Franco Moretti’s response to essays by myself, James Stephen Murphy, and Matthew Huculak is now available at the Magazine Modernisms blog. Moretti’s entry reposits or restates questions raised in our earlier posts about his Pamphlet 2 Network Theory, Plot Analysis and responds to them. Perhaps my favorite moment in his response is in question 6, when he explains, “A framework that agrees with previous findings … As Lisa puts it, if network theory hadn’t found Hamlet at the center of Hamlet, it would be in trouble. But this very “agreement” with already established [and/or theorized] data makes the introduction of new theories in an old field slightly paradoxical, as they should both confirm what we know, and yet change it [otherwise, what’s the point]. What form this may concretely take, is something I will return to in detail sometime in the future.” It’s not just my favorite because he agrees with me either. This is almost precisely what I have come to network theory for in my own research–“to confirm what we know and change it.” The “otherwise, what’s the point” aspect of his comment remains a focal point of many of our discussions about computational analysis of literary texts, but some might have said the same thing of, say, the personal computer in the early 1960s. (The image below is the Honeywell Kitchen Computer, complete with “cutting board,” since “recipes” were seen to be one of the most likely uses of the personal computer in the home. (Image from http://www.blinkenlights.com/pc.shtml)
My response, “A Method to the Model: Responding to Franco Moretti’s Network Theory, Plot Analysis” has been published at the Magazine Modernisms blog. My response along with James Stephen Murphy’s and Matt Huculak’s set the stage for our upcoming roundtable “Social Network Analysis and the Databases of Modernism” at MSA13.