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From sentiment to style: Charles Stewart Parnell’s rhetoric in the first crisis of the UK

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Jones, Huw 
Jones, Aneirin 
Hanley, Hugh 
Geoghegan, Patrick 


Charles Stewart Parnell was the dominant Irish political figure of the late-nineteenth century. His campaigns for land reform and Home Rule changed Ireland's relationship with Britain and reshaped north-south relations on the island. Despite his remarkable stature and influence, his legacy continues to be contested among scholars and his political stance is widely described as an 'enigma'. His speeches were the main instrument through which he mobilised and polarised opinion throughout the Anglo-world, yet they have never been edited or even collected, and their impact - always presumed to be considerable - has not been studied in any systematic way. In this article we describe the application of a combination of sentiment analysis and topic modelling to Parnell’s speeches to investigate how, when and why he used emotive language, and which topics were utilised in the emotional manipulation of his audience. We will discuss the issues which arose in our experiments and how adopting a more nuanced approach to language could provide solutions to these challenges. We will also talk about how our investigation lead us away from ‘pure’ sentiment analysis (i.e. positive or negative attitudes towards a particular aspect) and towards ‘style’ as a better framework for understanding and comparing the texts of the speeches. Finally, we will outline our plans for further work in this area.



47 Language, Communication and Culture, 52 Psychology

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Digital Scholarship in the Humanities

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Oxford University Press
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/J011835/1)
Department of Foreign Affairs (Unknown)
Institute For Advanced Study (Unknown)
British Academy (SG100748)
Leverhulme Trust (MRF-2017-035)
Cambridge Humanities Research Grant