Pride & Prejudice, Numbers & Words, and Bingley’s Four or Five Thousand

I found this week’s chapter from Research Methods for English Studies, “Numbers and Words: Quantitative Methods for Scholars of Texts” by Pat Hudson very interesting. I, like Catherine Belsey, who Hudson had sought out for advice on the topic, did not “even know what quantification” was as it related to literature (Hudson, 134). As I began reading the chapter, I thought that perhaps this method could be leveraged if there was a subject or broad theme of the novel around numerical figures. Hudson’s distinction between method, a tool to gain knowledge, and methodology, a way of thinking about knowledge, helped me to understand how to leverage this method as a tool (Hudson 154). But, reading this chapter along with Linda Slothouber’s essay, “Bingley’s Four or Five Thousand, the Other Fortunes from the North,” helped to provide a tangible example.

In Slothouber’s essay, she starts with a number, the four or five thousand pounds that Mrs. Bennett references as Mr. Bingley’s annual income. This figure along with words she highlights from the text around Mr. Bingley’s leasing the estate at Netherfield and his father having obtained fortune in the North, incite her to question the specific nature of how the late Mr. Bingley came into his wealth. She was able to leverage quantitative methods by reviewing the historic data of type of industries and the number of cotton spinning mills in the North of England to support her inclination that the Bingley’s money comes from the cotton industry (Slothouber 50).

I also found it very interesting that Slothouber leverages both words and numbers is a way very similar to Hudson’s description of the “The Complementarity of Words and Numbers (Hudson 138-141).” In this section of the chapter, Hudson discusses the importance of both reviewing an understating data in the aggregate as well as individual, more detailed accounts. In her essay, Slothouber leverages historic data to identify to prevalence of fast wealth accumulation from cotton manufacturing. She then provides more detail on two specific families, the Akwrights and the Strutts (Slothouber 55-59). The combination of these two methods makes her argument more compelling.

What I really liked about reading Slothouber’s essay is that it enabled me to see the use several of the methods we’ve been learning. This essay showcased how each method can inform another and when combined can help to solidify the researcher’s argument. It seems to me that it begins with textual analysis and asking questions and then leveraging various methods in a nonsequential manner to inform your thesis. This was a really great article to help click those pieces into place for me.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2016. Print.

Hudson, Pat. ” Numbers and Words: Quantitative Methods for Scholars of Texts.” Griffin, Gabriele. Research Methods for English Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013. 133-159. Print.

Slothouber, Linda. ” Bingley’s Four or Five Thousand, the Other Fortunes from the North.”



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