Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-15-2012

Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Abstract

Literature is a form of expression whose temporal structure, both in content and style, provides a historical record of the evolution of culture. In this work we take on a quantitative analysis of literary style and conduct the first large-scale temporal stylometric study of literature by using the vast holdings in the Project Gutenberg Digital Library corpus. We find temporal stylistic localization among authors through the analysis of the similarity structure in feature vectors derived from content-free word usage, nonhomogeneous decay rates of stylistic influence, and an accelerating rate of decay of influence among modern authors. Within a given time period we also find evidence for stylistic coherence with a given literary topic, such that writers in different fields adopt different literary styles. This study gives quantitative support to the notion of a literary “style of a time” with a strong trend toward increasingly contemporaneous stylistic influence.

DOI

10.1073/pnas.1115407109

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