The Dust-Heap of the Database and the Specters of the Spectator


In 2014, networks launched some 1,715 new television series, a staggering number that prompted manyarticles to declare variations on the theme “there are too many shows to watch.” Same story, different medium, I say. Franco Moretti, a contemporary literary scholar, writes that while twenty-first century Victorianists may (may) read around two-hundred Victorian titles, that barely counts as a drop in the bucket of the 40,000 titles published in the nineteenth century. And the other 39,800 novels? The short version: gone. The longer version: maybe not.

Most scholars probably recognize that the internet has changed the way we do historical research. For the next month, I’m going to bring my mix of book history, reception theory, and the specific approach to the internet that comes with being a scholar of my age (I don’t really remember life before the internet, but I remember America Online) to think about how historical…

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