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Statement of Purpose

John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Moretti Responds

Posted by Franco Moretti, Guest Author, on 01/12/06 at 09:39 AM

Many thanks to everybody writing about the book - and four brief rejoinders.

Does work like mine belong in a History department, rather than in English? I take the idea as a compliment - trying to make literary study a part of historical research has always been a fixation of mine. Does this abolish the pleasure of reading literature? No - it just means that between the pleasure and the knowledge of literature [or at least a large part of knowledge] there is no continuity. Knowing is not reading.

Are literary cycles limited to the 19th century? I doubt it. Virtually all the evidence I know of [from studies in French, British, and other western european literatures] points to the existence of genre cycles well before then, and the 20th century largely confirms the pattern, in literature and outside [think of war films, or westerns]. Of course, it remains to be seen how much of the literary [and cultural] field is affected by cycles. But even if it’s only 50%, wouldn’t that be a significant find?

Is it possible that relying on secondary sources may produce distortions? Of course. Point out a large enough number of distortions, and I will abandon the enterprise. But I’m not going to do so simply because of the “possibility” of a distortion. I firmly believe in falsifiability, but falsification is a matter of fact, not of possibility.

Do maps reveal very little about literature? Well, it depends. Those of village stories, for instance, bring to light a type of spatial perception that would be hard to envisage otherwise. The map of Paris from the Atlas - especially in connection with the London maps from the same book - explains why youth and social class play such different roles in the two traditions. And so on. Still, a lot of people have that reaction to maps - “Of course things are this way. What’s the big deal?” So, may I suggest a little wager-experiment? Sometime in the future I’d like to make maps of regional narratives [Hardy, Verga]. Why don’t map-skeptics write in advance what I will “obviously” find - and we compare the results once the maps are done?

Thanks again

Franco Moretti


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