Cultural Analytics Now

Edited by Dan Sinykin

Introduction: Cultural Analytics Now

Dan Sinykin

Distant Reading and Literary Knowledge

Dan Sinykin

Seeing Double: a Response to Dan Sinykin

Models and Meaning

Charisma (Embodiment): a Response to Tess McNulty

More Specific, More Complex

Gauging One’s Audience: a Response to Laura B. McGrath

Dan Sinykin

Afterword: Cultural Analytics Next


Call it cultural analytics or distant reading or data-rich literary studies. It is that branch of digital humanities that most leans on quantitative methods to understand its objects. For much of the twenty-first century it was closely associated with Franco Moretti, but the field has recently moved beyond his work. It has delineated a longer genealogy. It has arrived at a new dispensation.

The new maturity is true of digital humanities writ large. Since the start of 2018, scholars have published field-shaping books in critical and activist digital humanities, including James E. Dobson's Critical Digital Humanities, Safiya Noble's Algorithms of Oppression, Roopika Risam's New Digital Worlds, and Elizabeth Losh and Jacqueline Wernimont's Bodies of Information. Catherine D'Ignazio and Lauren Klein's Data Feminism is coming soon. Colored Conventions and Torn Apart / Separados are expanding the horizon of possibility for digital projects.

Three monographs published in the last ten months consolidate cultural analytics's revised conventions and protocols: Ted Underwood's Distant Horizons, Andrew Piper's Enumerations, and Katherine Bode's A World of Fiction. Their work is different enough from what came before, and from how casual observers typically understand the field, to mark a break. These scholars are less concerned with scale or comprehensiveness than with generalization and representativeness. They elevate modeling to the center of their method. They situate their work in conversation with book history, literary studies, and theory, while advancing debates within digital humanities.

This cluster introduces cultural analytics now. Laura McGrath reviews A World of Fiction, Tess McNulty reviews Enumerations, and I review Distant Horizons. In the conversational spirit of Contemporaries, each of us responds to another so that we examine each text doubly, from slightly aslant perspectives. Much debate on this topic is polemical, for or against. We aim here to assess cultural analytics for observers who find themselves unaddressed by the polemics, who are curious about the burgeoning field. Everyone agrees it's here to stay. Read on to learn what it has to offer and where it's likely to grow.

Dan Sinykin is a postdoctoral fellow in digital humanities at the University of Notre Dame. Beginning in fall 2019, he will be an assistant professor of English at Emory University. He is the editor of Contemporaries.

Past clusters