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What can quantitative linguistic analysis reveal about global institutions? From Bretton Woods to the present, the language of World Bank reports has undergone telling modulations. Moretti and Pestre track the decline of concrete referents and active verbs, the triumph of acronyms over nation-states—and irresistible rise of ‘governance’.
Lukács’s Theory of the Novel
Centenary reflections on one of the landmarks of twentieth-century thought about literature. Lukács in tension between Novalis and Weber during the Great War, and the implications for literary enquiry today of a conjugation that could never historically be repeated.
Can ‘digital humanities’ recover from Thomas Kuhn’s before-the-fact critique—that no new ‘laws of nature’ will be discovered just by inspecting the numbers? Testing the limits of the approach, Moretti investigates whether data-crunching can falsify Hegel’s theory of tragedy.
The Novel: History and Theory
Moretti’s 5-volume Il romanzo recast the field of the novel—historically deeper, geographically wider, morphologically broader. What are the implications for its theory? Prose, adventure and xiaoshuo as explanatory vectors; and prevalence of older power relations in the bourgeoisie’s hegemonic literary form.
Graphs, Maps, Trees - 2
After ‘Graphs’ (see NLR 24), maps: geography, or social geometry? Literary spaces plotted as competing fields for industrialization, peasant rebellion, state formation. The second of Moretti’s three essays conceptualizing patterns of genre and history, form and force.
Graphs, Maps, Trees - 1
The first of three essays setting out to demonstrate the power of abstract models to revolutionize our understanding of literary history. What do the quantitative curves of novel production tell us about the interplay of markets, politics, sexes, generations, in the life and death of literary forms?
Replying to critics of his ‘Conjectures on World Literature’ (NLR 1), Franco Moretti considers the objections to a world-systems theory of the relations between centre and periphery in the sphere of the novel or poetry, and proposes some new hypotheses about the morphology of forms and the politics of comparative literary studies.
MoMA 2000: The Capitulation
Time was when New York’s Museum of Modern Art plumed itself as an uncompromising guardian of Modernism. The arrival of its ‘themed’ re-hang—mimicked now at London’s Tate Modern—reduces a hundred years of defiguration to a stroll through an aesthetic department store.
Words Words Words: A Reply to Tony Pinkney
‘Modernism’ and the ‘Avant-garde’ are not synonymous terms’. Tony Pinkney is absolutely right in saying so, in stressing the relevance of Bürger’s book (which, alas, had not been published at the time I wrote my article), and in pointing to the terminological ‘slide’ in the opening sentences of ‘The Spell . . . read more
The Moment of Truth
Literary genres have temporal boundaries, and the current definition of modern tragedy is an evident if vague acknowledgment of this fact. But they have spatial boundaries too, which may be at times even more revealing—historically revealing—than temporal ones.footnote* Such is the case with modern tragedy, whose own geography has the . . . read more
The Dialectic of Fear
The fear of bourgeois civilization is summed up in two names: Frankenstein and Dracula.footnote* The monster and the vampire are born together one night in 1816 in the drawing room of the Villa Chapuis near Geneva, out of a society game among friends to while away a rainy summer. Born . . . read more
Conjectures on World Literature
Nearly two hundred years ago, Goethe announced the imminence of a world literature. Here Franco Moretti offers a set of hypotheses for tracking the birth and fate of the novel in the peripheries of Europe, in Latin America, Arab lands, Turkey, China, Japan, West Africa. For the first time, the prospect of a morphology of global letters?
Modern European Literature: A Geographical Sketch
Years ago, Denis de Rougement published a study entitled Twenty-eight Centuries of Europe; here, readers will only find five of them, the most recent. The idea is that the sixteenth century acts as a double watershed—against the past, and against other continents—after which European literature develops that formal inventiveness that . . . read more
The Spell of Indecision
In the past two decades, there has been a complete change in the dominant attitude of Marxist criticism towards Modernism. Essentially, Marxist readings of avant-garde literature are increasingly based on interpretative theories—Russian Formalism, Bakhtin’s work, theories of the ‘open’ text, deconstructionism—which, in one way or another, belong to Modernism itself. . . . read more
Paradoxes of the Italian Political Crisis
It is still too early to say whether the regional elections of 15 June 1975 marked the beginning of a new stage in the post-war history of Italy. What is, however, certain is that they left all the main actors in the country’s political life with their backs to the . . . read more