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.


  • “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.”


  • New Left Review - March/April issue out now!

    NLR 86, March-April 2014

    The latest issue of NLR features a symposium of three critics from contrasting philosophical backgrounds engaging with key arguments in Malcolm Bull's Anti-Nietzsche, as well a reply to his critics from Bull himself.

    Continue Reading

  • Franco Moretti wins National Book Critics Circle award

    Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading was awarded the National Book Critics Circle award for criticism last night at the New School. 

    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. 

    Books by Jonathan Franzen and Janet Malcolm were among others also nominated for the criticism award.

    The National Book Critics Circle awards celebrate the year's best writing in six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. You can see the full list of winners at the National Books Critics Circle.
  • Distant Reading named finalist for National Book Critics Award

    Franco Moretti's 2013 book, Distant Reading, has been named a finalist for the National Book Critics Award for criticism. 

    A pioneering literary critic, Moretti charts new territory with his most recent book, a collection of essays that takes aim at the hegemonic method of "close reading."   

    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.

    With Distant Reading, Moretti breaths new life into understanding what, and how, we read.

    Continue Reading

Other books by Franco Moretti