Franco Moretti Literary Lab

Last week, we could find that Matthew L. Jockers explains about the difference between close reading and distant reading by making comparison of relationship between microeconomics and macroeconomics. According to him, close reading is similar to microeconomics because as microeconomics deals with individual market and individual person’s preference for the commodity, close reading tries to examine the individual text, and infer its significance from the text. On the other hand, in case of distant reading, like macroeconomics which is number driven learning, it deals with the issue of literary text in terms of numerical based data. We can find such comparison from Franco Moretti’s writing, “Literary Lab” and how such idea of close reading and distant reading can operate in Moretti’s thought.

The drawback of distant reading which uses numerical data is, as Moretti confesses, that it cannot deliver the weight of the dialogue. Although his idea of networking between characters can draw the relationship between each character, it cannot show us the aesthetics or social meaning from the line that has been uttered in the characters. For example, this distant reading cannot deliver the vivid imagery of morning given by Horatio’s speech in Elsinore or character’s mental complexity in soliloquies. In addition, according to him, his study can reveal the power distribution in the character, because all of the characters cannot be considered in general same, from his study. However, this might neglect the implication of diverse characters who do not show up often. In case of gravedigger, his significance cannot be found in his graphic line, but as we read his speech, we can find interesting point that this ordinary person can outweigh the main characters in his wit and this shows disruption of hierarchy of knowledge in that era. For this reason, Moretti’s way of reading may miss out some important scene in the play.

Of course, we can find some meaningful thought from his study. His study can easily visualize us how to conceptualize the structure of characters’ relationship. For example, his examination between the people of Hamlet, and the people of Claudius makes us convince how the plot goes on with these characters. His emphasis on Horatio’s role is also interesting, as he explains that his status shows us well the fact how the court is surrounded by characters from different countries and examined by them through Horatio. He also does not dismiss the importance of close reading by focusing on Horatio’s role. From Horatio’s line, he briefly explains that he operates as a person in the court who does not behave like people in the court, but like a figure of the state who does not elaborate his speech. Such reading style of speech can be possible, only because he used close reading.