“Graphs” Digital Humanities?

In this section Franco Moretti showed a lot of research on how literature has changed over time.  He showed the number of novels written per year with different figures for different regions and showed how the genres overlapped.  The genres were interesting because of the overlap.  One genre would start falling in popularity just as another genre was emerging.  Moretti suggested a sort of generational activity behind the replacement of genres but didn’t seem to have a full theory on the matter.  I found this to be interesting research.  He sort of went behind the scenes and discussed the corelation between the novels and outside events that might have had an impact on them, displaying the novel’s place in the larger framework of history throughout the world.  It seems that there are internal and external factors affecting the timeline of novels.  Technology, wars, trade, materials, etc. all have an effect on the novel, its content, production, and distribution.  But there are also internal forces which changed the way people read, for example reading many texts once vs. reading many over and over again in great depth.  A lot of this work seemed like presenting and interpreting data, doing historical comparisons, and making conclusions, some of which seem larly speculative.

While I find this work interesting so far, I am not sure what to consider it.  Is this digital humanities?  It does seem to be a sort of macro analysis, but it all seems to be about numbers and data in terms of the life cycle of the novel in general without any analysis of content.  Is this the digital humanities of just the study of the progression of the life of the novel?  Considering it the latter is not to discredit the work in any way.  It might just be the foundation for digital humanities work in the ‘maps’ and ‘trees’ sections.  It might already be considered digital humanities, im not sure.

2 thoughts on ““Graphs” Digital Humanities?”

  1. At first I was solely focused on the external factors that cause a decline or rise in the reading of a novel, and the internal forces completely escaped my attention. “But there are also internal forces which changed the way people read, for example reading many texts once vs. reading many over and over again in great depth. ” Great insight! I can even relate this to my own choices in reading. For example, I have read Frankenstein twice now (both times assigned in a classroom), but I have willingly read Jane Eyre about seven, and still continue to pick it up from time to time.

    Shannen Coleman

  2. We touched on this in class briefly– how does a book being assigned reading in school affect its readership? Maybe you have willingly and happily read Jane Eyre seven times (by the way, good choice– one of my favorites too. I almost named my daughter Jane after Miss Eyre) but were you first introduced to it in a classroom (I was)? I’m not sure how we could find the data but I’d be interested to look at how a novel’s readers change over decades and centuries. Were the original readers of Jane Eyre similar to the population who might pick up a Dan Brown book at the airport today? Does anyone in 2016 read Jane Eyre for fun other than English majors?

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