Graphs Maps and Trees

As I was reading Franco Moretti’s book, the first thing that struck me was that I do visualize the geography of each novel or book that gives geographical references that I am reading. A map naturally forms in my head to make sense out of the events on the page. In fantasy books such as the LOTR trilogy, maps are extremely helpful to visualize the world you are reading about in print. I wouldn’t have been able to keep the Shire apart from Mordor if I hadn’t looked at the maps. This is a juvenile example but I think there is truth in the validity of maps to assist in our understanding and further our analysis of text. Moretti states, “graphs, maps, and trees place the literary field literally in front of our eyes-and show us how little we still know about it.” After reading his book I’m left with the question of whether the graphs, trees, and maps truly assist in our understandings and further our inquiry? As a person from a humanities background I often find myself glossing over maps, graphs, and trees and heading straight to the text. Even at times in this text, which is all about graphs, maps, and trees I had to be diligent in actually looking at the illustrations. But to be honest I found his use of trees to be the most difficult to engage with. I understand that he is attempting to draw this connect between science, history, and literature (which makes sense in the context of studying D.H) but I just did not find it interesting. This makes me wonder if I fall into the category of a traditional humanist? Is my disinterest in visual descriptions of text limiting what could be thought of as my engagement with a multi-dimensional text? Does my attraction to strictly text exemplify the dilemma that is occurring currently in the academy with resistance to expanding traditional notions of the humanities?

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One Response to Graphs Maps and Trees

  1. Daniel Terry says:

    The reminded me of an article I read recently about children’s books and maps (and how the best books had maps). I remember maps being much more common in children’s books than in “adult” books. Maybe we were just trained out of using maps as we learned to read text more efficiently?

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