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New Left Review 68, March-April 2011


franco moretti

NETWORK THEORY, PLOT ANALYSIS

In the last few years, literary studies have experienced what we could call the rise of quantitative evidence. This had happened before of course, without producing lasting effects, but this time it is probably going to be different, because this time we have digital databases and automated data retrieval. As a recent article in Science on ‘Culturomics’ made clear, the width of the corpus and the speed of the search have increased beyond all expectations: today, we can replicate in a few minutes investigations that took a giant like Leo Spitzer months and years of work. [1] Jean-Baptiste Michel, Erez Lieberman Aiden et al., ‘Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books’, Science, December 2010. When it comes to phenomena of language and style, we can do things that previous generations could only dream of.

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