Scale and Value: New and Digital Approaches to Literary History

An issue of: Modern Language Quarterly

Scale and Value: New and Digital Approaches to Literary History
Journal Issue Pages: 200 Volume 77, Number 3 Published: September 2016 An issue of Modern Language Quarterly

This special issue of MLQ highlights important new work of literary-historical inquiry, partly though not exclusively pertaining to the digital humanities, in which problems arising from the nexus of scale and value have become conspicuous concerns of method. Every field of study must, at every stage in its development, define its proper scope, locating workable boundaries between its own objects, zones, and tools of research and those external to it. Certain temporal spans (century, literary period, artistic generation), geocultural categories (national literature, regional literature, diasporic or exilic literature), formal entities (protagonist, genre, individual work), and so forth supply us with the basic units we need to organize research projects and structure intellectual and institutional divisions of labor. The degree of prestige attaching to these built units of study is hierarchized, such that some national literatures, historical periods, genres, and individual works hold more value on the field than others; they carry more weight and exert greater influence than the units around them. And while the bulk of normative scholarship operates comfortably in accord with prevailing scales and values of scholarly practice, much of the excitement has arisen from the impulse to challenge them.

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