I kinda liked this reading. I also kinda didn't like this reading. (Good start to this post, right?)
Look, I spent a decent amount of energy last class harping on Jockers, and a decent chunk (can you use chunk in academic writing?) of what I didn't like about Jockers is also what I don't like about Moretti, namely that they both get so far ahead of themselves in their arguments. (Steven pointed out several instances of this in his post.) Can one, as Moretti claims, say "nothing about Shakespeare’s words – but also, in another sense, much more than it..." (4). Can or should a protagonist really be considered "non-anthropomorphic" (11)? What is the benefit of seeing "different genres... as different shapes" (10)? I understand and even appreciate the enthusiasm, but there is a fine line between ambition/excitement and pedantry. Sometimes Moretti and Jockers toe that line; sometimes they cross it (ahem, "layman").
On the other hand, there were various aspects of this essay that I really enjoyed. I think that the network graphs and histograms are enlightening to say the least, and the article offered some much needed inspiration. Imagine creating a network graph of a novel like Catch-22. It would be fasinating to see the shapes that arise from an exercise like that. I also found Moretti's discussions of clustering, symmetry/assymetry, and the cultural import of network graphing through the concept of guanxi to be interesting as well.
However, I still find there to be some traces of interpretation devaluing here that rubs me the wrong way. "This is not a long term solution, of course," Moretti writes, "but these are small networks, where intuition can still play a role; they’re like the childhood of network theory for literature; a brief happiness, before the stern adulthood of statistics" (3). I don't know about you, but I've kinda wanted to avoid that "stern adulthood of statistics" - in fact, that's part of the reason why I chose to study literature in the first place. If one is completely honest about their process, I see no reason why intuition or interpretation shouldn't be a valid and honored part of literary studies.