Graphs, Maps, and Trees

I think it’s interesting what graphs, maps, and trees could do for the field of history, but I don’t “get” Graphs, Maps, and Trees. I was proud of myself for comprehending The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (after three reads) and reading the entirety of Making of the English Working Class (so much work I almost flipped from Left to Right [not really]) all in last semester. But I have no idea what Moretti is talking about 90% of the time. I like his thesis, I like his ideas (scattered as they are), but for someone who likes displaying data so much he seems awfully unorganized. Many paragraphs feature a topic sentence that is not supported by the body, and sometimes Moretti changes topics mid-paragraph. It looks like stream-of-consciousness writing, or the notes of some genius. It may be intriguing and mind-expanding stuff, but I think this topic (especially when applied to 21st Century tech) deserves a more concrete manifesto. At least for us historians. The English majors probably love this book and the weird feeling it gives of reading Finnegans Wake during a business meeting.

But maybe it’s, as one of our articles said, the result of being an Italian. Apparently Italians are trained in the philosophical arts even in primary school, so books like Graphs, Maps, Trees are less awkward reads. Maybe I’ll give the book another shot in Colorado or Washington state.


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