What do the obituaries in Manhattan’s leading daily tell us about the nervous system of America’s liberal democracy? The filters and foibles of the success story as a grid for social memory.
NEW YORK TIMES OBITUARIES
If you go to New York, chances are that you will read the New York Times, that is to say one of the most overrated papers on earth. But don’t miss its truly great page: the Obituaries. It’s the only section I read every day, because I admire the intention that animates it: to remember. And to do so on a large scale, five, six, eight short biographies per day. Compared to Italian newspapers, which devote a very large space to very few people, the Obits have an open, ‘democratic’ feel: lots of people, of many kinds, and most of them not at all famous. Reading their stories, you are reminded that society is made of different worlds and temporalities: where the 36-year-old choreographer who has just put on his first Broadway show appears next to the 101-year-old man who had fought in ‘Palestine’, against the Turks, in the Jewish battalion of the British army.
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Flexible morality and capitalist imperatives of the bourgeois fin-de-siècle, as captured in the obscure misdeeds of Ibsen’s protagonists.
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Franco Moretti responds to criticisms of his quantative approach to literary history, from Christopher Prendergast and Roberto Schwarz. Origins, upshots—and potential limitations?—of the abstract models developed in Graphs, Maps, Trees.
Graphs, Maps, Trees - 3
After ‘graphs’ and ‘maps’, trees: can evolutionary theory help pattern the transformation of cultural forms and divergence of genres, through time and space? Franco Moretti’s final essay on abstract models for literary history.
Graphs, Maps, Trees - 2
After ‘Graphs’ (see NLR 24), maps: geography, or social geometry? Literary spaces plotted as competing fields for industrialization, peasant rebellion, state formation. The second of Moretti’s three essays conceptualizing patterns of genre and history, form and force.
Graphs, Maps, Trees - 1
The first of three essays setting out to demonstrate the power of abstract models to revolutionize our understanding of literary history. What do the quantitative curves of novel production tell us about the interplay of markets, politics, sexes, generations, in the life and death of literary forms?
Replying to critics of his ‘Conjectures on World Literature’ (NLR 1), Franco Moretti considers the objections to a world-systems theory of the relations between centre and periphery in the sphere of the novel or poetry, and proposes some new hypotheses about the morphology of forms and the politics of comparative literary studies.
The American film industry dominates world markets as never before. What is the geography of its grip on popular imaginations? Franco Moretti draws an international map of action films, comedies, children’s movies, dramas, with some intriguing results.