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Distant Reading, or, the "Science" of Literature
June 26, 2011 8:08 PM   Subscribe

On not reading books. Franco Moretti, author of the controversial Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History, proposes that literary study needs to abandon "close reading" for "distant reading": "understanding literature not by studying particular texts, but by aggregating and analyzing massive amounts of data." He is co-founder of the Stanford Literary Lab, where he and like-minded colleagues have published studies on programming computers to use statistical analysis to identify a novel's genre(PDF) and analyzing plots as networks(PDF). Similar projects are on the way.
posted by Saxon Kane (53 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Full disclosure: I find his ideas interesting, but not really all that insightful on their own. And I completely disagree with his focus on quantitative and almost complete disregard for qualitative analysis.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:10 PM on June 26, 2011


Love is not a discrete set of specific actions.
posted by Wyatt at 8:19 PM on June 26, 2011


DAMN YOU SAXON KANE! I was just working on this very post. This is what I get for taking time off to play games.

Moretti is a very interesting critic, but his methods have yet to yield any major insights into literature as far as I've seen. That said, I recommend reading the anthology he edited, The Novel, of which two expurgated volumes have been translated into English. There are many fine essays in it.

Also, he's not alone in his quantitative analysis of literature. I posted a while ago about one of my favorite examples, Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry 1579-1830.
posted by Kattullus at 8:21 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wanted to post this too!
posted by escabeche at 8:22 PM on June 26, 2011


why does he propose that his quantitative distant reading methods should be adopted at the expense of qualitative close reading methods that should be "abandoned" as the post has it? Why so extreme?
is it mainly to kick off a nasty academic methodology-extremist turf war that will generate enough noise that his project gets some media attention beyond the ivory tower?
posted by Bwithh at 8:37 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


To understand literature, Moretti argues, we must stop reading books.'

That's gonna depend on how you define "literature" and what you even mean by "understand." But, by any account, to get any literary pleasure out of a book you're gonna have to actually read it.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 8:47 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Depends on the pictures.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:53 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


TL; DNR
posted by stargell at 8:53 PM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


That's a good piece from the NYTimes. Moretti has truly created a false dichotomy, as there is a wealth of analytical techniques lying in-between - or across - close reading and the kind of quantitative analysis he champions.

There are plenty of criticisms you can make about close reading, but they aren't necessarily addressed by other styles of analysis. Both of the techniques in this piece, for example, fall down on count of focussing what's in novels, rather than what's without.

But that's okay, it depends what you're trying to get out of a text. It's like choosing cars in Mariokart, man; not every car is the best car for any given track.

I find a lot of the to-ing and fro-ing about analytical modes kind of funny because they always rely on an unalloyed, un-diluted mode of analysis which almost never actually presents itself in serious literary criticism. As Moretti himself concedes, he found himself close-reading the text to at least some degree. This melange is a far more accurate portrayal of most analsysis that I've come across - informed by a certain approach, but not to exclusivity - than the windmills various proponents so often tilt at.

It's like arguing about spinal column problems in daschunds when the kennel is full of mongrels.
posted by smoke at 8:54 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


But that's okay, it depends what you're trying to get out of a text. It's like choosing cars in Mariokart, man; not every car is the best car for any given track.

This bears repeating, so I'm repeating it.
posted by zardoz at 9:09 PM on June 26, 2011


I don't have the time to write a lot about this right now, but - I have read a lot of Franco Moretti in my time, and his work is almost always misdescribed and misexplained in popular media, such that no matter what he is doing everyone who reads about his work is always like that's just the dumbest thing ever, understandably enough given how he gets written about.

As far as Moretti seeking attention "beyond the ivory tower" - Moretti is a big deal as a literary critic. It would be like, oh, I dunno, Samuel Delany seeking attention "beyond science fiction fandom". (Also, Moretti himself has produced a lot of famous and important non-graphing-mapping-treeing literary criticism.)

