Monday, January 02, 2006
Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees: A Valve Book Event
On January 11, we will begin posting a series of short essays and comments on Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees, an event similar to those past on Theory’s Empire and The Literary Wittgenstein. Several Valve regulars will contribute, and we also hope to have pieces from Cosma Shalizi and Scott McLemee. Anyone who has read or would like to read Moretti’s book and/or the essays in the NLR from which it is drawn and who has an idea for a guest-post for the event is welcome to contact me with a proposal. Before too long, we hope to be able to make PDFs of Moretti’s NLR articles available to interested readers for a limited time.
Franco Moretti is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Stanford and also the author of Signs Taken for Wonders, The Way of the World, Modern Epic, and Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900. Graphs, Maps, Trees is an ambitious work, seeking to “delineate a transformation in the study of literature” through “a shift from close reading of individual texts to the construction of abstract models.” These models come from quantitative history, geography, and evolutionary theory, areas which Moretti suggests have had little interaction with literary criticism, “but which have many things to teach us, and may change the way that we work.”
Explanation before interpretation, a materialist conception of form, and “a total indiffierence to the philosophizing that goes by the name of ‘Theory’ in literature departments,” which should be “forgotten, and replaced with the extraordinary array of conceptual constructions--theories, plural, and with a lower case ‘t’--developed by the natural and by the social sciences” are what Moretti proposes for a “more rational literary history.” We’ll review Moretti’s evidence and arguments and speculate about what they mean for literary studies as a whole (and their likely degree of acceptance). Previous discussions of Moretti’s work include Bill Benzon’s “Signposts for a Naturalist Criticism" and Timothy Burke’s “Franco Moretti: A Quantitative Turn for Cultural History?"
Scott’s IHE review is already up.
And we hope to have more.
There’s an article on Moretti in n+1 issue #3, which is sadly not available online.
And it’s a good ‘un, too, Adam. (I read it after drafting my own piece, and felt a bit dismayed.)
I asked Marco Roth if it might be put online at least while our little festival is going on, but haven’t heard a definite yes or no yet—it might be hard to contact the author and all the editors in time given the holiday season....
Here’s a brief interview at agglutinations.com:
And there is an interesting little article by one Paul Ford, here:
Here’s a passage from the article:
And there are really only two places to go: in, or up.
Mark Turner is someone who’s gone in. His project fuses cognitive theories with a theory of narrative, as in The Literary Mind, where he mingles metaphor, story, and cognition. The Turner project is interesting because it has an endpoint: that is, if we ever develop an absolute science of cognition, and can account for and explain every synapse firing, Turner’s theories can be proven to work, or not work. They’re grounded in the idea of the brain as a story-processing machine, primarily based on the work of linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, and could be, one imagines, empirically tested, where the concept of differance is something that must be taken on faith.
Moretti, on the other hand, is going up. He’s jumped into a critical airplane and is flying far above the academic landscape. Sentences are invisible to him; books look like ants, points on a graph. Rather than focusing on the texts that cultures prop up, he seeks to investigate all the books, as a set, and creating a Venn diagram where author gender, chronology, geography, the quantity of books, and genre overlap and intermingle.
Business Line from the Hindu group:
Moretti on the movies:
While some say that all the world loves a good story, as cultural theorist Franco Moretti discovers in this provocative essay reprinted from New Left Review, that’s not necessarily true. Mapping the limits of Hollywood hegemony, Moretti examines the cultural assumptions that govern international film distribution.
Introduction by James Schamus.
I just got word that n+1 will be putting Elif Batuman’s very interesting take on Moretti’s book online next week. Thanks, Elif & Co.!
It’s up now:
I don’t suppose anyone’s been tracking the sales of Moretti’s book at Amazon to see if this event is having any effect in the marketplace.
Today, 24 Jan, at 9AM Eastern time, it’s ranked 38,329. Yesterday it was ranked 39,571, though Amazon doesn’t tell us at what time that was the ranking.
8:44 AM Eastern time, 25 Jan: GMT now ranks 61,136.
This probably means that no copies were sold yesterday, so a pile of books moved ahead of GMT in the rankings.
6:55 AM Eastern time, 26 Jan:
I assume the folks at NRL know how many people have taken advantage of the free downloads. It’s be interesting to see those numbers along with the download dates.
6:13 AM Eastern time, 26 Jan: 78,583
Of course, people who find out about GMT through this symposium don’t have to buy the good. They can download it for free. For awhile.
Wish someone had thought to track GMT sales from the beginning of January.
9:07 AM Eastern time, 27 Jan: 35,042
The link below goes to the Rivista de Filologia Cognitiva, “and open-access online journal devoted to cognitive philology.” It has at least two articles that are directly relevant to Moretti’s trees. I don’t know about the others, because they’re in Italian—no problem for Moretti, but one for me. Still, some of these titles are suggestive:
SELEZIONISMO E CONJOINTURE
METRICA E MEMORIA
LA SCIENZA ORALE ARABA
* * * * *
12:58 PM Eastern time, 29 Jan: 70,436
5:37 AM Eastern time, 1 Feb: 65,868