Modeling Conflict: Representations of Social Groups in Present-Day Dutch Literature

Roel Smeets, Maarten De Pourcq, A. van den Bosch

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


This essay responds to a lack of scholarly attention for conflict as a narrative mechanism since the formalist models of Vladimir Propp and Algirdas Julien Greimas. Building on recent developments within cultural analytics, the essay argues for a new understanding of narrative conflict by integrating classic narratological models with data-driven, statistical methods. It does so by (a) proposing two computational models of conflict based on theoretical insights from narratology, conflict studies, and network theory, (b) applying those models to a sample corpus of 170 present-day Dutch novels, and (c) briefly illustrating the narratological value of the results by interpreting the representation of social groups in two novels from the corpus – Bart Koubaa’s De Brooklynclub (2012) and Leon de Winter’s VSV (2012) – in light of the statistical patterns found for the corpus as a whole. The analyses of dyadic (two characters) and triadic (three characters) conflict leads to two central conclusions: 1) lower educated characters are more dominant in dyadic conflicts and 2) the majority of triadic conflicts exist in a state of social balance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
JournalJournal of Cultural Analytics
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2021


  • social network analysis
  • Dutch literature
  • conflict
  • narratology
  • literary characters


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