Distant Reading and the Printing Press

Moretti’s argument for the shifts of genre popularity and historical “rhythm” of publishing seems to coincide with Scholes and Wulfman’s article.  Moretti, quoting Mannheim’s essay, says “a rhythm in the sequence of generations… is far more apparent in the realm of series libres–  free human groupings such as salons and literary circles– than in the realm of the institutions” (21).  Although Moretti hesitates to accept this generational theory, he admits that it’s the only one currently that makes sense of the collected data.  This reminded me of Scholes and Wulfman’s understanding of the development of new artist, who “learned the virtue of being grouped in schools and movements” during the rise of periodicals (35).  I’m interested to know if there are significant differences in this rhythm with the increased speed and ease of press machines and others aspects of modernity.  Moretti’s graphs suggest genres grew and lost popularity in a successive order, which creates the appearance of a single trajectory showing one genre peaking one at a time.  Does modernity allow the possibility for multiple genres to peak simultaneously or does the same rhythm continue?  If the former, how does this change our distant reading of the pattern of genres?