Mapping Networks and its Discontents

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The ‘network’ is a powerful concept and metaphor, a tool for and focus of much recent research and scholarship. We envisage our very world as “networked”. Interest in networks from within the literary study arose arguably out of cultural history and sociology, as a means to displace an outmoded focus on the single author, the autonomous individual, the heroic genius by a ’social text’. ‘The network’ also has aesthetic or formal possibilities: in the interconnected, reticular, knotted or participatory work. Readers and texts are imagined forming together ‘networks’ of meaning, feeling, and judgement.

But do we take the concept for granted? Powerful as a tool, is it also somewhat blunt? Do we ever succeed in ‘mapping’ a cultural network, or describing one accurately? Is the metaphor too knotty or nodal for the fluid forms it hopes to catch in its nets? What absences does this metaphor forget. What is the function not of ‘the network’ itself, but of alluding to ‘networks’? Might it be a means of entering a field of discourse, and of hoping to join a perceived network of readers?

I will address these and other questions in my talk, referring in part to my own recent research that considers formations and disruptions of cultural networks and value at the outbreak of World War 2.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIDEA 2019 conference proceedings
EditorsZekiye Antakyalioglu
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019

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