Distant Reading and the Slaughterhouse of Literature


by Mae Capozzi

I first heard about distant reading in a 200-level English class on World Literature and was immediately hooked. Though I have always enjoyed close reading, I was excited to discover there were different ways to think about literature than book-by-book. I had often felt that familiar feeling of not having read enough, and when I spoke to other academics they expressed that same anxiety. Here, I thought, was the solution. Of course, as I investigated Moretti’s concept more deeply, I realized I could not be farther from the truth. Moretti’s goal is not to simplify. Rather, he seeks to expand beyond the canon––to understand not only why canonical texts work, but why other books sputter out without so much as a spark.