This chapter explores literary influence and the idea that literature can and perhaps even must be read as an evolving system with certain inherent rules. Attempts to demonstrate literary imitation, intertextuality, and influence have relied almost entirely upon close reading. To chart influence empirically, we need to go beyond the individual cases and look to the aggregate. Information cascades theory provides an attractive framework for modeling literary influence and intertextuality at scale. This chapter discusses the results of the author's thematic-stylistic analyses of nineteenth-century novels using Gephi software to identify signs of historical change from one book to the next. The data reveal that the corpus appears to behave in an evolutionary manner. At the macro scale, we see evidence that theme and style are influenced by time and author gender. The findings suggest that a writer's creativity is tempered and influenced by the past and the present, by literary “parents,” and by a larger literary ecosystem.
Keywords: literary influence, intertextuality, information cascades theory, thematic-stylistic analyses, nineteenth-century novels, Gephi software, evolution, author gender, creativity, literary ecosystem
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