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Distant Reading

The formation of an unorthodox literary critic

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.

Reviews

  • “One of the most daring and intellectually exciting books of the year.”
  • “A great iconoclast of literary criticism.”
  • “It’s a rare literary critic who attracts so much public attention, and there’s a good reason: few are as hell-bent on rethinking the way we talk about literature.”
  • “Moretti, a mythopoeic figure, generates around himself a dense network of folklore and apocrypha.”
  • “Moretti is already famous in bookish circles for his data-centric approach to novels, which he graphs, maps, and charts ... if his new methods catch on, they could change the way we look at literary history.”
  • “Distant reading might prove to be a powerful tool for studying literature.”
  • “Moretti's new collection of essays, Distant Reading, provides a retrospective of his remarkable trajectory.”

Blog

  • The Library of New Babylon


    Just imagine we did all live in the future utopia that is Constant’s New Babylon. What would the library be like? I expect it would feature a greatest hits edition of the theory that helped us all get there. Here’s some notes towards it.

    Sometimes to take three steps forward, you have to first take two steps back. I have been thinking that it might be worth stepping back into the archive of historical materialisms, critical theories and such, to see if there are neglected resources there. Perhaps we can’t just built on previous selections from it.

    Perhaps we have to find new ways of reading even those texts that have become relentlessly canonic. New futures call for new pasts. So let’s find some! Here I have organized some working notes towards a revised resource guide to the past for this present.

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  • New Left Review> Issue 91 out now!



    The January/February issue of New Left Review is now on sale, featuring the following essays:

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  • Wtf is Eleni Haifa? A New Essay by Paul Mason

    Paul Mason follows in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf in search of fictional character in the age of social media.



    I get on a train and there, eventually, is Eleni Haifa: about 22, massive hair and 5 ft tall.

    She is either Italian, Jewish, Arab, Turkish, Kurdish or Greek. She has olive skin and is wearing high heels with gold tips, a white jacket, oyster coloured skirt and carrying two iPhones, one in a black case and one red.

    She has one iPhone in each hand and is transferring something from one to another by typing using her thumbs. But not the tips of her thumbs because her nails are so long – and polished – that she has to use the pads of her thumbs to type, very fast. She puts one down – the one playing her music - and then goes to Facebook on the other: to her profile, where the picture is some kind of cartoon. She flips to What’sApp – I can tell it’s What’sApp from the green message boxes. Between Clapham Junction and Waterloo she spends her switching between What’s App and Facebook. She’s been on the train at least from Richmond.

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Other books by Franco Moretti