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Franco Moretti — Iser Lecture
13. July 2015, 19:00 – 20:00
Micromégas: the very small, the very large, and the space of digital humanities
A process whereby many very small units add up to a single very large system has become typical of the digital humanities — the signature, almost, of their approach to literature. It has also dramatically brought to light the role of scale in literary study: dramatically, in the sense that DH seem irresistibly drawn towards the extremes of the scale, whereas literary study has traditionally focused on the middle of the scale.
The middle as “the text”, usually; or as a scene, an excerpt, a series of verses to be memorized, quotations, allusions… Many choices, but all linked to this scale in the middle; probably, because it agrees so well with our capacity to understand, remember, and judge. This scale where readers are truly “the measure of things” seems so “natural” that it‘s never even perceived as a scale: it seems to go without saying. DH has shattered this long-standing convention. So, what does it mean, studying literature through these new coordinates – what does “literature” itself become, among charts and diagrams? This is the question I will try to address.
Franco Moretti teaches as Danily C. and Laura Louise Bell Professor in the Humanities at the Stanford University.
Distant Reading, a term Moretti coined out in 2000, is today one of the keywords of Digital Humanities research. Contrary to close reading which focuses qualitatively a single text in its details, distant reading involves quantitative and statistical methods capturing huge amounts of text. Especially the Digital Humanities expect new insights through this method.
Recently published by Franco Moretti: The Bourgeois (2013; dt. Suhrkamp 2014), and Distant Reading (2013).