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.    

Map the invisibility in Absalom! Absalom! …


I remember when I saw the map of Yoknapatawpha County in Absalom! Absalom! by Faulkner; using this map I was able to find where and why these themes occur. Eventually, I ended up creating my literary map. This novel has taken me to this imaginary county and made me visualize the events that happened in the novel. However, after reading Maps by Morretti, I think that maps can go beyond geography in the literary works. I can visualize a map about pretty much everything in a novel, as it’s another way to analyze a certain aspect deeply in a literary text. It is not just a map of a place, it can describe the relation between characters, the distance between those characters, and the connection of the social-economic elements of that place in that time.  For example, mapping relationships between the characters Absalom! Absalom! and what affect them? Or whether the distance between them has affected the communication? Moretti points out how mapping elements such as material or space is not materialist nor geographic, but the literary map can actually show us the social, economic, and faith factors that is a part of this “system of geography.” By linking all these details, I can analyze Absalom! Absalom! visually and therefore, more easily. In Faulkner’s novel, the county was totally imaginary, however it is a duplication of events in Lafayette county, Mississippi during slavery in United States. `in mapping this county, I can link the social, economic factors that influenced both counties and what both factors meant to serve.


By using MindView application, I want to compare how plantation had served as an economic factor to Lafayette county while it served as theme in Yoknapatawpha County. This mind view layout should help students link the purpose of these factors in regard of socio-economic necessity and how it reflected on the society. When student study this novel, they will understand what the outcomes of these aspects and how it been developed as literary themes in the novel; moreover, they can refer to the geographical historical elements related to U.S. history.

  Absalom! Absalom! Absalom! Absalom!

    It is quality of connections that maps can show. connecting what had affected this imaginative county and the actual one could be hard specially in Absalom! Absalom! It is complicated novel with advanced language can prevent students from reaching this connection, which can definitely enhance their understanding from literature and social perspectives. This detailed information can be misunderstood or ignored by students when they are studying fictional readings. Morretti emphasizes the importance of mapping as “a good way to prepare a text for analysis.” The way that map can give the students/readers a view distance that can synthesize a particular view in a particular subject.   


Visualizing knowledge in Frankenstein!

When I found out that we would study Frankenstein for this course, I thought that we should study new trending literary work that interests this generation in order to highlight the importance of digitalizing humanities. Thus, I thought that Frankenstein would be too dated for this generation of readers. Due to advancements in technology in which our ideas, our interests, and our language have changed accordingly, Frankenstein seems to lack modern words and themes, such as science and consciousness. Surprisingly, I have found reading Frankenstein pleasurable, as it implies interesting story themes that are still debated today; for example, battle between fate and science, and the words that is usable in our daily life like electricity. Frankenstein is a Romantic novel by all means. This was very obvious to me from the beginning. The novel has Romantic language, passive voice of women, and natural influences; however, it debates ideas and questions of our life. In the book Graphs Maps Trees, Moretti emphasizes the three stages that govern the period 1710 to the 1850 are featured in the “social role of the novel” (P.7). Between 1820-1900, reading topics and novels such as “nautical tales, sporting novels, school stories, mysteries” was viral (P.8). The fact that Frankenstein has almost included all these topics has arisen its popularity. More importantly, the similarity between Frankenstein’s topics and topics in novels published today are clearly the reason that makes Frankenstein a life time novel. However, what interests me the most is how Shelly developed themes like fate, conciseness, and science that are debatable to us. I was curious to envision what makes the eighteenth century novel Frankenstein sounds like novel of our time? I used Google Ngram to calculate the use of these term through the fluctuation of the time 1800-2000.
Google Ngram Viewer, new themes
As the graph shows the use of consciousness, fate, and science in books since 1800, I can see the correlation between these themes visually. Nevertheless, the way that these words ranged around 20%-70% in 1800 and all have increased 30%-90% evidences my claim. In the chart above, the increases of science and consciousness respectively shows the reflection of the science on the individuals and vice versa. On the contrary, fate decreases accordingly due to the growth of science and consciousness. Since the use of revolutionary tools people believe in their abilities that can come close to the Creator. By visualizing this graph, I think I can articulate my conclusion regarding these three themes. First, it has proven to me that in developing science in any society, individuals create internal consciousness that challenge their beliefs. Second, due to this conflict between internal beliefs and scientific facts, doubting fate is naturally predicted. I think it would be hard to structure these results; therefore, digitalizing and visualizing literary text is another way of studying humanity sciences. As Piazza said, “what follows is to lay these out as a contribution to an interdisciplinary discussion, in the conviction that literary writing can be construed as a system that is not bound by the particular instruments it has itself created, and is therefore capable of metabolizing metaphors and ambiguities belonging to several systems of knowledge. I will add that the system of scientific knowledge” (P.95).