From: William Benzon (email@example.com)
Date: Fri 06 Feb 2004 - 20:58:56 GMT
Stanford's Franco Moretti has recently published the first in a series of
three articles on the cultural evolution of the novel. He doesn't use that
term -- evolution -- but that's what he's looking at. And he has data too,
lots of it.
-- William L. Benzon 708 Jersey Avenue, Apt. 2A Jersey City, NJ 07302 201 217-1010 "You won't get a wild heroic ride to heaven on pretty little sounds."--George Ives Mind-Culture Coevolution: http://asweknowit.ca/evcult/ * * * * * * GRAPHS, MAPS, TREES Abstract Models for Literary History1 What follows is the first of three interconnected articles, whose common purpose is to delineate a transformation in the study of literature. Literature, the old territory; but within it, a shift from the close reading of individual texts to the construction of abstract models. The models are drawn from three disciplinesquantitative history, geography and evolutionary theory: graphs, maps and treeswith which literary criticism has had little or no interaction; but which have many things to teach us, and may change the way we work.  I The old historical paradigm, writes Krzysztof Pomian, directed the gaze of the historian towards extraordinary events . . . historians resembled collectors: both gathered only rare and curious objects, disregarding whatever looked banal, everyday, normalı.  What changed the situation, Pomian goes on, was the shift from exceptional events to the large mass of factsı introduced by the Annales school, and the present article tries to imagine what would happen if we, too, shifted our focus from exceptional texts to the large mass of [literary] factsı. Itıs an idea that occurred to me some years ago, when the study of national bibliographies made me realize what a minimal fraction of the literary field we all work on: a canon of two hundred novels, for instance, sounds very large for nineteenth-century Britain (and is much larger than the current one), but is still less than one per cent of the novels that were actually published: twenty thousand, thirty, more, no one really knowsand close reading wonıt help here, a novel a day every day of the year would take a century or so . . . And then, a field this large cannot be understood by stitching together separate bits of knowledge about individual cases, because it isnıt a sum of individual cases: itıs a collective system, that should be grasped as such, as a wholeand the graphs that follow are one way to begin doing this. Or as Fernand Braudel put it in the lecture on history he gave to his companions in the German prison camp near Lübeck: An incredible number of dice, always rolling, dominate and determine each individual existence: uncertainty, then, in the realm of individual history; but in that of collective history . . . simplicity and consistency. History is indeed a poor little conjectural scienceı when it selects individuals as its objects . . . but much more rational in its procedures and results, when it examines groups and repetitions.  A more rational literary history. That is the idea. Full text: http://www.newleftreview.net/Issue24.asp?Article=05 =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit
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