DH Workshop by Sean Silver, Rutgers University: "Novel Networks: Extracting Character Systems from the Eighteenth-Century Novel"
One major strain of criticism on the rise of the novel has insisted on the novel’s function for modeling complex social networks—the structures of interpersonal relationships that have important sociological or plot functions. Yet charting networks in novels has proven notoriously difficult to implement, beginning with the fundamental problem of locating characters in prose. In this talk, I will present a set of tools for extracting character networks from a curated set of eighteenth-century novels. I will explore difficulties associated with applying the methods of complex systems analysis to prose fiction, and discuss some of the insights that might be gained from a few promising approaches. And I will conclude by considering a few real lessons to be gained from this approach—which bear on the irreducible differences between novelistic strategies of characterization.