This week we will discuss new frameworks for approaching historical data. Using Franco Moretti as our guide will will discuss the issues of data sets and scales in historical analysis.
Assignments (due before class)
- Blog Post (500 words): Response to Moretti
- Weekly Twitter Assignment
- Weekly WordPress Comment Assignment
One of the fundamental challenges that historians face in the work is the issue of scale. What is the appropriate limit of analysis? When is a data set large enough? To what extent can we extrapolate general conclusions from individual pieces of data? How do we describe historical change? At what time scales can (or should) we talk about change? Many, many historians have sought to address these issues. The Annales school of historians, for example, suggested that we can tackle change through multiple time scales. In more recent years, scholars of “Big History” have argued that historians need to study monumental geological time frames. While you are reading through Moretti’s work, think about scale and how it affects historical interpretation. What public history projects have you come across that take scale into account, and what public history projects could benefit from engaging with this issue?
- Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (Verso, 2007).
Timothy Burke, “Book Notes: Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees” The Valve (13 January 2006).