Moretti has written an amazing variety of extremely insightful stuff - I personally recommend the Dracula/Frankenstein essay from Signs Taken For Wonders, if you're looking for something short. And his book about the bildungsroman is virtually a guide to how to live, it's that smart. Plus it caused me to start reading Goethe.

His new work is pretty good. I find myself thinking about genre in its terms just when I'm casually trying to think through some stuff about science fiction - for example, science fiction representations of the working class.

I just kind of hate the way his work gets described, because it's very easy for people who do not have any background in what he's doing to think it's stupid. I can't explain tonight because late/sleepy, but there are a bunch of problems in genre where you want to be able to think about a lot of work and not just the canonical great work, where you want to be able to think about what a genre does as a whole...it's awesome that people like doing close readings, and honestly if you're not really into fifth-level lit crit the problems Moretti is interested in aren't going to be especially intriguing--they're not super fun from a "I really like Tolstoy and want to understand his work better" standpoint for example....

Gah. Perhaps I will explain better later.
posted by Frowner at 9:11 PM on June 26, 2011 [25 favorites]


I, for one, await more Frowner eagerly.
posted by escabeche at 9:16 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have not read the article, but I feel comfortable saying he's wrong anyway. Not by studying this particular text, but just because I do. Maybe you think I'm wrong, but I wouldn't bother replying to tell me so, because I'll probably just, you know, distance read it?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:18 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know why all this is necessary when we already have Alice's Equation to describe the use of a book (Υ): Υ ∝ Σpictures · Σconversations

I guess it's possible that Moretti is bringing something new to the field, but I understand that his books have no pictures or conversations in them and, well...
posted by No-sword at 9:19 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Moretti has written an amazing variety of extremely insightful stuff

Well, I guess he'd never know, now would he?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:20 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
posted by weston at 9:31 PM on June 26, 2011


I think studying literature in the aggregate is awesome; in history, we talk about studying the whole corpus of printed documents, for example, instead of a few cherry picked ones - and what you find can
be surprising. Someone else I know has used computers to search for repeated phrases in a set of important government documents, and learned more about the (as yet classified) process by which they were produced.

But that doesn't mean that aggregate/macro study should replace close-reading (aka micro-study). That would be as silly as saying that people should always study huge impersonal structures OR the actions of individuals -- when, of course, the two different approaches complement one another.
posted by jb at 9:52 PM on June 26, 2011


Blame computers? Blame college, which has had undergrads skim-reading hefty tomes every semester for centuries, instead of allowing them to digest the information at a more contemplative pace.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:58 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


As an English student, I know Moretti is a big deal. I've read his stuff, heard him speak, and watched my classmates go gaga over him.

Yet I mostly find him to be a good salesman and nothing more. There is a fairly robust tradition of quantitative work in the literary disciplines (see James Raven's bibliographical surveys, for example or the whole history of 19th-century philology and textual editing) and yet Moretti acts as if his approach is entirely new and revolutionary. What Moretti does is capitalize very effectively on the craving for empiricism in English studies, resurgent after decades of very theoretical lit crit. But the actual methods and results of his graphing/mapping approach (also known as "counting") strike me as underwhelming.
posted by ms.codex at 10:12 PM on June 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


The inspiration for Lotaria's theories of reading in chapter 8 of Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 10:29 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


But the actual methods and results of his graphing/mapping approach (also known as "counting") strike me as underwhelming.

Yes, exactly. It has a very 19th century feel about it.
posted by jokeefe at 10:32 PM on June 26, 2011


Sad to say, but this thread in aggregate is doing a far better job handling this material than most English departments. It's hard, and impressive, to be thoughtfully skeptical about the too-grand claims of novelty and the overblown salesmanship and the less-than-rigorous methods, but at the same time neither to throw the quantitative-study-of-literature baby out with the faddish bathwater nor to fail to recognize that Moretti is a ferociously smart critic though a very poor judge of quantitative methods.
posted by RogerB at 11:08 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have the two pamphlets downloaded and look forward to reading them. It sounds like a cool project - very open ended, curious, looking to see if this opens up something new.'maybe it will, maybe it won't. Insights have come to people in far more exotic ways than math. If only to help give one fresh eyes on a well worn story or text, that would make this valuable
posted by scunning at 11:20 PM on June 26, 2011


Love is not a discrete set of specific actions.

