How does a literary historian end up thinking in terms of z-scores, principal component analysis, and clustering coefficient?
In the ten essays collected in this volume, Franco Moretti reconstructs the intellectual trajectory of his philosophy of ‘distant reading’. From the evolutionary model of ‘Modern European Literature’, through the geo-cultural dominant of ‘Conjectures on World Literature’ and ‘Planet Hollywood’ to the quantitative findings of ‘Style, inc.’ and the abstract patterns of ‘Network Theory, Plot Analysis’, the book follows two decades of critical explorations that have come to define – well beyond the wildest expectations of its author – a growing field of unorthodox literary studies.
Moretti's collection of essays presents an unorthodox approach to literary studies, and charts the two-decade long development of the pioneering literary critic's philosophy of “distant reading.” Taking aim the dominance of “close reading” in the field, Distant Reading demands a radical reconfiguration of how and what we read.
Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading was awarded the National Book Critics Circle award for criticism last night at the New School.
The United States is the country of close reading, so I don't expect this idea to be particularly popular. But the trouble with close reading (in all of its incarnations, from the new criticism to deconstruction) is that it necessarily depends on an extremely small cannon... At bottom, it's a theological exercise-- very solemn treatment of very few texts taken very seriously-- whereas what we really need is a little pact with the devil: we know how to read texts, now let's learn how not to read them.