For example, in the case of my network analysis of the, I had to decide what constituted a network “edge” – the connection between pilgrims – and chose speech as the defining principle.
That is, one character addressing another forms a “directed edge,” indicated by a line tipped with an arrow.
The first of these interactions occurs in what I have labeled “Fragment 1-a,” which includes the was never definitively arranged by Chaucer, so far as we know. editorial units determined by the existence of internal signs of linkage—bits of conversation or narrative that explicitly refer to a tale just told or to one that immediately follows.
That order, as well as the division into ten “fragments,” is a product of modern editorial decisions, specifically those of the editors of notes, “The work survives in ten fragments . There are no explicit connections between the fragments” (5). Meyer-Lee compellingly argues, there is good reason to question not only the order of tales, but also the stability of these “editorial units” and their designation as “fragments.” As Meyer-Lee points out, no existing manuscript copies of the actually reflect these editorial units (49-50); he prefers the designation “blocks” to “fragments” (53).
is the sense of “temporary equality” that one perceives among the diverse range of characters, the “sondry folk, by aventure yfalle / In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle, / That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde” (GP 25-27). The inclusion of lowly characters such as the Cook, the Reeve, and the Miller, alongside loftier counterparts like the Knight, the Parson, and the Monk, and their ability to argue, interrupt, and “quite” (or “requite”) each other’s tales is strikingly different than Boccaccio’s , a likely model for Chaucer, but one in which the tales are told by aristocrats who share a common status and background.
In Chaucer’s “framing narrative”—the links between tales, which consist of pilgrims’ prologues and in some cases epilogues—the pilgrims respond to what they have heard, bicker over who will speak next, and continue to mull and argue over some of the larger themes of the (such as language, marriage, class issues, and gender, among others).
Further, such visualization does not really show us who speaks the most (I have attempted to give a sense of word volume by manipulating the size of the nodes, with larger ones indicating more lines), and it completely elides what is said.
Nevertheless, for the modest aims of network visualization’s function in this study, and always in concert with more traditional close reading, it is a useful tool.
But behind the laughter that usually accompanies these interludes, there is perhaps a more sinister tone.
Indeed, some critics have seen the frequent clashes in the framing narrative as evidence of an “anxiety” – an anxiety over the type of speech used to tell a tale and the type of tale told.