Of course it's not. Comparing Love to a discrete valued function? Dear god, how dreary.

That's the old model of Love.

The new Love is totally a statistical probability network, graphical model or Markov random field.
posted by formless at 11:25 PM on June 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


A telling anecdote from the n+1 review:

Like Don Giovanni, Moretti insists on his own heartlessness with a scientist’s zeal. It is rumored that, in a talk on novels “from the periphery” of world literature, Moretti claimed to have read “only the introductions”—and then, during the Q&A session, a professor from the Spanish department tricked him into betraying his knowledge of such details from an obscure Argentinean novel as could only have been known by someone who had actually read the whole thing. Moretti was allegedly flustered, and said something like: “Well, I don’t really remember, maybe I read it in the airplane.”

Personally, I suspect this anecdote to be a fabrication based on footnote 19 of Conjectures on World Literature”: “OK, I confess, in order to test the conjecture I actually did read Krasicki’s Adventures of Mr. Nicholas Wisdom, Abrahamowitsch’s Little Man, Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, Futabatei’s Ukigumo, René Maran’s Batouala, [and] Paul Hazoumé‘s Doguicimi.”

posted by DaDaDaDave at 11:36 PM on June 26, 2011


Meaning is a matter of making symbols stand for the things you want them to stand for. You can do that by writing well, and you can do that by a good sales pitch. Books change their meaning depending on who reads them and how, and that means the publishers have a great deal of influence on what the book ends up meaning.

This guy has a good sales pitch.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:27 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw Professor Moretti give a talk in graduate school. He went on about the technology of printing in the 19th century and how it advanced so quickly which is interesting stuff, but I didn't really see why he was blowing so many people's minds, apparently, back then and I still don't get it now.

And his approach is pretty useless for literary works that aren't novels, but I don't think he'd deny that.
posted by bardic at 12:48 AM on June 27, 2011


As DaDaDaDave points out, part of the irony with Moretti's "don't read books" soundbite is that he, himself, has probably read more of the literary canon than pretty much anyone alive. So, his "distant reading" credo relies to a huge extent on his almost-encyclopedic, already-existing knowledge of literature, drawn from old-fashioned, well, reading. Which is to say: I'm not sure that his methodology is that reproducible. One has to be, well, Franco Moretti to use it.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:58 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


* waits for Frowner to wake up *
posted by pracowity at 1:15 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


When he says 'close reading' does he mean 'reading'?
posted by Summer at 2:33 AM on June 27, 2011


Moretti immediately came to mind when the Google ngram viewer came out.

Google books may be the best literary critic in Moretti's new fashion. Skynet in tweed...
posted by wjzeng at 3:08 AM on June 27, 2011


When he says 'close reading' does he mean 'reading'?

Close reading is when you analyse literature at the sentence or paragraph level.
posted by dng at 4:53 AM on June 27, 2011


...but there are a bunch of problems in genre where you want to be able to think about a lot of work and not just the canonical great work, where you want to be able to think about what a genre does as a whole...

Another vote for Frowner to please jump in again soon - and amplify:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:55 AM on June 27, 2011


There is no branch of literary criticism which wouldn't benefit the world when fired into the sun.
posted by joannemullen at 5:20 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was about halfway through "Quantitative Formalism: an Experiment" when I wondered when he'd introduce the influence of author on where his program categorized works, thinking particularly of Gaiman (I guess because he won two Locus Awards yesterday)--Anansi Boys is a comedy and Sandman is a tragedy, but I'd wager that linguistically they're much more similar to each other than they are to "representative" works of their genres--when finally he introduced the concept. I doubt very much that authors can change their voices without a great deal of effort which would be better spent on story than on method.

"Why did Docuscope and MFW recognize authors so well, then – and genres less well? Be-
cause they had been designed to recognize language, but not plot." --Yeah, because when you're programming a computer it does what you tell it to, even if you don't say what you mean.

