Trees and information

As the chapter states in the beginning maps and graphs attempt to measure more quantitative data as opposed to trees more qualitative data. And yet maps can still be skewed by a cartographer’s bias in gauging two locations distance on the visual representation of the map. Graphs usually are the most objective of the three since they rely on scales and pure numbers and mathematics then the other two. When it comes to trees though how is the decision made of which branch is related to which one more? When it comes to the highly subjective nature of interpreting literature the answer gets muddier.

Franco Moretti mentions this in his trees chapter of “Graphs, Maps and Trees” with his mention of “objective” and “subjective” trees. And I see how the distinction could be made as I suppose you could make associations between something like genres with cataloguing keywords that are often used within a genre. But that method could be hardly called objective since the criterion for such an evaluation would almost certainly have to be arbitrary. I suppose given the nature of genres as largely arbitrary and literature’s nature as subjective, measuring more metaphysical things as genres will always be to some extent approximations rather than cold hard objective statements.

I wonder if such a thing as a completely objective tree could exist? A objective graph and for the most a part a fairly subjective map could used using mathematics. I think the distinction lies within that element. For the most part as far as my knowledge extends, most trees do not make use of formulas and data and the ones that do don’t really have hard criterions to make evaluations with. Though I’m sure some do, the ones that I have seen such as the ones in Franco Moretti’s “Graphs, Maps and Trees” don’t really let the reader in on their methodology either. Of course I am not implying that trees are a inherently inferior way of categorizing informatino just that the deficiencies built into the tree method are interesting to think about


I find this section to be quite interesting and pretty user friendly for the reader. Moretti uses “trees” as a way to categorize and break down certain evolutionary  literary studies over time, or in other words “systematically correlated with form”. (69) I like the idea of  the “detective fiction” because it’s a clever and fun way to attract readers to a novel, and help them critically think about all the obvious and not so obvious clues given within the plot. The idea of a tree diagram becomes very useful for readers because it makes an easy to follow pattern connecting other similar works together. I’d like to look at it as a “family tree”.  It allows things to connect to other things that have similarities. Lets take the idea of a fair tale for instance. Each cliche story would include a damsel in distress, a handsome prince, villain, and magic for instance. These things could be tracked in a form of a tree to make it categorized in a very specific way that stands out from the rest of genres of stories/novels.

I think that this for of categorization is very useful and intriguing to the reader. It gives readers a good and clear picture of certain genres for instance and the common bonds they all share. It is also good for giving dates of works over time to create and evolutionary chart that will keep expanding as time moves on. It is a fun way to make connections to things and help draw out an actual picture for the reader to understand.

trees and novels

Unlike graphs and maps, trees allow one to connect the dots in a novel and see the cause and effect of a certain action. Trees enable a reader to follow a plot and by doing so can be especially helpful when reading gothic novels or mysteries, as Moretti points out. These works of fiction use clues to drive the plot forward and the clues only work if they are made comprehendible to the reader. If the reader is unable to create a tree of some sort then it is easy to lose interest in the plot. The joy in reading a mystery like a gothic novel is the ability to figure out the ending along with the main character or detective. Typically, mysteries include the following elements: a detective, suspense, trial and error, piecing together clues, a crime, a misdirect, a calling card at the crime scene, and, lastly, the solving of the mystery and apprehension of the perpetrator. A tree diagram allows from these components to be diagramed in a useful manner. Tree diagrams can also be useful in distinguishing between novels of the same genre. Take for instance The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho. Both are gothic mysteries that take place in a castle and contain the typical gothic villain, a virtuous young woman, and a hero. However, this is where the similarities end and a tree diagram would be able to chart exactly where the differences begin.

Graphs, Maps, Trees

This book goes a much more into further detail of the topics covered in our last class discussion. It focuses on a much broader way to research literature over a humongous period of time. It also shows us the rise of novels throughout different countries around the world, including Britain, Japan, Italy, and Spain. It goes a little further into these divisions and subdivisions of genres, as they try to categorize them.

I found it extremely interesting that there were several downturns within literature due to politics. Political crisis had a lot to do with the way in which a novel is written. I would find this quite the opposite if I was a reader during a time of war and so on. I would actually find a novel more intriguing to read through the eyes of someone else, especially if they have an opposing view as mine. In modern day, we have social media to share our opinions on political views, now more than ever since we are having such an unorthodox election. As upset as people get, they still enjoy reading posts about the presidential candidates as a weird pleasure for themselves. I would assume this would be the same for someone reading a novel around the time of the Risorgimento War (pg 9) for instance.

I don’t have much of a question, but rather an observation that through these digital studies, we are able to really break down reading material into way we never thought possible. It is a very helpful tool to use because it lets you see works from all different types of angles. It also is very useful to make comparisons with novels from different countries, and analyze why one may have a great downfall than the other, by putting it all into a more mathematical term that could be understood a lot more clearly through graphing. The graphing also helps everyone see why certain categorizes for genres are made, and why there are ever sub categories a well. That’s very useful when examining a novel much more closely.

Novelistic Forms Throughout Time

Franco Moretti’s Graphs,Maps,Trees is a very interesting theoretical book about the historical aspects of books,genres and, history in the graphs section of the book. What I observed from this section of the book was the graphs illustrated where all  different from one another. Figure 1 was based on the rise of the novel throughout history throughout different countries. What I found interesting was that Britain and Japan were similarly graphed but different from Italy and Spain who were similar as well. Nigeria on the graph was not in relation to any other countries and was off to the side. This graph was of great importance in the chapter because literary history is shown in this chart.  I feel that although there are many questions as to why history reflects novels and their genres is interesting and complex. What is focused on in the section is the similarities and differences between different countries and the production of novels, the genre types that appear during certain time periods, as well as the rise and fall of certain genres as well as authors. Although there are many questions still left unanswered about these changes in history, there is a graph to show factual proof that there are changes occurring, which can be the beginning of a way of analyzing the data in a more coherent manner. What I  observed that was interesting is the history of the British genre forms in the 1800’s (the gothic). I am currently in a gothic/horror class and have read some of the gothic horror books that were mentioned in this chapter. The gothic genre takes over the epistolary genre and the historical genre takes over the gothic genre in history. Novels such as The Castle of Ottanto and Pamela took over the gothic genre but, it is explained that a change in genre occurs over time because it starts to die out and become less popular because new gernes are evolving and books such as The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that is a realist text that can diminish the gothic novel because it is taken over by  realistic/scientific factual ideas in history. But, the end of one genre and the start of another does not mean that the previous genre will not return again. I believe that history is repeated and regenerated time and time again. The gothic genre for example comes back in history in a new way that is remade to be different than the gothic genre from the past. The study of graphs in this chapter are not only  “theoretical explanations for a theory but of a whole family of novelistic forms throughout time. (p.30)” I thought that this quote in the end of the chapter gave a conclusion as to what the chapter was trying to get through to the reader in simple terms. I felt that the graphs not only represented novels throughout history but also change in genres, authors, time period, accessibility of novels, and the rise and falls of genres throughout history.