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Title: Small Worlds: Measuring the Mobility of Characters in English-Language Fiction
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.  more » « less
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Journal of computational literary studies
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Journal of computational literary studies
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National Science Foundation
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