Literature data mining


Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), The Fall of Icarus (1636), oil on panel, 27 x 27 cm, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. Wikimedia Commons. image available here

Andrew Reagan at the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington and a few pals have used sentiment analysis to map the emotional arcs of over 1,700 stories and then used data-mining techniques to reveal the most common arcs (…) The idea behind sentiment analysis is that words have a positive or negative emotional impact. So words can be a measure of the emotional valence of the text and how it changes from moment to moment. So measuring the shape of the story arc is simply a question of assessing the emotional polarity of a story at each instant and how it changes (…) Reagan and co say that their techniques all point to the existence of six basic emotional arcs that form the building blocks of more complex stories:

  • A steady, ongoing rise
  • A steady ongoing fall, in emotional valence
  • A fall then a rise
  • A rise then a fall (Icarus)
  • Rise-fall-rise
  • Fall-rise-fall (Oedipus )
Image available here

It turns out the most popular are stories that follow the Icarus and Oedipus arcs and stories that follow more complex arcs that use the basic building blocks in sequence

Excerpts from the article entitled “Data Mining Reveals the Six Basic Emotional Arcs of Storytelling,” available here

Full paper available here

Beautiful video of Kurt Vonnegut lecture (1995) on story arcs available here

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