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Talk: “In Defense of Reading Reductively” by Sarah Allison

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The Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL) is pleased to announce a talk by Sarah Allison, Assistant Professor of English at Loyola University in New Orleans, on January 23, 2019 at 1:00pm in the Hill Memorial Library lecture hall.  Allison will discuss In Defense of Reading Reductively.

Drawing together materials from her first book and second project, Allison will sketch out the narrative of how what she calls “reductive reading” grew out of the intersection of her training as a scholar in Victorian literature and as a researcher using DH methods at the Stanford Literary Lab, a leading center for digital literary studies. Reductive reading is a way to conceptualize the strain of taking two very different perspectives on cultural forms: the reductive, explicit hermeneutic necessary for the quantitative methods embraced at the Stanford Literary Lab, and the imperative to attend to discursive context and subtle textual variance that characterizes traditional humanist inquiry. The second part of the talk argues that this approach can create new approaches to critically useful—if also notoriously unstable—distinctions in literary criticism like those between narrative and commentary, or fiction and nonfiction.

Allison’s research combines close reading at the level of the sentence with digital searches that trace patterns across large bodies of work.  She has co-authored three pamphlets on quantitative studies of literary style with the Stanford Literary Lab, two of which were subsequently reprinted in n+1. Her first book, Reductive Reading (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), is a manifesto for and a model of how digital analysis can provide daringly simple approaches to complex literary problems.  She has also published in ELHGenre, the Studies in the Novel-affiliated site Teaching Tools: Digital Humanities and the Novel, the essay collection Airplane Reading (Zero Books, 2016), and the book review section of the New Orleans Review.

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