Franco Moretti

Quantitative Criticism as Project and Issue

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Quantitative literary history, Digital humanities.

It was a hard beginning. Together with Matt Jockers, and a couple of librarians and graduate students, we worked on a quantitative approach to novelistic descriptions; nothing; on fictional incipits, the same. We continued, almost only by inertia, until, in 2010, a meeting with Mike Witmore, who worked in Wisconsin, generated a study that finally worked. We placed a sheet of paper with «Literary Lab» written on it on the door of an empty office, and published the first of our pamphlets. From then on, things changed. But before moving forward, let me take a few steps back, to the time when a quantitative approach was only a hypothesis, mocked by many and opposed by almost everyone. My reflections will be completely personal. But the question behind them is not personal at all: has our knowledge of literature changed? and changed how?

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