Their findings at the end--"these features which are so effective at differentiating genres, and so entwined with their overall texture – these features cannot offer new insights into structure, because they aren’t independent traits, but mere consequences of higher-order choices"--seem exceedingly modest to me (but, then, I'm no researcher).

Maybe later research will prove more fruitful.
posted by johnofjack at 5:36 AM on June 27, 2011


Bardic - it's not just the novel though. His pamphlet examines Macbeth and Hamlet
posted by scunning at 5:38 AM on June 27, 2011


Let’s say you pick up a copy of “Jude the Obscure,” become obsessed with Victorian fiction and somehow manage to make your way through all 200-odd books generally considered part of that canon. Moretti would say: So what? As many as 60,000 other novels were published in 19th-century England — to mention nothing of other times and places. You might know your George Eliot from your George Meredith, but you won’t have learned anything meaningful about literature,

Nonsense right there, but then, what do we expect?

Look, the guy's Italian.

If he were German, I would think him sincere, but mad.

If American, cynical and on the make.

As an Italian, he's engaged, I have to assume, in a mildly elaborate intellectual practical joke.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:41 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


What Moretti does is capitalize very effectively on the craving for empiricism in English studies -- ms. codex

A teacher of mine began one of his books with the wonderful lament:

"Alas, poor empiricism!"

This craving is emerging across the humanities, often secondary to the realization that no one really cares about all our "theoretical" work. I fear it is too late for some fields, and English is among them. Too far down the rabbit hole, so that "empiricism" looks like the claptrap Moretti is peddling, where you substitute what appears to be the scientific apparatus (statistics! graphs!) for actual empiricism.

I am of the belief that there is virtually nothing left to say about the major canonical streams of western art, music, and literature that hasn't been said a dozen times. No new interpretations. Nothing that will enhance anyone's experience of those works for personal enjoyment (not in itself a very high calling for science in any case.) Either we turn the focus inside out -- studying people and history and society *through* those works -- or we're already irrelevant. Keeping the canon curated is an obsolete function.

When I am working with a PhD student to develop a dissertation topic, I insist that the first and most important question must be: what good will this do in the world beyond academia?
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:03 AM on June 27, 2011


Saying "don't read" is just silly. But trying to find out what can be gleaned from an automatic analysis of a novel is interesting. More so an automated analysis of 60,000 books from some period or genre. A character interaction graph is only the simplest example of what you might get out of a book. Imagine what a Watson-like computer, appropriately programmed, might be able to do.
posted by DarkForest at 6:05 AM on June 27, 2011


When I am working with a PhD student to develop a dissertation topic, I insist that the first and most important question must be: what good will this do in the world beyond academia?


I hope that's frisky hyperbole on some level, fourcheesemac!

Otherwise, I have to ask - who made you god?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:22 AM on June 27, 2011


When he says 'close reading' does he mean 'reading'?

Close reading is when you analyse literature at the sentence or paragraph level.
dng at 7:53 AM on June 27
. . . Also known as "reading".
posted by yz at 6:23 AM on June 27, 2011


I am of the belief that there is virtually nothing left to say about the major canonical streams of western art, music, and literature that hasn't been said a dozen times.

When I was studying English Literature I never presumed I'd find anything new. To me it was about discovering for myself, in my own personal way, what others had discovered before and joining in the conversation with those people. Mind you, no one ever bothered to explain to me what the point of the study of English Literature was, so maybe I was doing it wrong.
posted by Summer at 6:36 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


fourcheesemac: am of the belief that there is virtually nothing left to say about the major canonical streams of western art, music, and literature that hasn't been said a dozen times. No new interpretations. Nothing that will enhance anyone's experience of those works for personal enjoyment (not in itself a very high calling for science in any case.)

That's nonsense, and you must surely know it. I just took a swim in academia after setting course into the creative arts and what shocked me, above all, was how little had been explored. I wrote about a well known poet, E. E. Cummings, and the amount of material on him was absurdly small. Having seen what's extant, I could happily spend an entire academic career just focusing on that one writer. I imagine that this is true of most authors. Furthermore, having studied him I gained new insights into his versification which opened up for me new interpretative paths into his poems which made them much more pleasurable to me.

