From the very small to the very large

The seventh Wolfgang-Iser-Lecture of the Cluster of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Integration”

On Monday, 13 July 2014, the internationally acclaimed literary scholar Professor Franco Moretti will be holding this year’s Wolfgang-Iser-Lecture, entitled “Micromégas: the very small, the very large, and the space of digital humanities”. The lecture, which will be held in English, will begin at 19:00 in the Senatssaal V 1001 at the University of Konstanz.

Moretti uses the expression “Micromégas”, a contraction of the Greek words for “small” and “large”, to characterise the comparatively young field of study known as digital humanities. “A process whereby very small units combine to form a single large system has formed part of the digital humanities for some time now, so much so that it may be described as its signature approach to the study of literature”, explains Professor Moretti, who is based at the University of Stanford in the US. 

Interdisciplinary in character, the digital humanities apply computer-based and digital research tools to fields of study associated with the humanities and cultural studies. In doing so, the researchers hope to gain new insights. According to Moretti, the digital humanities demonstrate a clear advantage over traditional modes of textual interpretation because they can afford to pay particular attention to very small and extremely large quantities. In his lecture, he will be addressing various questions and challenges that the advent of the digital humanities poses to the study of literature, including: What does it mean to study literature in the age of digital research tools? How does literature change when it is broken down into tables and diagrams?

The Wolfgang-Iser-Lecture, which commemorates the acclaimed literary scholar Professor Wolfgang Iser and is named in his honour, is held once a year. Among those invited to speak at the annual lecture are academics who formed part of “Poetik + Hermeneutik”, a research group strongly influenced by Iser, as well as leading researchers similarly influential to the humanities today. Moretti has coined the term “distant reading”. Diagonally opposed to the technique of “close reading”, which involves the detailed study of small text passages and usually includes an assessment as to their quality, “distant reading” entails the collection of huge amounts of text through the use of quantitative and statistical methods.

The Wolfgang-Iser-Lecture is funded and organised by the Cluster of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Integration“. It is open to all.

Further information: www.exzellenzcluster.uni-konstanz.de