Recovery and Obsolescence: Feminist Scholarship, Computational Criticism, and the Canon
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 October 2020
BY CLAIMING TO move beyond the few to consider the many, including authors and works previously excluded from scholarly interest, Franco Moretti's call for “distant reading” and the rise of digital humanities have proffered possible remedies for what is perceived to be ailing traditional literary studies. This challenge to rethink scale and scope in literary studies has unleashed a host of scholarship that has sought to engage critically with Moretti's ideas but in tempered, moderated forms (such as Underwood, Piper, and Bode) as well as forcefully pushed back on claims that more is better (most recently Nan Z. Da). It cannot be denied that scholarship attending to the “many” or the “distant” has been productive in forcing us not only to reexamine the question of what we study but also how we study it. This selfreflection seems particularly relevant to a field such as eighteenth-century German studies, which sets as its monumental task the generation of new insights about texts that have been subjected to intense scholarly attention for more than two centuries. Indeed, Moretti's critique of the canon as only representing a small sample of what was actually written and what was actually read by contemporaries, aligns in many ways with the arguments mounted by early feminist scholars in their quest to decenter the literary canon and rethink the question of what should be read and who should be studied. This forum contribution explores the shared impulse between feminist scholarship and computational criticism to rethink the canon and reexamine what we read and study by focusing on the role of mass digitization and questions of scale for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scholarship. It operates from a mediated position between the close-distant dichotomy that has come to inform much of the recent work by digital scholars. Lastly, such an intervention necessarily raises questions that may not be easily answered—except by further dialogue.
Some forty years ago, feminist scholars mobilized to “recover” women's writing that had been devalued, forgotten, and/or erased from literary history in an effort to expand the canon. The 1990s and early 2000s saw the efforts of earlier scholars pay off with an increase in print collections, anthologies, and databases dedicated to the works of women writers as well as an uptake in scholarly publications drawing attention to issues of gender and sexuality.
- Goethe Yearbook 27 , pp. 197 - 204Publisher: Boydell & BrewerPrint publication year: 2020