I'm not saying that I now understand Cummings better than anyone who came before me, that would be ridiculous, and I could name people whose understanding is certainly deeper (Augusto and Haroldo de Campos, Richard Kostelanetz, Norman Friedman all come to mind) but in terms of academia, little or nothing has been written about fairly basic aspects of his poetry. To give but two examples, there are his collage techniques or the way he suggests or creates words out of parts of other words. His status in international avant-garde poetry is also largely unexplored, nor is his reception in American well understood either.

If someone as well known as Cummings can be so poorly covered, I can't imagine your statement "that there is virtually nothing left to say about the major canonical streams of western art, music, and literature that hasn't been said a dozen times" can be even remotely true.
posted by Kattullus at 6:56 AM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


The fact that you are parsing the grammar of a sentence and getting an impression of what it says does not imply that you are analyzing it.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:00 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


fourcheesemac: I am of the belief that there is virtually nothing left to say about the major canonical streams of western art, music, and literature that hasn't been said a dozen times.


When someone prefaces a comment with "I am of the belief that...", they know they're about to throw an ex cathedra stinkbomb into the debate!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:12 AM on June 27, 2011


Close reading is when you analyse literature at the sentence or paragraph level.
dng at 7:53 AM on June 27

. . . Also known as "reading".
posted by yz at 6:23 AM on June 27


No, it's not. Close reading is a particular approach to literary study; it's not just 'reading and paying attention'. It arises out of the New Criticism and Practical Criticism of the 1920s, which rejected earlier focus on the author or the period in favour of a close and exclusive focus on the actual words on the page. For example: a close reading of something Moretti wrote would not include general opinions on Moretti, anecdotes about something Moretti once said, or digressions into the value of literary criticism in general. It would mean focusing closely on the piece in question.

Speaking of which, the PDFs linked in the OP are worth a read if you're interested in what he's actually trying to do here, because it's a lot more specific and less drastic than it's getting presented as in the commentary.

Like Frowner said, the kind of questions he's asking aren't going to be of interest to everyone. He's using methods that work really well for large amounts of data (like eight thousand books) in order to ask the kind of questions you need eight thousand books in order to answer, questions about subtler features of genre and how well they map on to the impressions we get from reading individual books:
Statistical findings, said Heuser, made us realize that genres are icebergs: with a visible portion floating above the water, and a much larger part hidden below, and extending to unknown depths. Realizing that these depths exist; that they can be systematically explored; and that they may lead to a multi-dimensional reconceptualization of genre: such, we think, are solid findings of our research.
The man is not suggesting we toss books on bonfires and get computers to dictate our emotional reaction to the end of To Kill a Mockingbird.

There are lots of research questions that can be better answered or illustrated by looking at dozens or hundreds or thousands of texts together, rather than closely reading one book at a time. Some of the work I'm doing at the moment involves spelling systems in literature, and the role that a small group of authors can play in influencing conventions when it comes to written representations of dialects or languages without standardised spelling systems. Obviously that's not the kind of issue that would interest everyone (and I'm aware that it is, in the minds of many, pointless and wasteful work which is terribly detrimental to human society and should be destroyed root and branch, etc etc), but if you are interested in that kind of question, quantitative analysis of six hundred texts is going to serve you a lot better than qualitative impressions of six.

