Eve 2019

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Eve, Martin Paul. Close Reading with Computers: Textual Scholarship, Computational Formalism, and David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019

Introduction: Close Reading, Computers, and Cloud Atlas

consideration of the history / theories of close reading (in relation to symptomatic reading, surface reading, distant reading)

"This book is structured around a series of questions and answers that correlate roughly to the chapters. The questions pertain broadly to textual scholarship, to the syntax of genre, and to the language of historical fiction. The first of these questions is, What is the place of textual scholarhip in contemporary fiction, and how might digital techniques aid us in understanding textual variances?" (20) -- book introduces "a novel method for the visualization of differences between texts" (21)

"The second structuring question of this book pertains to the syntax and contexts of genre: What can a computational formalism tell us about genre?" (21) -- using authorship attribution and stylometrics in this chapter, but points out that such metrics make assumptions (that an author's style doesn't change with age or genre, for instance) -- and that instead of authorship attribution, computational analysis might be made to assume genre attribution, how an author thought about the genre he/she was working in (since Cloud Atlas is multi-voiced, written in different period styles, this is good case study)

"The last question that I ask in this book is, What does it mean to write as though in some bygone period? That is, how do issues of mimetic accuracy in historical fiction that purports to come from a particular time frame intersect with the formal elements of literary language and linguistics?" (22)

last chapter takes investigations with digital tools and writes up a more traditional literary-critical close reading

problem emphasized: manual labor of keying in entirety of novel; couldn't break DRM for copyright/legal reasons, and OCRing seemed too messy

1. The Contemporary History of the Book

points out that we do not have good ways of studying contemporary history of the book

multiple versions of Cloud Atlas, produced because edits suggested by US editor were not always fed back into the UK version and vice versa, because of a timelag with the US publication; some differences quite significant

"What does it mean for the close-reading practices of contemporary literary studies that texts in the contemporary age are as prone to variations in transmission and editing as they ever have been, even while there is no substantial effort devoted to textual criticism?" (27)