Mapping the Great Divide in the Lyrics of Leonard Cohen

Thomas J. Haslam

College of Liberal Arts, Shantou University, China.  Email:

Volume 9, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n1.s01

Received February 28, 2017; Accepted June 10, 2017; Published June 15, 2017.


It is generally accepted that Leonard Cohen’s songwriting changed significantly in the early 1980s, due to Cohen’s choice of a Casio synthesizer over a guitar as his instrument of composition.  But this explanation begs fundamental questions of how we understand change and continuity in Cohen’s work across nearly five decades and fourteen studio albums.  This study draws upon text mining and data visualization results which map Cohen’s lyrical vocabulary.  Based on that data, it offers a reinterpretation of the Great Divide, the presumed departure in songwriting between Cohen’s first six and last eight studio albums.

Keywords: text mining, lyrics, Leonard Cohen, Judaism.

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