Patterns and Interpretation in Visualizing Literary Work…

As much as I enjoyed visualizing Frankenstein and other novels with the help of a computer, I still feel like those images are vague to the reader. Why? Regardless of the quantity or the quality of the information in my visualization, it will not make comprehensible connections. When I take a look at my visualizations from Absalom! Absalom! and Frankenstein, I see that they are filled up with words. However, what I tried to convey in these images is the connection between the words  and their meanings which should enhance our understanding of the literary works. However, these images are vague without further explanation of how they fit into the story as a whole.

Seeking for resolutions, I have the answers for that issue in “Literary lab: Patterns and Interpretation” by Franco Moretti. The article explains why visualizing literature is not efficient: “it challenges the literature’s abstract patterns, interpretation, explanations of form and history, and noise.” In spite of well-organized abbreviated patterns in the literary charts, Moretti claims that these images appeared chaotically to the audience because it discharged a major element “the correlations”. He argues that there is no way to get the gist of a novel from its list of individual components (Moretti 2). In order to make sense of these components, they must be followed up with their narratives sentence. Moretti explains in “Patterns and Interpretation” why I cannot articulate literary analysis in charts: “What is at stake is not reading, it’s the continuity between reading and (a certain kind of) knowledge.” (Moretti 2). He points out the difficulty of reading facts from a visualized text and relating it to the text itself.

First, the author finds reading abstracted figures of a digital? text puzzling and meaningless. Moretti criticizes literary visualization because it deals with single words on the text which leave us with the calculations of the words in the text. Nevertheless, in reading diagrams, words ratio of a text impacts our concept of that text. For example, without reading Frankenstein we might misinterpret the concept of the horror images in the novel just by collecting computationally the words “Murder” and “Creature,” where there is more analysis into it. The writer also “challenges computational criticism” not only for changing the meaning of the object, it presents unsequenced events that misconceive the meaning of the novel in general (3). He supports his argument about “computational criticism” with the fact that it encounters the foundation of a literary text which is “communicative events”, or it cannot narrate these events in which it relevant to.

Second, Moretti debates the objectivity of repetition of patterns in literary figures. He supports his argument in two views; syntactic view and semantic view. Syntactically, he explains how patterns misrepresent 19-century literature since the sentence style of that era uses both dependent clauses and independent clauses. Patterns work on dividing these sentences which results in semantic loss (2). Patterns miss the sentence basic “sequence”, and therefore, it remains with no meaning. Moretti added “patterns are real, but never perfect” (3).

Finally, Moretti reveals that computational criticism affects our interpretation of a text. Simply, because it subjective. He points out that our responsive thoughts of words on literary figure differs, thereby, we grasp the wrong meaning. Moretti derives the multi-interpretations of the text from Schleiermacher, arguing that we have to be “aware that our reflection on meaning may take two very different directions: dictionary meaning, or meaning-in-context” (Moretti 6). To avoid text misinterpretations, Schleiermacher claims that we must study meaning of the words individually and in relation to the text .

To sum up with Moretti’s critiques of computational criticism, I must highlight his comparison between science figures and the literary ones. He argues that in visualizing literary texts with the help of computers, we are missing elements such theories, models, and explanations. Digital humanities are required to create common key words and then use them officially in visualizing literary work.    

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