The Digital in the Humanities: An Interview with Franco Moretti

Melissa Dinsman in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

MELISSA DINSMAN: Like me, you come from a literary background, so how did you first come to enter what we will broadly call, at this point, the digital field?

ScreenHunter_1761 Mar. 08 19.11FRANCO MORETTI: I have been interested in a scientific approach to literature for a long time, since the late-1980s when I wrote on evolutionary theory in literature. From here I moved to geography and wrote the Atlas of the European Novel. While doing geographical research, I realized that quantitative methods helped considerably with mapmaking. So I became interested in quantitative approaches to history of all kinds. Around 2000-2001, I gave a series of lectures at the University of California, Berkeley that pulled all these threads together. This became the book Graphs, Maps, Trees. But the lucky moment was that right then Matt Jockers came to Stanford as a technology specialist. We met and started working together. So for me, digital humanities was really like the fourth or fifth station along a much longer course, which also means that I've never seen digital humanities as, so to speak, a total novelty as some of its practitioners do. For me it’s basically the form taken in the digital age by scientific, explanatory, empirical, rationalistic, call it what you want, approaches to the history of literature and culture.

More here.