Franco Moretti: Graphs Maps Trees

Moretti’s Graphs Maps Trees opens the door to endless possibilities. I really enjoyed it because it discusses the very things I have always found to be missing in literary criticism. Although the field is largely based on close reading, why can’t we explore the myriad of historical, social, and political contexts of a book through data collection? Better analysis of these aspects would actually greatly enrich any book. Such cataloging and investigation into books also opens up literature to more than just the “canons” as Moretti states. The interdisciplinary nature of his book is perhaps what frightens the traditional literary field, but it is precisely this reason that his ideas are so novel and exciting.

One of the things I thought of as reading this book was that it would interesting to see data on literary criticism. That too, is highly representative of society and culture and would be a nice supplement to a data analysis of books from that era. For example, literary criticism on The Tempest has changed drastically over time, and each criticism speaks to its time period. This is one of many ideas and like I said, the possibilities are endless.

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2 Responses to Franco Moretti: Graphs Maps Trees

  1. Both of you ladies make invaluable observations. Sameen you are absolutely right when you imply that Moretti’s attention to distance reading, rather than the traditional close reading, opens up new possibilities for literary criticism. This could make such a huge impact on the discourse over any point and time in history. You, Roxanne and I see alike regarding the interdisciplinary nature of Moretti’s book and how this may disturb the traditional literary field or any field that hopes to remain autonomous.

    For some reason I keep thinking about this type of research and the topic of music and how music lyrics could also be seen as a subject of research using the same principals and practices Morretti speaks of. One could see how historic events, social and political could also impact music and thus the criticism that would be born of that. I see how distance reading (or listening in the case of music) could change the canon we have been accustomed to, reaching further and including obscure indie artist (in music) or small town writers whose work may be reflective of a national discourse that had previously gone unnoticed or was thought to have little impact. Our classmate Daniel Terry made an interesting observation about search patterns on our blog which oddly also made me think about music (don’t know why I have music on the brain rather than literature), I urge you ladies to read.

  2. Yes! I thought this was an amazing book, and it was precisely because of its focus on what’s “missing,” as you say. Not only does he have beautiful prose, but he leads us to place a text in its social and political context, which is my natural starting point. I fear that in class I may have come off as dismissive of the impact of this book; I don’t doubt that it’s revolutionary in literary history, I just come from a standpoint where that is expected (much like Prof. Brier).

    Of course, as MALS students I suppose it should be a given that we will be oriented towards interdisciplinarity…

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