Laurie Epps

Methodological Analysis #4

Lindsay Thomas

3 April 2016

Moretti’s Maps

Moretti has one major question to address:  “Do maps add anything, to our knowledge of literature?” (35) Can we as readers gather more or different information in a more geographic visual than we can in a linear diagram?  It’s an interesting proposition.  And although Moretti uses strange examples to prove a point, he seems to do so.

Using information gathered from Mary Mitford’s Our Village, Moretti suggests that when we make a mapped representation of the stories, everything changes.  It becomes a visual “solar system” of subjects circulating around the central village.  He shows evidence of relationships that are placed on rings outside the village where readers can see the varying distances of the subjects in relation to the actual small-town village.  This shift enables readers to a “’centred’ viewpoint of an unenclosed village.” (39) This open space shows the energy between subjects and the center village, which Moretti suggests “shows us that there is something that needs to be explained.” (39) If we envision dots on the rings, this suggests a relationship of nodes where there are obviously connections in the spaces between that need to be explored.

In Figure 19: Galt’s Annals of the Parish, Moretti shows us a linear diagram where space is also evident between places and occurrences but is not nearly as visual appealing to understanding any real connections.  This example is evidence that a linear figure does not allow the same interpretation as a circular one.  Moretti is giving evidence through his examples of what seems to best show connections in literature and spaces.  He is also suggesting that these connections are very important to the text storyline and can often be missed in a readable text.  That if we can see or make connections, there is an energy between those connections or nodes that we need to address and appreciate in order to best analyze a text.

Moretti then leads us into a discussion of geometry vs. geography and he mentions Italian geographer Claudio Cerreti to gain support in the argument that patterns become evident through geometry instead of geography.  He stresses that the importance lies in the distance between objects, “whether they are close or far from each other or from something else.” (54) This helps us better understand the previous maps and circular diagrams where the distance is evident but we can easily envision which is closest to what and where.  To best illustrate Cerreti’s argument about geometry, Moretti uses his “map of young protagonists of Parisian novels and their objects of desire” in Atlas. (54) With this diagram, we can see obvious clustered and more importantly see that the objects of desire are further away than the actual protagonists—a pattern of such.  The space between them is essential to the general understanding or an assumption we can make about loving something that we don’t have easy access to.

Further, Moretti asks us to consider the form of an object being a “diagram of forces.” (56) He refers to an author, Goethe, is reference to the work of D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form to illustrate this definition best.  “The structure in its final from is, as it were, the inner nucleus molded in various ways by the characteristics of the outer element . . . it is shaped from without as well as from within.” Looking back at Moretti’s examples of the circular diagram where we have the village in the center, this idea of forces is easily recognized and he makes his claim of using maps to a literary advantage.  We can gather much information from maps that we might not be able to access directly in a written text.  Using scholars that have studied space and relationships in literary maps, along with actual figures to analyze, Moretti’s methodology proves some useful information in how we see maps—to look at the space in-between and making connections we are unable to do with reading of a text.