I used Voyant Tools to analyze the late President Lincoln’s 84 speeches & letters dated from the years 1832-1865 from Alan Liu’s Data Collections and Datasets.
This corpus has 84 documents with 82,513 total words and 6,788 unique word forms.
The data I selected was intriguing to me as I’ve always heard of Lincoln and how big of a figure he was and still is in US history but never had the chance to really read or hear any of his speech/letters. This data helped me better understand the keywords he would use when he would try to get his beliefs and thoughts across to the public. I can see how Voyant can be used as a method to distance reading as it will give a breakdown of what words were used the most.
Given that focal points of speeches tend to have the same idea or the same words used, we can assume that Lincoln spoke a lot about the “People”, “Rights”, and “Slavery”. Fragments 19-39 seemed to be when Lincoln predominantly spoke about slavery. Through this information, I can infer that to get to power he had to please the people of America first, and then as he became a more powerful and respected figure across America, he began to list out issues that he had about society.
I believe I would have come to the same overall interpretation but a different localized interpretation if I had used close reading to extrapolate this same information as I would have seen it for its face value and not noticed how often and what frequencies certain words were being used but I would have still understood what Lincoln was trying to convey through his speeches. It would’ve taken a lot longer to gather that same information if I had close read his 84 speeches/letters.