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Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History Hardcover – July 17, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 119 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (July 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844670260
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844670260
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,525,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Mr. Moretti makes his most forceful case yet for his approach, a heretical blend of quantitative history, geography and evolutionary theory.”—New York Times

About the Author

Franco Moretti teaches English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is the author of Signs Taken for Wonders, The Way of the World and Modern Epic, all from Verso.

Alberto Piazza is Professor Human Genetics at the Medical School of Turin University. He is a co-author of the History and Geography of Human Genes.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Joe Omalley on January 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Moretti uses diagrams as a way of investigating literary history. He is pretty succesful considering the difficulty of the task.

The important part of the book is the diagrams. Moretti wisely admits that his commentary is secondary; supersedable with better later interpretations.

The best diagrams are in the "graph" section. His graph of the number of books published per year at the begining of the book trade in countries like Britian, Japan, and Nigeria does seem to show a similarly shaped ramp up at different historical periods; and his discussion of the effect of the number of books published on readers is good. His diagram showing the numbers of books published in England in the epistolary, gothic, historical genres does show these genres as effectively replacements for one another in the market; the next genre rising as the last genre fades. The diagram showing the percentage of male and female authors is interesting. Unfortunately, that graph doesn't use a five year running average like some of his other graphs so his discussion of a pattern of "oscillation" is unpersuasive. It is probably just random "noise".

The diagrams in the "map" section would be improved if Moretti returned to his previous practice of showing the underlying geographic features.

The best diagram in the "tree" section is the diagram that shows the development of concept of the "clue" in detective stories. The diagrams in this section are inspired by diagrams of relatedness shown by genetic drift among human populations, as shown in the important book "The History and Geography of Human Genes".
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas F. Glick on August 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Moretti has added a completely novel dimension to literary history, which traditionally has addressed only individual works, but never broader trends. If literary scholars don't recognize this terrain and why it is important, sociologists of knowledge certainly will. Graphs on the growth of production of novels, for example, reveal the characteristic curves of innovation diffusion. Aggregate quantitative results open the way for solider explanations of the relationship between literature and its ambient socities.
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10 of 17 people found the following review helpful By MK_DW on November 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Nice attempt to approach literature with scientific methodology, which is like a breath of fresh air in the current irrational climate of literary theory. But the book is very strangely organized: there are three chapters, about graphs, maps, and trees! It's like writing a physics book called "Equations, diagrams, curves". With a chapter for each, without regard for the natural, substantive subdivisions in the field. Or it would be like organizing a library of books by size rather than subject. Science isn't about nice graphs, but about making hypotheses and testing them on data. FM simply makes a graph, chart, or tree, and comments on it. Commendable attempt. But a modest beginning. And an annoying manner to write without verbs.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Keane on September 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book proposes an entirely different approach to literature. Where criticism and study have traditionally focused on a single work or collection of works, Moretti's provocative thesis suggests studying hundreds or even thousands of books, and by no means restricting the field to the accepted canon; rather, he offers a critical framework based on cartographic priciples, and argues persuasively that this method will yield far more interesting results. This book will probably become standard reading in English college courses, especially ones dealing with literary criticism and theory, but it is really essential for anyone who is interested in literature, and new ways of thinking about it.
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6 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Graphs Maps Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary Theory is a bold and revolutionary approach to literary scholarship. Stanford University literature teacher Franco Moretti argues passionately that for too long, those who study literature have restricted themselves to a narrow handful of canon texts, thus allowing their view of literary history to be terribly distorted by a skewed sample base. Instead, Moretti claims, the discipline should start charting, graphing, and mapping themes and trends of larger literature samples, in order to systematically reveal trends and a larger picture. Drawing heavily on research and seamlessly blending the critical objectivity of mathematics with more traditional forms of literary evaluation, Graphs Maps Trees is a breath of fresh air and enthusiastically recommended for college literary studies and reference shelves, due to its daring challenge to the status quo.
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