Distant reading is a helpful tool for making connections between multiple works of writing. Voyant happens to be a very helpful distant reading tool because it enables us to perform concrete text analysis of multiple works. It also creates good text analysis visualizations.
One of the words that come up the most in Whitney’s work is the word “shall”.
Since shall is a future active verb, we can assume that Whitney is actively thinking about the future in her work. Since she used the word shall often along with other words like good, happy, and life, it signifies that she is thinking about the future actively and positively.
In Whitney’s “FINIS. quoth IS. W. “, Line 50 —
And let your Branches twinéd that excel her head adorn: wherein she flourish shall:
she is talking about branches adorning a woman’s head, which is where she flourishes. Whitney is implying that when women are intellectual they flourish. This is significant because it wasn’t a priority for a woman to be educated and intellectual during this period.
Thinking of the 16th century in which time Whitney wrote her works, the life expectancy of people was around 40 years. That is much shorter than the current life expectancy in the United States. Life expectancy in the US is now about double what Whitney’s life expectancy would have been. In this country, when people are about 40 years old, they usually are just beginning to settle into their lives and careers. This is in contrast to the 16th century when Whitney lived. Settling into life was done on a shorter timeline. So the fact that she thinks about the future and she writes about the future actively by using the word shall alongside happy and life signifies that she is hopeful even in this shorter lifespan.
This is significant when you think about people now who have mid-crises around 40 years old. People begin to look at their future bleakly and are less hopeful and happy. They may go out and buy expensive items or engage in risky activities just to feel more happy and content. With our longer lives, we can use some of the positive qualities of Whitney’s outlook on the future. Positive thinking is a powerful tool in ensuring a happy life and if we actively and positively think about our futures, we may be happier.