Humanities and space

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 What I found relevant, in last weeks reading for our classes, is the relation established between space and humanities. At a first sight, indeed, and also basing my thoughts on what I previously learned and how I previously studied humanities, I was sure that space does not deal with humanities. I did not see a possible relation between the notion of space and the notion of humanities, they seem to me very distant and – above all – I could not even imagine how a spacial approach could be useful to study the humanities, and literature above all. But, then, Franco Moretti’s book on one side and HyperCities by Todd Presner, David Shepard and Yoh Kawano opened up my eyes and made me discover a new, fundamental approach to the study of literature.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Graphs, Maps, Trees by Franco Moretti was fundamental, for me, to discover space as one of the constituent of literature, and also as a tool to be abstractly employed to analyze and understand it. Indeed, in Maps chapter, the space is analyzed in its basic meaning of what surround a situation described into a book, usually considered as a set of natural or artificial elements where the fictional human people protagonist of the book establish their lives. Moretti, indeed, provided us with the description of a countryside landscape surrounding different tales in the book of an English writer to show us how the spatial disposition of the objects related to human life could help us to understand the kind of narration we are reading (and, consequently, the literary genre where it is inscribed and its historical and literary context). Moretti analyzed the relationships between the stories told and written by different authors and the spatial position of their characters’ lives to show us how historical context could influence the way a writer conceive, and depict, his fictional world (usually as a reaction to what happens in a precise historical context).
If this could be related to the “basic” idea of space we usually already have stored in our mind, the Graphs and Trees chapters provide us with an idea of space which, being more abstract, is used as an instrument to schematically and logically (Moretti often used the word ‘algorithm’ into this book) approaches literary patterns. Indeed, in this chapter he does not directly relate to space as the surrounding set of characters in a book, but he focuses on spatial instruments which give him the possibility to create models of literature which are diachronic in the same time than synchronic. This is true, for me, especially when Moretti talks about trees: he indeed imagines these instruments as capable of representing a system of forces operating together in the same time, and to make this clear to us by simply schematizing it in a two-dimension symbol. So, one more time I understood the relevance of space and spatial dimension to study literature.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 What HyperCities gave me what, instead, a new sense of space as connections of thousands of different events and of different constituents. “Lexicon” and “The Humanities in the Digital Humanities” provided me, first of all, with a methodological introduction about the purposes of the book and, above all, of the use of Humanities in Digital Humanities and in this hypertextual context. Indeed, the hypercities projects here described embed in their spatial dimension other possibilities to enter into not-spatial dimension. The maps of Berlin and Rome, for instance, allow us to see in a two-dimension representation the changes due to time on buildings, streets, and spaces. And, much more important, the social media maps provide us with a dynamic representation of a specific events. If one of the goals of the Digital Humanities is the collaboration and cooperation, these social maps could surely be considered as collaborative and cooperative projects, and provide their viewers with a more accurate representation of an event during time.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 So, to conclude, the possibility to integrate time into map representation is surely fundamental to create better models of events. As Moretti tought us, also literature could be considered an event, with a development through time: maps, and space, must not to be considered only as static, synchronic representations, but also as the models for the development of an event through time. They give us an instantaneous gaze to different aspects of the event we are analyzing: they are not simple a representation, but a model for real events which are depicted in a two-dimension space.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Works cited:

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. London: Verso, 2005. Print.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Presner, Todd; Shepard, David; Kawano, Yoh. HyperCities: thick mapping in the digital humanities. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 2014. Print.


Source: https://dhpraxisfall16.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2016/11/02/humanities-and-space/

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