- Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (2005):
“But within that old territory [of literature], a new object of study: instead of concrete, individual works, a trio of artificial constructs–graphs, maps, and trees–in which the reality of the text undergoes a process of deliberate reduction and abstraction. ‘Distant reading,’ I have once call this type of approach; where distance is however not an obstacle, but a specific form of knowledge: fewer elements, hence a sharper sense of their overall interconnection. Shapes, relations, structures. Forms. Models” (p. 1).
- Willard McCarty, Humanities Computing (2005):
“By ‘modelling’ I mean the heuristic process of constructing and manipulating models: a ‘model’ I take to be either a representation of something for purposes of study, or a design for realizing something new…. Two effects of computing sharpen the distinction between ‘concept’ on the one hand and the ‘model’ on the other: first, the computational demand for tractability, i.e. for complete explicitness and absolute consistency; second, the manipulability that a digital representation provides…. Take, for example, knowledge one might have of a particular concentration in a deeply familiar work of literature. In modelling one begins by privileging this knowledge, however wrong it might later turn out to be, then building a computational representation of it, e.g. by specifying a structured vocabulary of word-forms in a text-analysis tool. In the initial stages of use, this model would be almost certain to reveal trivial errors of omission and commission. Gradually, however, through perfective iteration trivial error is replaced by meaningful surprise . . . either by a success we cannot explain . . . or by a likewise inexplicable failure” (pp. 24, 25, 25-26)
- Lisa Samuels and Jerome J. McGann, “Deformance and Interpretation,” New Literary History 30, No. 1 (Winter, 1999):
“The usual object of interpretation is “meaning,” or some set of ideas that can be cast in thematic form. These meanings are sought in different ways: as though resident ‘in’ the work, or evoked through ‘reader-response,’ or deconstructable through a process that would reinstall a structure of intelligibility at a higher, more critical level…. In this paper we want to propose–or recall–another way of engaging imaginative work…. The alternative moves to break beyond conceptual analysis into the kinds of knowledge involved in performative operations–a practice of everyday imaginative life. We will argue that concept-based interpretation, reading along thematic lines, is itself best understood as a particular type of performative and rhetorical operation…. In an undated fragment on a leaf of stationery, Emily Dickinson wrote what appears to be one of her ‘letters to the world’: ‘Did you ever read one of her Poems backward, because the plunge from the front overturned you? I sometimes (often have, many times) have–a Something overtakes the Mind’ (Prose Fragment 30)…. Our deformations do not flee from the question, or the generation, of ‘meaning.’ Rather, they try to demonstrate–the way one demonstrates how to make something, or do something … that ‘meaning’ in imaginative work is a secondary phenomenon, a kind of meta-data, what Blake called a form of worship ‘Dependent’ upon some primary poetical tale. This point of view explains why, in our deformative maneuvers, interpretive lines of thought spin out of some initial nondiscursive ‘experiment’ with the primary materials. ‘Meaning’ is important not as explanation but as residue. It is what is left behind after the experiment has been run” (pp. 26, 48).
- The unstable continuum between modeling and interpreting: