How to Talk About Literature Without Ever Reading a Single Book

I don’t, as a matter of habit, link to articles from the New York Times because after a week they vanish behind the paid-access only scrim, so what’s the point? But today’s Arts and Ideas section has an interesting profile of Franco Moretti, an English/comp lit professor at Stanford and director of the Center for the Study of the Novel. In the article, Emily Eakins describes Moretti’s approach as “a heretical blend of quantitative history, geography and evolutionary theory” (and notes that Harold Bloom dismisses him as “an absurdity,” with “an audible shudder,” no less).

Unfortunately, the article that’s causing all the current ruckus, “Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History,” is behind a subscribers-only shield of its own at the New Left Review, but they do have some of his work available. Take a gander at “More Conjectures,” a sequel to his earlier essay “Conjectures on World Literature.” And here’s “Planet Hollywood,” attempting to suss out the geographic scope of American film’s cultural influence. Then read a review of his Atlas of the European Novel.

10 January 2004 | uncategorized |