Data Visualisation

Translating Crime Fiction between the Wars

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(French Translators for Le Masque Series : click to enlarge)

Studying Crime Fiction Series in their cohesion and complexity, rather than works and authors for their originality, presents a radical departure from the type of literary work traditionally done in academia.  Compared with close reading and textual analysis, this seems a more appropriate way to approach the conditions of production of a material culture, and hence, to better understand Crime Fiction. It takes the  observer away from the ideology sacralising the unique and  celebrating the individual, and promotes  the discovery of the collective and relational nature of what we call literature.  It also requires different tools and poses different research questions.  The shift in  focus helps revealing   a series of phenomena and circumstances, as well as an entire population of agents usually falling under the radar of literary research. Such  is the case of the fascinating, yet totally under-researched subject of translators of crime fiction. Continue reading

International Detective Fiction (1927-1966): The Authors

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Mignon Good Eberhart (USA, 1899- 1996)

Crime Fiction is an international genre. It is well-known that several countries have collaborated to its invention. Exchanges  and reciprocal influences between the US (Poe), France (Vidocq, Gaboriau) and England (Wilkie Collins, Conan Doyle), in particular, have been crucial in shaping it in the 19th Century.  Publishers and Magazines have driven the translation of works of  foreign crime fiction, creating international trends and reception patterns.  Publishing industries, in the 20th Century have spread internationally. Continue reading

Punctuating Crime Fiction: a Comparison of 6886 Titles

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 (Total number  of titles with exclamation marks, by series)

The following pie charts represent the  varied use of three types of punctuation signs in the titles of  all the novels published in the three longest series of Crime Fiction in France : Le Masque (Librairie des Champs-Elysées), La Série Noire (Gallimard), and Spécial-Police (Fleuve Noir).  While the amount of books published in all three series is roughly comparable (all three series have published more than 2000 books each), there are manifest discrepancies in their use of punctuation marks. Continue reading

Symposium : Towards a Digital Atlas of European Crime Fiction? (British Library Conference Centre, April 10, 2015)

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In the last decades the astonishing speed in the global circulation of cultural works and the unprecedented opportunities to gather and analyse large amount of data through electronic resources have opened up new possibilities for researchers in all disciplines. At the same time, the spatial turn in the Humanities has prompted scholars to consider the benefits of using maps and graphs to investigate the transnational history of cultural phenomena. However, while scholars working on quite traditional literary subjects have been quick to discuss and carry out the provocative claims made by Franco Moretti in The Atlas of the European Novel (1998), an ideal case study for such an approach, i.e. popular fiction, had been largely neglected.

The AHRC-funded project Visualising European Crime Fiction: New Digital Tools and Approaches to the Study of the Transnational Popular Culture has represented a first attempt to adopt this approach in the field of crime fiction studies, starting to collect data from different sources and exploring the uses of an online database and various visualisation tools. This exploratory project in partnership with the Paris-based BILIPO aimed at testing a number of strategies and possibilities in order to envision a larger, longer-term initiative to conduct extensive studies on the transnational circulation of popular fiction at the European level.  Researchers from a group of universities in the UK, France, Hungary, Sweden and the Czech Republic have collaborated to create sample datasets, the prototype database and a series of visualisations. Continue reading

Georges Simenon in Penguin

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(Click to enlarge)

A simple wordcloud, when it displays hierarchically structured information, can tell instantly something both very significant and  onerous to establish otherwise.  One would have to browse through hundreds of bibliographical data and to sort them, before being able to discover what the cloud above suggests simply and immediatly.

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The author who published the most books in the Penguin Crime Club,  the famous British pocketbooks publisher’s subseries devoted to the classics of crime fiction, is actually not  Agatha Christie, nor a member of the detection club,  nor any  British author. Neither is it one of the prolific American masters, such as Ellery Queen, or Erle Stanley Gardner. It is actually Georges Simenon, with 48 books published under the universally recognised green cover.

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From the Manor Mystery to Global Circulation : introducing the Detection Club

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Starting in 1930,  The Detection Club is more than just a literary society of authors, writing  detective stories in  English. Its founding members,  Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, Dorothy L. Sayers, Freeman Wills Crofts and many others all had an immense influence on the perception, establishment and dissemination of the Crime Genre worldwide.  Continue reading

Visualising a collection of 2075 books : The “Spécial-Police” authors

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(click to enlarge)

The picture above is based on the total of books published by each of the authors who contributed to the legendary “Spécial Police” Series. Launched in 1949 it helped turning its publishing house, Fleuve Noir, into France’s most successful popular literature publisher. When it stopped, in 1987 it  had published  generations of new authors. The biggest names on the words representation above are the biggest contributors. Georges J. Arnaud, Mario Ropp (aka Maïa Devillers), Peter Randa (aka André Duquesne),  Adam Saint Moore (aka Jacques Douyau)  and of course San-Antonio (aka Frédéric Dard) feature here prominently.  But many important names in the history of French Noir, as well as those of well-liked, prolific authors can be found here too.  André Helena, Léo Malet, Serge Laforest,  Jean Mazarin, Roger Vilard,  M.G. Braun (aka Maurice-Gabriel Brault), André Lay  and many more.

Profiling Crime Fiction Series

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The question this post  tries to  answer visually is twofold, and runs  as follows.  Is it possible, first,  to visualise the denotations and connotations carried in the  titles of crime Fiction series ? What are the words most frequently used ? And what are the emotions, atmospheres and tropes suggested already by the titles, on the threshold of the books ?  What are the most common elements forming part of the contractual promise contained in a title ?  Which ones seem to be recurring the most often? And second, do such patterns vary from series to series, reinforcing their distinctive identities?  Can one, after  listing  the literal meanings of the words most frequently used in their titles,  and the emotions associated with them,  determine the series’ s profiles ? In practice,  is it for example  possible to compare the three longest French Crime Fictions series (totaling almost 7000 books between them),  based only on the words most used in their titles ? Can one try to “profile” Crime series, on the basis  of the terms  through which the authors, and the series’ s editors choose to market the books ?  And which are the words which are more apt at representing each of the three series? The  three following pie charts reflect the frequencies of  six  heavily connoted and intuitively chosen words for each of the three series. Continue reading