Reading Up Close and at a Distance

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Margaret Linley, Department of English

Project team: Joshua Kuepfer, Maryam Mozafri, and Kimberly O'Donnell, research assistants

Timeframe: May 2016 to March 2018

Funding: $5,000  

Final report: View Margaret Linley's final report (PDF)

Description: The purpose of this project is to develop a digital learning space in which English students might engage with new interpretive possibilities opened up by digitally assisted reading and especially by applying hands-on programming to literary analysis. The project generated a pilot workshop for English graduate students, with Powerpoint teaching slides, teaching notes, and scripts for text analysis using the R statistical programming language. I incorporated the pilot workshop into a graduate course on nineteenth-century literature, as a means to experiment in the classroom with two radically different methods of textual analysis: “close” and “distant reading.” Close reading is the approach to literary interpretation with which English students are most familiar; distant reading, coined by digital humanist Franco Moretti, is the analytical method associated with large-scale sociological and computational analysis. English students for the most part have very little experience with the latter method. The R workshop explored one of the most promising opportunities of the digital humanities by enabling students to think about literary textuality in relation to the archive and to reflect on the process of reading itself. In so doing, it placed English students in a different relation to knowledge and encouraged new questions in the learning process.

Knowledge sharing: I plan to give presentations and to publish my research, in addition to presenting in my department meetings.

Linley, M. (2017, July). Travelling by the volume: A case study of the geography of the book in the Lake District. Invited Address, Spatial Humanities Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK.

Keywords: interface, annotate, Digital Humanities Practice and Theory, Close Reading, Distant Reading, Machine Reading and Learning, Coding, Data Visualization