The Hummingbird Cabinet

"The Chapter as Structure in the Nineteenth-Century Novel"

"This study investigates the function of chapters breaks in nineteenth-century novels, by focusing on their stylistic and narrative peculiarities. Through close-reading of the beginnings and endings of chapters, I determined the formal features of chapter breaks, and classified into specific ?types? a first sample of chapters from various canonical novels. By quantifying the prevalence of different types of beginnings/endings, some significant stylistic trends emerged ? a prominent one involving the presence of scene shifts at chapter breaks. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, and especially after the diffusion of serialization, authors used the structural given of chapter breaks as an opportunity for scene shifts. I am now studying the frequency of scene shifts ? along with other types of beginnings/endings ? on a much larger novel database, using classification software developed specifically for this study.” — from Stanford Literary Lab

This kind of study might have interesting implications for the use of story fragments in hypertextual interactive narratives-the kind of which I’m exploring in my project, the House of Stories.

  • 16 May 2011