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Small Worlds. Measuring the Mobility of Characters in English-Language Fiction

Wilkens, Matthew ; Evans, Elizabeth F. ; Soni, Sandeep ; Bamman, David ; Piper, Andrew (2024)
Small Worlds. Measuring the Mobility of Characters in English-Language Fiction.
doi: 10.26083/tuprints-00027393
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Item Type: Report
Type of entry: Primary publication
Title: Small Worlds. Measuring the Mobility of Characters in English-Language Fiction
Language: English
Date: 28 May 2024
Place of Publication: Darmstadt
Issue Number: 1
Series: CCLS2024 Conference Preprints
Series Volume: 3
Collation: 16 Seiten
DOI: 10.26083/tuprints-00027393
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The representation of mobility in literary narratives has important implications for the cultural understanding of human movement and migration. In this paper, we introduce novel methods for measuring the physical mobility of literary characters through narrative space and time. We capture mobility through geographically defined space, as well as through generic locations such as homes, driveways, and forests. Using a dataset of over 13,000 books published in English since 1789, we observe significant “small world” effects in fictional narratives. Specifically, we find that fictional characters cover far less distance than their non-fictional counterparts; the pathways covered by fictional characters are highly formulaic and limited from a global perspective; and fiction exhibits a distinctive semantic investment in domestic and private places. Surprisingly, we do not find that characters’ ascribed gender has a statistically significant effect on distance traveled, but it does influence the semantics of domesticity.

Uncontrolled Keywords: fiction, mobility, geospatial analysis, narratology
Status: Preprint
URN: urn:nbn:de:tuda-tuprints-273936
Additional Information:

This paper has been submitted to the conference track of JCLS. It has been peer reviewed and accepted for presentation and discussion at the 3rd Annual Conference of Computational Literary Studies at Vienna, Austria, in June 2024.

Classification DDC: 800 Literature > 800 Literature, rhetoric and criticism
Divisions: 02 Department of History and Social Science > Institut für Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft > Digital Philology – Modern German Literary Studies
Date Deposited: 28 May 2024 07:46
Last Modified: 28 May 2024 07:46
URI: https://tuprints.ulb.tu-darmstadt.de/id/eprint/27393
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