Bright the Hawk’s Flight

Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky.



  • “Abundance” offers many challenges
    • preservation
    • interpretation
    • access
  • Does history itself need to be reformed?
    • What relation to sources?
    • What kinds of arguments?
    • What narrative forms?
  • missed the “openness” section

Plan for the day

  • Lecture (short as i can manage, will stop early if nec)
  • Class Discussion (what did you learn/ what do you doubt)
  • Break
  • help w/ HTML/CSS/JS (if you’re stuck/don’t understand)


…ideas that were more-or-less serviceable in the world before networked computers–ideas about value, property rights, communication, creativity, intelligence, governance and many other aspects of society and culture–are now up for debate. The emergence of new rights regimes (such as open access, open content and open source) and the explosion of new information are manifestations of these changing costs. (Turkel)

Ideals of openness

  • rooted in Enlightenment
  • at the foundation of scholarship
  • yet, not manifest in our scholarly journals & publishing regimes

Jefferson on Freedom of Information

It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

the web as open space

  • Origins of Web wrapped up in ideologies of Freedom

“Information wants to be free - because it is now so easy to copy and distribute casually - and information wants to be expensive - because in an Information Age, nothing is so valuable as the right information at the right time. (Brand, ca. 1984)

When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving. (Stallman, ~1990, quoted by Dening)

  • but different freedoms compete
  • “walled gardens” vs open access
  • Struggles only intensifying, with battle lines not quite stable
    • net neutrality
    • the Facebook problem
    • Digital Public Library of America

Abstract Models

…distance is however not an obstacle, but a specific form of knowledge: fewer elements, hence a sharper sense of their overall interconnection. Shapes, relations, structures. Forms. Models.

The opposite of close?

Dorothea, endowed with the extraordinary capacity for attentiveness that is “ardor,” is given to the strongest denunciations of the trivial, the most overwhelming anxieties of admitting the trivial into her life of any character in the novel. She is blind to the possibility that attention has the capacity to reveal that what seems trivial is in fact significant. She fears instead that the attention is wasted by devoting itself to those common objects which really are trivial, which have no redeeming significance:

““I should learn everything then,” she said to herself, still walking quickly along the bridle road through the wood. “It would be my duty to study that I might help him the better in his great works. There would be nothing trivial about our lives. Everyday-things with us would mean the greatest things.”

To the point of deconstruction

If the pharmakon is ‘ambivalent,’ it is because it constitutes the medium in which opposites are opposed, the movement and the play that links them among themselves, reverses them or makes one side cross over into the other (soul/ body, good/ evil, inside/ outside, memory/ forgetfulness, speech/ writing, etc.).…The pharmakon is the movement, the locus, and the play: (the production of) difference. It is the différance of difference. It holds in reserve, in its undecided shadow and vigil, the opposites and the differends that the process of discrimination will come to carve out. Contradictions and pairs of opposites are lifted from the bottom of this diacritical, differing, deferring, reserve. Already inhabited by différance, this reserve, even though it ‘precedes’ the opposition between different effects, even though it preexists differences as effects, does not have the punctual simplicity of a coincidentia oppositorum. It is from this fund that dialectics draws its reserves


  • Literary study long organized around “close” reading
  • “Hermeneutic” model of scholarship
  • defines what it has meant to understand or master a text

Questioning Close Reading

  • But what is understanding?
  • what is literature?
  • what is the scholar’s goal?

Some Numbers

  • ~62,000 new Novels published in English in the US/year
  • ~304,000 new and re-issued books in US/year
  • ~129,000,000 books collected in world’s libraries
  • not possible to read these
    • can one still be an expert?

New forms of Understanding?

  • instead of, or in parallel with, close reading?
  • apprehension of large-scale phenomena
  • studying models, rather than texts themselves

Questions to consider

  • Does this count as comprehension?
  • what new skills are required?
  • What are the weaknesses of this form?


  • condense data
  • conceptualize mathematically
  • convince readers
  • a fundamentally rhetorical tool

Moretti’s Graphs


Quantitative research provides a type of data which is ideally independent of interpretations. (p.9)

  • yet, the graph is an argument: rise, fall, rise

A History of Readers

  • each phase a new “kind” of reader
  • intensive, extensive, generic


Event, cycle, longue durée: three time frames which have fared very unevenly in literary studies.

… cycles constitute temporary structures within the historical flow. (p.14)

  • event → close reading
  • longue durée → grand narrative
  • cycle → ?

Cycles in Literature


A genre exhausts its potentialities… when its inner form is no longer capable of representing the most significant aspects of contemporary reality. (p. 17, fn 7)

Genre & Generation

… some kind of generational mechanism seems the best way to account for the regularity of the novelistic cycle… (p. 22)

  • “Normal literature”
  • but “revolution” as “dying out”

From “the shift” to “a shift”


…the point is not who prevails in this or that skirmish, but exactly the opposite: no victory is ever definitive… the form keeps oscillating back and forth between the two groups. (p.29)

Moretti’s method

…the real point here… is the total heterogeneity of problem and solution: to make sense of quantitative data, I had to abandon the quantitative universe, and turn to morphology: evoke form, in order to explain figures.

  • how justified is this move?
  • what do we learn from it?


There is a very simple question about literary maps: what exactly do they do?

  • like graphs, maps are a persuasive tool
  • What does it mean to “map” a novel?

What is a map?


What is a map?

  • abstract
  • visual
  • representation
  • of a physical or imagined space

Moretti’s method


The form of an object is a ’diagram of forces’, in this sense, at least that from it we can… deduce the forces that … have acted upon it. (p.57)

Our Village

In the 1824 volume… the vilage was the undisputed centre of the surrounding countryside: the centripetal effects of the force “from within” were omnipresent, while the force “from without” was nowhere to be seen. (p. 57)

Two collections later, in 1828, the village’s gravitation field is already weaker… Something is wrong with the force from within, but as no counter-force challenges it yet, the basic pattern… remains in place. But by 1832… the village’s centripetal force is reduced to nothing, and the bulk of the book moves away… (p. 58-59)

Our Village – Extremes


Modelling the text

  • reduce text to the model
  • presume that sociological factors are determinative
  • sustain focus on form (“a quantitative history of literature is also a profoundly formalist one” -p.25, fn 14)
  • interpret model in light of theories

Summary: Moretti and History

  • labor-intensive quantification of sources
  • glossing over problems of quantification
  • continued reliance on expert opinion – but how is that expertise to be cultivated?

HTML Questions


  • a real language!
  • dynamic transformation
  • baby steps!!

Text is Data

Do it w/ your name!

Making Lists (Arrays)

Working with Numbers

Objects and Properties

more objects

For loops!