While reading Franco Moretti's Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History, it occurred to me that the Ecclesiastical Proust Archive should do the same within itself. The first step this Winter will be to complete a major information overhaul, marking up and encoding all passages and images rigorously in XML. Then, dynamic real-time visual tools can be used to illuminate the Recherche, narrative, and the manner in which archive users have been interacting with the novel.
Moretti's use of graphs to illustrate the publishing data about the novel in different times and locations throughout history shows fascinating patterns about its system of subgenres, its rises and falls, and the relationships it bears with politics and economics. Such models could be applied to the Ecclesiastical Proust Archive, but for purpose of illuminating its internal relationships. Graphs could be used to show various aspects of the church motif and how they are patterned throughout the work. Would, say, the rises and falls of particular associations tell us anything about the novel's exploration of memory or subjectivity, especially anything that might not be obvious in Proust scholarship hitherto? If so, what do these patterns tell us about narrative itself, and of the motif as an element of narrative?
The mapping techniques that Moretti applies to certain English novels reveal interesting patterns in their plot elements, such as the consistency in which certain types of plots form distinct rings around the geographical center of the action. What would we learn from maps of churches in the Recherche, and how they relate to its exploration of subjective memory, national memory, local memory, memorialization through architecture, archives, and narrative? Would the regions of France, their churches, and how the churches signify within the narrative tell us anything new about the Recherche?
Perhaps even trees dealing with associations, categories, or motifs could tell us a lot about the church motif and its operation within the whole narrative.
As well, these kinds of tools could be used to illuminate the relationships between critical discussion on the blog and the text and images in the archive. Which passages get the most attention? The least? Which associations and image properties are most or least discussed? How do these change over time?
A unified, dynamic, and interactive visualization section of the Ecclesiastical Proust Archive could potentially show so much about the Recherche and narrative that has not yet been seen. It could prove to be a new method of inquiry into the novel, Proust, narrative, literary scholarship, and more.
Here are some basic relationships that a visualization application could explore:
- Association by pagination location in the novel.
- Association by chronological location in the narrative.
- Association by chronology of composition (would require extensive textual scholarship).
- Association by church.
- Blog categories by association, and/or by image property, and/or by church.
- Real, fictional, and hybrid churches by location in the novel, in the narrative, by image type, etc.
- Geographical locations of churches.
- Geographical locations of associations and churches.
- Geographical locations of associations by churches, broken down by real, fictional, and hybrid churches.
- Character by geographical location, church, associations, and image properties.
- Any of the above by critical categories in the blog.
- Breakdown schema of how real and hybrid churches are used in particular associations (say, romantic love or the subject/object distinction).
- Schema of how blog categories explore certain associations or image properties.
- Schema of an image property and the kinds of associations it tends to appear with.
As a note for a future post, in order to make the data more effective in visual applications, a rigorous categorization of the associations (which are non-categorized) will probably be necessary.