Fall graffiti and preview of coming analysis

It’s taken some time, but graffiti is creeping back onto the bookstack walls in the Regenstein Library.

Most notable is the wall of poetry, where “To Delmore Schwartz” by Robert Lowell has been joined by an anonymous quote:
Rejoice! O Man For your achievements
are great
and number as the stars
(read both full size)
and then subsequently, by Jabberwocky in its entirety.

While one student recommends appreciating the joy of being YOUNG and ALIVE, another laments the temporary nature of graffiti, and a third dismisses the entire conversation with “Quit being gay, study!”. (See full size.) Meanwhile, someone else is just kidding.

In the 5th floor women’s bathroom, I discovered “I’m pregnant” in Arabic, translated by Lauren Osborne who wonders if the writer just took a pregnancy test, and the wall was the first “person” she told. I’ve also discovered that Barbie studies in Crerar science library. There’s some elaborate gremlin heads in the Reg study carrels, not far from some ruthless copyediting of another student’s “hip” graffiti (see full size).

Perhaps my favorite so far from this fall is a serious response to what was probably just a whiny Why is Latin so hard?: “b/c they don’t print it with diacritical marks. (it really would be much easier if they did”. Lamenting the absence of macrons in Latin texts not written for learners: I’ve never seen the likes of it elsewhere.

Speaking of the uniqueness of UChicago graffiti, I’m putting together another “analysis” of my enormous corpus of graffiti data, now including material from a variety of universities. Ever since I started examining graffiti from outside the University of Chicago, I’ve had the sense that there’s something unique about the graffiti we have here, but I’ve never tried to quantify it. So now I’m going through each piece of graffiti from each university, classifying it (and weighting certain classes differently depending on their frequency across the entire corpus– orthographic corrections and intellectual commentary count for more than sex or complaining about classes), and assigning a score of 1-3 (1 is for a single word or expected phrase, 2 is for a more fleshed-out thought, 3 is for something with a twist– be it insight, wordplay, or something that makes it memorable). The plan is then to divide the total score by the number of pieces of graffiti, to determine the “interestingness” of each university’s graffiti corpus. One could argue that my metric privileges the UChicago graffiti, but I really am trying to be objective, and I’d like to hope that we can all agree that there really is something more interesting about “Holbach your marks, you’re going to ruin the Staël” than “Fuck you”.

Tangentially (and without having any sense of what the outcome will look like), I’m also working on determining the source of the various music, movie, TV and literature quotes found in the graffiti corpus, to see the differences in genre and media distribution on different campuses.

I’m hoping to have both done by the end of this month, so stay tuned.

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