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Digital Public History

When looking at a book for the first time, I always make sure to read the “product description” to help me understand what sort of literary endeavor I’m about plunge myself into. These descriptions are frequently provided by the publishing company–not the author–so I take them with a certain grain of salt. Yet the product description for Franco Moretti’s short publication, Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History, was ironically provocative and tantalizing. “In this groundbreaking book,” says the publisher, Verso Books, “Franco Moretti argues that literature scholars should stop reading books and start counting, graphing, and mapping them instead.” Read this book, but when you’re finished, stop reading and get to quantifying stuff. Verso Books got me: hook, line, and sinker.

After reading Moretti, I am unconvinced of the need to stop reading books, and as Matt Greenfield points out, this book isn’t necessarily “groundbreaking,” as…

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