Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How short and long are African American short stories?

By Kenton Rambsy

Text-mining leads us to consider differences in what we mean by “short” in short stories. Charles Chesnutt’s “The Wife of His Youth” has 4, 641 words. Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” has 4,729 words. Richard Wright’s “Big Boy Leaves Home” has 11,020 words, Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” has 13,657 words. The word counts of those canonical stories indicate that the lengths of short stories vary greatly. The quantifying feature of text-mining clarifies that a short story can be 5,000 words of 14,000 words.

Above, I provide a bar graph highlighting the word count of stories by Wright and Hurston. Below, I provide a graph showing the word count of 15 canonical stories.

"Seshat: A Digital Humanities Initiative" at Howard University 
African American Language and Culture Lab

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