Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226612836 Published February 2019
Cloth $83.00 ISBN: 9780226612669 Published February 2019
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Distant Horizons

Digital Evidence and Literary Change

Ted Underwood

Distant Horizons

Ted Underwood

200 pages | 24 halftones, 4 tables | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2019
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226612836 Published February 2019
Cloth $83.00 ISBN: 9780226612669 Published February 2019
E-book $10.00 to $27.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226612973 Published February 2019
Just as a traveler crossing a continent won’t sense the curvature of the earth, one lifetime of reading can’t grasp the largest patterns organizing literary history. This is the guiding premise behind Distant Horizons, which uses the scope of data newly available to us through digital libraries to tackle previously elusive questions about literature. Ted Underwood shows how digital archives and statistical tools, rather than reducing words to numbers (as is often feared), can deepen our understanding of issues that have always been central to humanistic inquiry.  Without denying the usefulness of time-honored approaches like close reading, narratology, or genre studies, Underwood argues that we also need to read the larger arcs of literary change that have remained hidden from us by their sheer scale. Using both close and distant reading to trace the differentiation of genres, transformation of gender roles, and surprising persistence of aesthetic judgment, Underwood shows how digital methods can bring into focus the larger landscape of literary history and add to the beauty and complexity we value in literature.
List of Illustrations
Preface: The Curve of the Literary Horizon
1 Do We Understand the Outlines of Literary History?
2 The Life Spans of Genres
3 The Long Arc of Prestige
4 Metamorphoses of Gender
5 The Risks of Distant Reading
Appendix A: Data
Appendix B: Methods
Review Quotes
Alan Liu, author of Friending the Past: The Sense of History in the Digital Age
Distant Horizons is of compelling interest to digital humanists. But its true audience is a wider society of literary and other humanities scholars spanning across fields, periods, approaches, and levels. For this larger audience, Ted Underwood goes out of his way to make distant reading accessible, inviting, and persuasive. This innovative book is the breakout work digital humanists have been waiting for, and it is positioned to be a landmark work in literary scholarship at large.”
Laura Mandell, author of Breaking the Book: Print Humanities in the Digital Age
Distant Horizons not only proves that Ted Underwood is defining the field of cultural analytics as it emerges; it shows us why. Combining literary theory with a deep understanding of computational methods, this volume demonstrates and effectively argues that quantitative analysis is best used not to find objective truths but to explore perspectives, both historically local and theoretical. It is at once a primer for quantitative literacy and a historically sensitive exploration of gender, genre, character, and audience, putting paid once and for all to the notion that statistical methods have no place in hermeneutics.”

"This is a substantive contribution to the debate over what Franco Moretti dubbed 'distant reading' and its place in the study of literature. Underwood engages contemporary scholarship, building and testing hypotheses based in the last 20 years of work. . . . Though technical in method, the book is engaging, and Underwood punctuates the argument with data-rich graphs and tables. The volume concludes with a healthy, skeptical consideration of the dangers of distant reading that nevertheless argues for the place of digital reading, alongside more traditional literary inquiry, as a tool for 'learning to doubt one's own perspective.'"

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