A Blog Seminar on Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees

Over at the Valve, a book event:

[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.”