Aesthetic Categories in the 19th and 20th Centuries: Looking at Neoclassicism, the Renaissance, and the Gothic through Word Frequencies

One of my ongoing projects has been a historiography of the concepts of neoclassicism, the gothic, and the renaissance over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As part of this work, I ran some Google n-grams to chart the emergence of these categories. I don’t think that there is anything surprising in the data (as long as we remember that the increase in neoclassical in the late 20th century is probably tied to economic writing rather than aesthetic writing), but it’s nevertheless interesting to see it visualized.

The first graph looks at the terms “Neoclassical,” “Renaissance,” “Gothic,” and “Arts and Crafts.” The second graph examines four different terms for speaking about the medieval world: “Medieval,” “Middle Ages,” “Gothic,” and “Dark Ages.”

For now, I’m posting this without any analysis to go with it rather than continuing to allow these visualizations to gather dust in my drafts folder.

Google N-Gram of “Neoclassical,” “Renaissance,” “Gothic,” and “Arts and Crafts”

Google N-Gram of “Medieval,” “Middle Ages,” “Gothic,” and “Dark Ages”