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Looking at Magazines: Marsden Networks (part 2)

Part 2:  Author Networks in the Marsden Magazines           

In part 1, I suggested that in order to really get a handle on The Egoist or even an article published in it, we should attend to the social nature of the magazine, which entails more than reading, for what the act of reading misses is some of the other work magazines do, namely, creating networks of authors, texts, media, readers, ideas, genres, and practices.  While we might no longer be able to appreciate the size and feel of the paper The New Freewoman was printed on when we look at it on-screen, the data that the Modernist Journals Project and similar sites generate in the process of digitizing magazines provide the raw materials for visualizing and analyzing components of magazines that cannot be immediately grasped by looking at a single issue but which are as material as the page layout of a magazine and as essential, if not more so, to defining a magazine’s character.  I am talking about the kinds of aggregate qualities Mark just ran through as well as networks of authors who appear together in the same issue and across many issues.  The big idea I’m exploring in my work these days is that it is out of these networks, created in the pages of magazines much as networks are made today on Twitter and Facebook, that people in the Teens, Twenties, and Thirties formed their ideas of what modernism was.

I am far from being the first person to talk about the significance of networks in modernism.  Indeed, network has become a favorite metaphor in literary studies of late, for the concept resonates with the discipline’s shift away from an author-centered literary criticism toward one interested in the collaborative and social contexts of production, circulation, and consumption.  Consider these passages:

¨Networks of artists and writers sympathetic to the aims of modern art formed in various parts of the world, whether on the Left Bank in Paris, around the British Museum in Bloomsbury in London, in Harlem or on Fifth Avenue in New York.”
 –Pericles Lewis, Cambridge Introduction to Modernism
¨[Modernist] aesthetic activity [belongs] within a network of activities:  making, exhibiting, reading, debating, viewing, reviewing.”
–Michael Levenson, Modernism
¨In England, this outbreak of modernist experiment influenced a loosely interrelated network of groups and individuals, many of them based in London.”
–Norton Anthology of English Literature website

What you won’t find in these or the vast majority of works of criticism that claim modernism was a particularly networked phenomenon is any consideration of the actual networks of modernism, and you certainly won’t find any network analysis.  Too often, however, a metaphor is all we get

But then what is network analysis?

A network is a structure of relationships among entities.  These entities, or nodes, are linked along edges, which represent some form of relationship.  You could, for instance, create a network of swine flu virus sufferers who were linked by passing the infection on or a network of friends on Facebook.  Network analysis graphs these relationships in order to perform a holistic analysis of the structure.  Here is one kind of network that existed within the Bloomsbury Group.

Can you guess what the connections are?  I have relied on a cursory survey of Internet sources for my data, and I’m sure that there are people  who are much more knowledgeable about the sexual life of Bloomsbury, so please let me know about my errors.  But how to read the graph? Continue reading

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MagMods Essay Club: Franco Moretti and the Prospects of Social Network Analysis for Literary Studies

Ok, “essay club” doesn’t have quite the ring that “book club” has, but we hope you get the idea.  Four Magazine Modernisms contributors are going to be posting several responses to Franco Moretti’s “Network Theory, Plot Analysis” (click title to get the essay) over the next week, and we invite all readers to jump in with their own comments.  *Professor Moretti has generously agreed to reply to the posts after they’ve been posted.*

Moretti’s essay uses social network analysis (SNA) to chart the relationships among the characters in Hamlet and, among other things, examine plot as a spatial phenomenon and not, as is typically thought, just a temporal one.   What’s SNA?  It’s a methodology, developed by sociologists,  for analyzing  the structures of relations between individuals in groups.  SNA typically graphs these relations (aka edges or ties) between individuals (aka nodes) in order to view their structure holistically, since it is that structure that in part determines the identity, attributes, and opportunities of individual nodes.  A quick Google search will show you a lot of diagrams of people’s Twitter and Facebook networks.  Here, for instance, is a map (made by Marc Smith), of the connections among the Twitter users who recently tweeted the words #rw2011 on April 28, 2011.  The National Security Agency has used SNA to study the records of millions of tapped phone calls in order to locate terrorist networks.  Epidemiologists have used it to trace the spread of disease.  The artist Mark Lombardi fused SNA, Sol LeWitt, and Cy Twombly (“these are a few  of my favorite things . . .”) in order to expose networks within and between corporate boards and governments.  If you’ve ever played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon you’ve basically played around with social networks.

Literary studies has not done a great deal with SNA.  One notable exception is Bonnie Kime Scott’s map of modernism in The Gender of Modernism, although she wasn’t working formally with network theory–which is why the important notion of centrality (more in my post tomorrow) is absent from the diagram.

Scott’s diagram suggests that in order to get a better grasp of what modernism was, we need to expand our purview beyond the ten or so figures we tend to focus on in modernist studies.  I’d add on that we needn’t limit ourselves to authors or even individuals.  Nodes don’t have to be humans, and edge relations can take lots of forms.  We might fruitfully use the methodology to look at characters, genres, publishing houses, periodicals, and even themes in the literary field.  Moretti’s essay, which is not at all about modernism, provides us  an opportunity to think about the prospects of SNA for studying magazine modernism over the next week.  We’ll be taking up this issue again at a roundtable at the Modernist Studies Association meeting (3:30 on Friday October 7) in Buffalo in October, so come by if you’ll be there.

Read the essay.  Comment below.  How can you imagine using SNA to study modernism, magazines, and literature?  And please add your comments to our responses, which will be about Moretti’s essay, about SNA, about Digital Humanities, and, of course, about what any of these things have to do with magazines and modernism.