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ENGLIT 1900: 'The Great Unread' - Oakland Campus: Home

A guide to assist with research in ENGLIT 1900 Junior Seminar with Professor Steve Carr

Exploring the Great Unread

"Margaret Cohen, a French and Comparative Literature professor at Stanford University, coined the phrase “the great unread” to describe a body of texts that have, since the time of their production, become forgotten or unavailable. Franco Moretti, an English and Comparative Literature professor also at Stanford University, has applied the phrase in his computational analyses of nineteenth-century texts to discuss how distant reading can help us address the previously unaccounted for texts. More was written in the nineteenth century alone than a single human can ever read. And many of these texts did not survive, perhaps because of the materials on which they were printed, their limited print runs and low popularity, or some other reason." - A Literary Perspective from Catherine DeRose for Victorian Eyes

"Literary domain expertise is formed from the study of an imperfect and largely arbitrary canon. We say “largely arbitrary” as matters of reception, sales, publication, circulation, critical reviews and so on contribute significantly to the recognition of a literary work as exceptional. Exceptional works that have “staying power”—that are able to engage critics for a considerable period of time—are those that enter the canon. At the same time, despite the impression of immutability, the canon often changes radically over time so that unknown works can suddenly become known (and canonical), while well-known (and canonical) works can suddenly fall out of favor and disappear from the canon altogether." - Timothy R. Tangherlini and Peter Leonard from the article Trawling in the Sea of the Great Unread: Sub-corpus topic modeling and Humanities research

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