Digitization has completely changed the literary archive. Historians of the novel used to work on a few hundred nineteenth-century novels; today, we work on thousands of them; tomorrow, hundreds of thousands. This new size has had a major effect on literary history, obviously enough, but also on critical methodology; because, when we work on 200,000 novels instead of 200, we are not doing the same thing, 1,000 times bigger; we are doing a different thing. The new scale changes our relationship to the object of study, and in fact it changes the object itself, by making it entirely abstract. And the question arises: what does it mean to study literature as an abstraction and by means of abstractions? We clearly lose some important aspects of the literary experience. Do we gain anything?
Danily C. and Laura Louise Bell
Professor in the Humanities
Time 7:30–9 p.m.
Location Presidents Hall, Franklin Hall