Literary history has two sides, I think. One is the normative side: deciding what is good and what is less good. The other is the explanatory side. It’s two very different modalities of thought, and I’ve always been inclined toward the explanatory. That’s what fires my mind. And in the study of the humanities, the normative modality has disappeared. It’s all explanatory now.
Salon senior writer and Rumpus interviewee Laura Miller talks with Franco Moretti, co-founder of Stanford Literary Lab, about his new study. Moretti is applying evolutionary models to literary studies, analyzing 7000 British texts dating between 1740 and 1850 to discover mutations and survival of texts, genres, and forms in time—all without even reading one book.