close reading, bad


A specter is haunting the academy—the specter of close reading. But don’t worry: as the New York Public Library had the Ghostbusters, the academy has Franco Moretti.

Of course, Moretti is not the first or the only critic to object to close reading. For a good fifteen years, close reading has had a place in the ever-expanding group of things that might be bad for you; experts have shown that close reading will cause you to ignore history, reinforce cultural hegemonies, and “avoid commitment.”

But Moretti’s objections are different. Moretti is a man of the world, and men of the world do not reproach you for trying to avoid commitment. Instead, he finds close reading to be close-minded, superstitious, a fundamentally “theological exercise—very solemn treatment of very few texts taken very seriously.” The problem with the canon, by extension, is not that it is sexist, racist, or classist, but that it is so—provincial.

more from n+1 here.