’s the exception because, you know, Little Women.

Thoughts and suggestions for changes, deletions, or insertions?

2 thoughts on “Allegory in Single Authors

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