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This paper locates dramatic networks produced by character interaction in nineteenth-century Brazilian plays in the broad context of the theater from the ancients through Ibsen. Models of dramatic networks provide a set of parameters and clues that allow for a distant reading of many of Brazil’s most famous stage plays. With concepts such as loyalty, reciprocity, centrality, and casting, developed with these methods at hand, the paper then turns to a close reading of the iconic play O demônio familiar, by José de Alencar. This play offers the most complete and sustained attempt to render an enslaved person visible and audible on stage. The paper concludes with a critical assessment of the advantages and limitations associated with DH methods in relation to literary and cultural history.
Zephyr Frank teaches history at Stanford University. He is the author, most recently, of Reading Rio de Janeiro: Literature and Society in the Nineteenth Century (Stanford 2016). He founded and directed Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA) from 2012-2016.