(With all that said, I do find it a bit puzzling that Moretti doesn't give more of a head-nod to the digital humanities in general. Quantitative literary analysis isn't new - basic authorship attribution is over a century old now, and stylistic analysis using multivariate techniques isn't new and groundbreaking any more. Always a bit odd, that.)
posted by Catseye at 9:04 AM on June 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


The fact that you are parsing the grammar of a sentence and getting an impression of what it says does not imply that you are analyzing it.
No, it's not. Close reading is a particular approach to literary study
Points taken.... I do understand that there are various angles of analysis which one might wish to distinguish from one another at least to some extent. But I am (quite justifiably, I believe) suspicious of and (admittedly) caustic regarding much of modern literary theory's pretentions and predilections, which regularly involve hijacking and perverting often ordinary concepts to inflate to absurd proportions the power of either commonplace or plainly-nonsensical approaches. So seeing "close reading" exalted as some kind of special form of analysis—when it more or less denotes the obvious method of studying the internal structure of a text—triggers some old reflexes. Anyway, I didn't intend to distract from the specific matter of the thread.
posted by yz at 10:46 AM on June 27, 2011


Either we turn the focus inside out -- studying people and history and society *through* those works -- or we're already irrelevant. Keeping the canon curated is an obsolete function.

Um, have you ever heard of "cultural studies" or "cultural materialism" or "new historicism" or "post-colonialism"? I mean, those are all theoretical "schools" that have been fairly prominent in English literary studies for the last couple of decades, and they are all about "studying people and history and society *through* [literary] works." If you think that all English departments do is "curate the canon," then you 1) have only been exposed to very conservative (not to say "backwards") English departments; 2) have no real idea what English studies does; 3) have an axe to grind with English studies for some reason; or 4) some combination of 1-3.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:13 AM on June 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


joannemullen: "There is no branch of literary criticism which wouldn't benefit the world when fired into the sun."

I know we're not supposed to feed the trolls, but seriously, joannemullen? I barely have any idea what this means.

But if you truly have interest in literature and being fired into the sun, you might want to read Ray Bradbury's short story The Golden Apples of the Sun. The whole collection is pretty good, too.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2011


joannemullen: There is no branch of literary criticism which wouldn't benefit the world when fired into the sun.
Ooh! Crispy-fried literary critic! Watch 'em burn, har har. Seriously, dude. Some of here are literary critics (or close enough). We have families; loved ones. Our journal articles might be sometimes a little stylistically obscure, but we're not aiming to hurt people. It's not like any of us are, y'know, nuclear engineers or AI geeks obsessed with bringing about the singularity. The kind of academic specialists, in other words, likely to cause actual harm. But in a post-Fukushima world, we know if there's one thing Mefites love, it's the kind of technocrats who scold people near exclusion zones for freaking out about a little radiation, right?
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:21 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


The greatest literary critique I have read that combines qualitative and quantitative methods has got to be this DFW review of a Prose Poem Anthology:

http://www.theknowe.net/dfwfiles/pdfs/Wallace-Prose_Poem.pdf
posted by thepalephantom at 2:55 PM on June 27, 2011


I've read some of Moretti's work, and I actually write about the kind of text that might respond well to his techniques--Victorian religious fiction (all flavors). Which is why, oddly enough, this paraphrase of Moretti's position threw me:

Moretti would say: So what? As many as 60,000 other novels were published in 19th-century England — to mention nothing of other times and places. You might know your George Eliot from your George Meredith, but you won’t have learned anything meaningful about literature, because your sample size is absurdly small.

But for all intents and purposes, well-informed sampling should yield the same results as Moretti's supposedly all-encompassing quantitative methods, even using old-fangled little grey cells. Canonical fiction tends to be stylistically and structurally atypical. The Bronte sisters (even Anne) don't fade into the literary crowd of their contemporaries, any more than Dickens does, or Thackeray, or Trollope, or George Eliot, etc., etc., etc. But I'm guessing that most readers will have a pretty difficult time trying to tell Emily Sarah Holt from Emma Leslie from G. E. Sargent from Charles Bruce. And religious fiction tends to be heavily formulaic. It's not quite "if you've read one, you've read them all," but by golly, if you've read, say, one hundred evangelical Protestant novels, you can easily predict what any other evangelical Protestant novel is going to say, how it's going to say it, and even what plot elements it's likely to have. That there are thousands of novels out there is not to the scholarly point.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:02 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


But the actual methods and results of his graphing/mapping approach (also known as "counting") strike me as underwhelming.

Counting is hard! I have a PhD in it.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:42 AM on June 28, 2011


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