Varieties of digital literary studies: Micro, macro, meso

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Digital literary studies constitutes a broad church. However, the field tends to divide into, at one pole, quantitative, macro-level studies of historical literary texts and, at the other pole, close-readings of individual born-digital literary works, typically hyper-avant-garde in conception. There is, in practice, little interplay between the two groupings. This article sketches a proposed ‘meso’ space in between the two extant levels. Drawing on methods from book history, literary sociology, cultural studies, and digital media theory, this mid-level approach would examine digital technology’s role in recasting contemporary mainstream literature: the impact of powerful new digital intermediaries; the blurring of author/reader/reviewer roles; and the continued existence of print artefacts within online environments.
Acknowledging the pervasiveness of this digital literary sphere prompts urgent follow-on questions for literary studies’ academic project: what are the proper objects of our analysis; what modes of discourse are appropriate to talk about them; in what institutional settings should such work take place; for the benefit of what audiences; and via what pedagogical practices?
Taking advantage of the moment of post-critique and COVID-exacerbated crisis to engage in disciplinary self-scrutiny, the article charts new pathways for literary studies to engage productively with the digital present.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalDigital Humanities Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • digital
  • internet
  • literary culture
  • Literary studies
  • digital literary sphere
  • distant reading
  • literary sociology
  • book history
  • Cultural Studies
  • Literary media studies

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