One of the questions that was exciting to me as a I started this project was a consideration of Literary Geography. One of the stated aims of the Council of Books on Wartime was to help soldiers “learn about their enemy.” Comparing this tactic to that of prizefighters, the Council reasoned that books should be educational for servicemen abroad, in order to help them better fight ideologically.
Does “learning about enemies” mean learning about their countries? Are “democratic” books about or set in “democratic” countries, or primarily in nations with “friendly” ideological regimes? Or are Germany and Italy and Japan equally represented? As soldier Thomas Shaw wrote from the Pacific front, the ASEs helped him “escape”: to where?
Using Stanford’s CoreNLP and NER programs in R, I extracted the place names mentioned in the corpus to examine the places that were mentioned. I wanted to see, first, which countries were mentioned with the highest frequency. Second, I wanted to know if there was a correlation between allegiance in the war and the frequency of mentions (are Axis powers mentioned with the same frequency of Allied powers?, for instance).
In the “Frequency/Mentions” tab, I address that first question. It is clear, right off, that the US is mentioned with the greatest frequency; the United Kingdom comes in a close second. The frequent mentions of the United States are unsurprising: the corpus contains classics of American literature, a large number of Westerns, and a good deal of history from the Civil and Revolutionary Wars. Where did servicemen want to escape to? Home.
Yet, it does seem that “learning about enemies” bears out in terms of the corpus. Flipping to the “Allegiance/Mentions” tab, it is clear that Allied Powers and their territories and colonies occupy a far greater percentage of this corpus than do Axis Powers and their territories and colonies.In Europe, Germany and Italy are the most represented countries, behind Great Britain. It also appears, however, that the CBW was more interested in learning about our European enemies: the Pacific Theater remains relatively scarce.