Category Archives: Reading

Why networks?

While putting together my logic for why social networks make good models for ekphrasis, I find that it’s important to always keep the instabilities of that decision close at hand.  Working with networks in the humanities seems promising, but there’s also good reason for skepticism… a point that I think Elijah Meeks articulates quite well in his recent post “Hacking Networks in the Humanities.”  I just wish I could go to the THATCamp where he introduces Gephi.


The introduction to my project begins to lay out a new way to model ekphrasis.  Perhaps one of the most significant contributions to the study of textual representations of visual art is W.J.T. Mitchell’s essay “Ekphrasis and the other” which fashions a model to describe how ekphrasis works.  Mitchell explains that the canon of ekphrasis can be defined by three irreducible participants: the poem, the visual object, and the reader.  These three participants form what has come to be called the “ekphrastic triangle.”  As he continues, Mitchell situates this triangular relationship within a social and historical context.

My work reconsiders the triangle in light of what we know about “network theory.”  Rather than limiting the number of relationships, I describe a flexible, manipulable model that can expand or contract based on the language of the poem.  In the process, I am on the lookout for articles about model-making in literary studies.  Today’s is Willard McCarty’s “Knowing…: Modeling in Literary Studies” found in A Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth.