4. Social networks in novels

What happens when we apply today’s ideas about social networks back onto literature of the past? It’s easy to think of these networks as a new feature of 21st century life — but our guest Paul Saint-Amour argues that earlier novels also had a profound understanding of how information travels.

Bonus clip

Paul Saint Amour on how he turned Middlemarch into a role-playing game for his students.

Works mentioned

– George Eliot, Middlemarch

– Mark Granovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties”

– James Joyce, Ulysses

Further reading

Paul Saint-Amour at The New York Times – Waiting for the Bomb to Drop

Rebecca Mead at The Guardian –  George Eliot, Middlemarch and me

An animated introduction by Dalton Conley to The Strength of Weak Ties

Amy Brady at Literary Hub – What Kind of Literature Lives on the Dark Web?

Andrew O’Hagan at The Guardian – Will social media kill the novel?

Nikesh Shukla at Electric Literature – Nine Novels That Stink Of Social Media



  1. Lorenzo Langstroth

    “…dozens and dozens of characters…”
    “I’m just going to see whether this tea looks brewed…”

    This is how literary analysis should work. What a great use of Granovetter’s weak ties.

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