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Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Woolf’s suicide’

Words are important. Writers know that. Now researchers are using words to create algorithms to help prevent suicide. And they are basing their research on Virginia Woolf’s use of words in her writing before she drowned by walking into the River Ouse on March 28, 1941.VW Diary Vol. 5

Researchers from St. Joseph’s Healthcare, McMaster University and the University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil have analyzed that writing to create a word cloud from the 46 documents Woolf wrote during the last two months of her life, along with a cloud created from random samplings from 54 of her letter and diary entries prior to that period.

Reading the clouds

The contrast is stark, explains Dr. Diego Librenza-Garcia, a post-doctoral fellowship at the university in Brazil. 

The cloud compiled from her writing during the final months of her life includes such words as: little, miss, war, nothing, never, can’t and don’t, negative words that indicate Woolf’s hopelessness.

In contrast, the cloud compiled from happier times in Woolf’s life, frequently used words such as love, tomorrow, nice, hope and good.

The researchers created a “text classification algorithm” unique to Woolf’s vocabulary and concluded it would have been able to predict her suicide with 80.45 per cent accuracy. – The Spectator

An app that would build algorithms

The researchers hope to design an app that would build an algorithm for each individual patient that will analyze texts, emails and social media posts of at-risk patients who have consented to participate, so their caregivers can be alerted when intervention is needed to prevent suicide, according to an article in The Spectator

The research team’s study was published Oct. 24 in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal.

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It was 74 years ago today, on March 28, 1941, that Virginia Woolf left two suicide notesAfterwords behind, walked out of Monk’s House and across the Sussex Downs and headed for the River Ouse. With a stone in her coat pocket, she waded into the river and drowned. She is still missed today.

Past tributes

Many tributes have been made to her on the anniversary of her death. Eight years ago, a video, The Adventures of Virginia Woolf, was posted on YouTube that speculates on what Woolf would have accomplished if she had chosen to live on that fateful date in March of 1941.

Four years ago, the Elite Theatre Company presented the world premiere of Arthur Kraft’s  drama “Goat,” about what might have happened if a psychologist had prevented Woolf’s suicide.

That same year, her great niece, Emma Woolf, wrote an article for The Independent, “Literary haunts: Virginia’s London walks,” that speculated about what Virginia Woolf would have thought of today’s London.

“The Writer’s Almanac” has payed tribute to her.

Tributes this year

And each year on this day, social media lights up with posts that commemorate her life, her work and her death, making Woolf a trending topic. One example is @HistoryTime_’s Twitter post below that features a photograph of The New York Times coverage of her death.

History Time tweet

The most notable piece so far this year is Maria Popova’s critique of the media treatment of Woolf’s death 75 years ago in her post on Brain Pickings: “March 28, 1941: Virginia Woolf’s Suicide Letter and Its Cruel Misinterpretation in the Media.”

The perfect accompaniment to that is the video of actress Louise Brealey’s poignant reading of Woolf’s last letter to Leonard, which is posted on The Telegraph website. A video of Brealey reading the letter at the Hay Festival is also available on YouTube, but the audio is not as pristine.

Screenshot of Louise Brealey reading Woolf's last letter on The Telegraph website.

Screenshot of Louise Brealey reading Woolf’s last letter on The Telegraph website.

virginia_suicide_letter

 

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