Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Some more on words ...

A recent study * indicates that even given a very small amount of words, a general reader can recognize a genre. The abstract declares that an experiment testing the ability of readers to recognize the genre of a work (fiction versus history) with only 5 to 15 words of randomly selected gave a high degree of accuracy - 79.2% correct responses at 5 words. This suggest that readers , for example - suggests that recognize at the micro-level of text and independent of the subject's educational level, but dependent on the genre itself.

This may also explain that the explosion of Lovecraft's fiction upon pulp readers sensibilities was appropriately dramatic as we've always realized.

I selected a few arbitrary texts and selected the first 10 words of the story:

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day … The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe

Whether the dreams brought on the fever or the fever … Dreams in the Witchhouse, Lovecraft

When the time for his examination drew near Malcolm Malcolmson … The Judge's House, Stoker

Still lying-to amid enormous ice fields. The one which stretches … Captain of the Pole Star, Doyle

The Rev. Mr. Jennings is tall and thin. He is … Green Tea, LeFanu

In each case, these arbitrary passages can give a feel for the individual author. Poe is poetic and bleak, Lovecraft speaks of dreams, Stoker tends to be a bit drudgy, Doyle always the adventure flavor, and LeFanu about the person's story. But you, dear blog reader, try it too! Select some arbitrary long and short passages from your favorite modern or ancient author and see how many words it takes to cement your opinion, or reinforce your opinion of that writer.

* 1994 Elsevier Science "Genre recognition of history and fiction" Malcolm Hayward,
Department of English, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA 15705, USA.

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