9th July 2021

Cities vs. Nature? Mining Emotions in Historical Swiss-German Fictional Space

Giulia Grisot (Bielefeld), Berenike Herrmann (Bielefeld)

We report on the results of a pilot analysis of the representation of emotions and sentiments in relation to spatial entities (geolocations and spatial terms) in a corpus of Swiss fictional prose texts of the late 19th and early 20th Century written in German.

To examine how different spatial environments are depicted emotionally, we compiled a comprehensive dictionary of spatial entities characteristic of ‘rural’ (n= 8,684), and ‘urban’ landscapes (n= 2,596). This list is inclusive of spatial terms commonly used in the discursive context of the corpus (Weiher, Wiler, Weg, Hütte, Berg, See; Strasse, Gebäude, Dom), as well as of geopolitical and geographical ones (Berlin, Salzburg, Luzern; Rhein, Zermatt, Matterhorn).

Using a seed-word approach to spatial encoding, existing sentiment dictionaries (BAWL, SentiWS, SentiArt) are compared to examine the presence of emotions (valence, discrete emotions) and their strength (arousal) in the texts, looking at the difference between the emotions represented in relation to particular types of spatial entities, specifically along the contemporary discursive opposition of rural/natural vs. urban cultural spaces. First results support the assumed contrast between rural/positive and urban/negative, while showing great differences among the various sentiment lexicons. We conclude by addressing limitations of a lexicon-based approach of sentiment analysis and point to possible solutions.


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