Today I played around a bit more with Wordle and made a series of word clouds from astrological prognostications. As I play with it, I am seeing more ways that this could be useful both in class and in guiding research, both my own and student research. In order to make it practical, however, the texts need to be available in some electronic format. Otherwise, the burden of transcribing them is a considerable barrier.
Anyway, here is one of the word clouds from Leonard Digges’ A prognostication of right good effect … 1555:
I was thinking about my plagues and epidemics course and how to get students to think about the texts in new ways. I came across a post at Profhacker on using Wordle in the classroom, Wordle Revisited, that suggested creating word clouds for texts could stimulate discussion and analysis. Intrigued, I fed a couple 16th- and 17th-century plague tracts into Wordle to see what would happen. The results were interesting and, I think, promising.
The first text I put in was An Hospitall for the Diseased (1579), a general recipe book for all manner of ailment. It generated the following word cloud for the 25 most common words: