London mapped to show the emotions in Victorian literature

Standford literary map of London

Behold the "emotional geography" of Victorian literary: A map that shows the "feeling and sensations" connected with various city locations in 19th-century novels. There are some surprising findings.

To create the map, scholars at the Stanford Literary Lab took 738 novels, mostly written in the 19th century — then got Amazon Turkers to find mentions of London placenames, and to note what emotions were evoked in each passage. When they were done, they produced a map where you can click on a hotspot to see how it was described in the writing of folks like Dickens.

Big data applied to literature can occasionally produce some unanticipated findings, as the New York Times reports:

There were some surprises in the London research, said Ryan Heuser, an associate research director for the Stanford Literary Lab. "We thought fear would be linked to poverty," Mr. Heuser said. But poorer sections of the city did not fare particularly badly in the literature. "Fear was more associated with ancient markets and prisons," he added.