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GRAPHS, MAPS, TREES
Abstract Models for Literary History—3
Trees; evolutionary theory. They come last, in this series of essays, but were really the beginning, as my Marxist formation, influenced by DellaVolpe and his school, entailed a great respect (in principle, at least) for the methods of the natural sciences.  The first two essays in this series, on ‘Graphs’ and ‘Maps’, appeared respectively in nlr 24, November–December 2003 and nlr 26, March–April 2004. So, at some point I began to study evolutionary theory, and eventually realized that it opened a unique perspective on that key issue of literary study which is the interplay between history and form. Theories of form are usually blind to history, and historical work blind to form; but in evolution, morphology and history are really the two sides of the same coin. Or perhaps, one should say, they are the two dimensions of the same tree.
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- Kenta Tsuda: Academicians of Lagado? Vast claims have been made for the application of Darwinian concepts—purged of biological determinism—to the study of societies. Kenta Tsuda offers a penetrating and original critique of selection theory, finding a paradigm with limited explanatory value and shaky conceptual foundations.
- Christopher Prendergast: Evolution and Literary History A landmark engagement with Franco Moretti’s triptych of essays, Graphs, Maps, Trees. What forms of logic underpin the use of evolutionary models to lay bare the survival strategies of the detective story, or trace the mutations of a border-hopping stylistic technique? And what political implications follow from basing an account of literary history on the outcome of the market?
- 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?