Network analysis is currently used from archaeology to zoology to study the relationships between objects and actors. Literary network analysis is based on social network analysis and mostly examines the nature, frequency, and duration of actions between characters or authors. The sociological basis of this method is research on groups, and the mathematical one is graph theory. A graph consists of nodes and edges that connect the nodes to each other. However, not all nodes are connected to eachother and there may be nodes that are completely isolated. As nodes one can take such different things as common authorship, supervisory boards, family members, work titles, or organizations, and many other real-world entities, but also computed entities. The network representation is a relatively strong abstraction, because initially no properties of the nodes are of interest. This distinguishes the data model of a network from an entity-relationship model, where different classes of objects with their central attributes and relations are defined. Network analysis, on the other hand, is only concerned with the relationships between the nodes.
In a so-called simple graph, only the connections between nodes are specified. Which nodes are connected to each other is recorded in an adjacency matrix. In addition, there are directed graphs (di-graphs), in which the edges additionally carry directional information, and multigraphs (multigraphs), in which several edges are possible between the same nodes. These two types of graphs are needed, for example, for the analysis of letter networks, because they can be used to model who writes to whom and how often. Edges can also be weighted, for example by mapping the frequency of a contact or the amount of words exchanged.
In this section of the blog, some examples of network analysis in and with literary texts are presented. The majority is about character networks in dramas, but there are also contributions on character networks in novels and series.Some contributions also deal with networks of texts that arise because they belong to genres, collections of texts, series or curricula.
The contributions question very critically what added value network analyis and visualization may can have for the analysis of a literary criticsm and litery history.
Almost all contributions are based on a seminar on network analysis that I held at the University of Würzburg in the winter term 2020/21.
Agnes Hilger is the editor of this part of the blog. Thanks a lot to her for her work!