Practical use of Cirrus in Voyant Tools

What is Cirrus and what purpose does it have in Voyant tools? It is best explained by the Voyant tools documentation on “Cirrus is a word cloud displaying the frequency of words appearing in a corpus. Words occurring more frequently appear larger”.

For the purpose of showing the practical use of Cirrus in Voyant tools I have chosen the literary master piece ‘Iliad’, supposedly written by the blind poet Homer. Since the first time I read (around the age of 9) it, I was amazed by the age of this work, the war between Greeks and Trojans and my favorite hero Achilles. Let’s see if Voyant Tools can give me some new view on the theme of this work.

After uploading the text of the ‘Iliad’ into Voyant Tools first thing that catches our eyes is Cirrus (one big word cloud). In the centre of the word cloud we can see one big ‘’â’. 

By pointing over this letter with the courser we can see the number 1124. This is the number of times that the letter ‘â’ appears in the text.. Since ‘â’ is not revelent for my interest we can remove it by clicking on the “Define options for this tool” and ad ‘â’ to the list of irrelevant words and letters (I will do same with “a”).

Now we can see that the most frequent words are “son” (369); “Greeks” (313); “spake” (247); “men” (229); “Hector” (199).

This was a really big surprise for me! My favorite hero Achilles was not in the cloud! Was not this book about him and his deeds? In the upper left corner I clicked on “Terms” determined to find “Achilles”. And there he was. After typing “Achilles” in the field below the list of words and there frequency of occurance in the text I saw that he ended up on the 42.

place, below my second favorite hero of the story “Ajax”. Sadly “Links” did not work on the word “Achilles” so I was not able to figure out with what words “Achilles” co-occurred most often so I could perhaps understand why my favorite hero was not mentioned as often as I remembered when I read the ‘Iliad‘ as a kid.

Voyant and the Cirrus made me think that this story was not about my favorite hero, but about the relationship between fathers and the sons. Maybe “Hector” is the real hero of my favorite novel.


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