Literary history has long been plagued by the problem of scale. How can close readings of exemplary literary works account for vast, changing systems of relations among texts; between texts, people, and the world; and among the critical, social, political, intellectual, and material conditions that shape the production of texts? The answer, I propose, is a combination of macro- and microscopic analysis that would highlight the dynamism and agency of these texts, their producers, and their audiences. Using examples from my forthcoming book Poet-Monks: The Invention of Buddhist Poetry in Late Medieval China, I demonstrate how geographical data, social-network analysis, and statistics on the usage of certain literary techniques can shed new light on previously overlooked corners of the archive of late Tang poetry. In this way, I propose that digital methods should be used in dialectical combination with analogue ones, honing literary historians’ questions and pointing them to neglected materials. Digital methods are a beginning, not an end, to literary research. [Go to the full record in the library's catalogue]
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