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In this article Prof. Philipp Schweighauser offers you an overview of the course and its focus on both traditional and more recent reading methods.

This week, you have learned about the six reading strategies in the digital age that we will cover. Each of the remaining weeks is dedicated to one of these strategies except Week 3, which deals with two of them:

Week 2: Close Reading
Week 3: Hyper Reading & Social Reading
Week 4: Historical Contextualization
Week 5: Distant Reading
Week 6: Surface Reading (or Materialities of Communication)

Next week, we start with close reading, which is the bread and butter of literary scholars. Close reading is a strategy that works just as well with offline/print texts as it works with online texts. Moreover, it was developed well before the digital revolution. So why give it pride of place?

For two reasons. First, close reading remains a supremely useful, perhaps THE most useful strategy to read and interpret texts today, in the digital age, be they print texts or electronic ones. Second, in order to understand how far removed more recent and extremely widespread practices such as hyper reading are from this time-honored scholarly method, and in order to understand the uproar that proponents of distant reading – the declared opposite of close reading – created when they proposed this new approach around the year 2000, you need to have a solid understanding of close reading.

Next to close reading, historical contextualization (to which we will turn in Week 4) is the second crucial professional reading strategy that was developed well before the digital revolution and remains eminently useful to decode both offline and online texts.

So what you will be exposed to in these six weeks is a mix of traditional scholarly approaches that continue to be used to great effect in the digital age (close reading, historical contextualization) and more recent responses to the digital revolution, be it by lay readers (hyper reading, social reading) or by those professional readers that go by the name of literary scholars (distant reading, surface reading / materialities of communication). We hope you’ll enjoy that mix.

© University of Basel
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Literature in the Digital Age: from Close Reading to Distant Reading

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