Beyond Close Reading? Literary Studies in the 21st Century

October 8th, 2010

In the wake of a turn away from nation-based frameworks and toward more regional, transnational, and/or comparative approaches to literary studies, a number of literary critics have proposed alternatives to close reading, a fundamental part of literary studies in the United States since the rise of the New Critics to prominence in the middle decades of the twentieth century.

Franco Moretti’s and Peter Middleton’s calls for “distant reading,” the championing of “not reading” by Martin Mueller and Pierre Bayard, and the search for “communications circuits” pioneered by Robert Darnton are signs that people interested in books are actively working to develop approaches that can bridge a gap between New Critical fidelity to the page and the vast amount of material now available to be read.

If others are interested, I would enjoy the opportunity to discuss this work. Is something like a theory of “not reading” useful or is it only leading the humanities further down the path into obscurity and irrelevance? Where does technology fit in? What kind(s) of skills does one need in order to successfully “distant read” a text? The ability to construct visualizations seems to me to be useful. I’ve been exploring Processing, SIMILE Timelines, GoogleMaps, and ArcGIS in order to see what I might be able to learn about literary history using these tools. How have these tools worked for you?

4 Responses to “Beyond Close Reading? Literary Studies in the 21st Century”

  1. Katherine D. Harris on October 8, 2010 6:01 pm

    This definitely an interesting session proposal and one that I’d like to attend.

  2. Viola Lasmana on October 8, 2010 7:45 pm

    Hi Jeremy, I’d definitely be interested in attending this kind of a session. Though I do not have any direct experience in “distant reading” or text analysis using digital methods, this is an area which I’d like to get my hands dirty in and include in my future work.

  3. Francesco Spagnolo on October 8, 2010 10:23 pm

    I’d be interested in attending.

  4. Angela Veomett on October 9, 2010 1:08 am

    I’m also very interested in attending this session.

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