How Distant is ‘Distant Reading’? A Paradigm Shift in Pedagogy

J. John Sekar *

Research Department of English, The American College, Madurai – 625 002, India.

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.


Life’s brevity contrasts with the enduring nature of art, and the specter of mortality perennially shadows humanity. In the contemporary landscape, millions of English-language literary works emerge annually, rendering exhaustive in-depth reading an unattainable feat for readers engaged in literary studies. The once-relied-upon method of close reading proves inadequate in addressing the expansive breadth of literary output. The imperative to incorporate computational approaches in the study of literary texts becomes evident. As we stand at the crossroads of tradition and technology, it is incumbent upon literary studies to embrace the symbiosis with computers, commonly recognized as digital humanities. This ethnoautobiographical article seeks to navigate the practical dimensions of distant reading within the realm of digital humanities. Its central thesis posits that contemporary literary academia must integrate distant reading alongside traditional close reading methodologies to comprehensively engage with the vast and diverse literary landscape.

Keywords: Close reading, emotional response, subjective experience, objective analysis, computational literary study

How to Cite

Sekar, J. J. (2024). How Distant is ‘Distant Reading’? A Paradigm Shift in Pedagogy. Asian Journal of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, 7(1), 84–99. Retrieved from


Download data is not yet available.


Eve MP. Closer reading with computers: Textual scholarship, computational formalism, and David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’. Stanford University Press; 2019.

Felski R. The limits of critique. University of Chicago Press; 2015.

Moretti F. Graphs, maps, trees: Abstract models for literary history. Verso; 2005.

Moretti R. Distant reading. Verso; 2013.

Wolf M. Reader, come home: The reading brain in a digital world. Harper; 2018.

Richards IA. Practical Criticism: A study of literary judgment. Routledge; 1929.

Ross S. In praise of overstating the case: A review of Franco Moretti, Distant Reading. Digital Humanities Quarterly. 2014;8(1).


Adams TE, Jones SH, Ellis C. Autoethnography: Understanding qualitative research. Oxford University Press; 2015.

Ellis C. The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Alta Mira Press; 2004.

Miller L. (2014 April 23). Take notes, Nate silver! Reinventing literary criticism with computers. Salon, April 23.

Arnold T, Tilton L. Humanities data in R: Exploring networks, geospatial data, images, and text. Springer; 2015.

Burdick A, Drucker J, Lunenfeld P, Presner T, Schnapp J. Digital humanities. The MIT Press; 2021.

Price KM, Siemens R. (eds.). Literary studies in the digital age: An evolving anthology. Modern Language Association of America; 2013.

Silge J, Robinson D. Text mining with R: A tidy approach. Shroff/O’Reilly; 2017.

Berry DM. (ed.). Understanding digital humanities. Palgrave Macmillan; 2012.

Rockwell G. What is text analysis, really? Literary and Linguistic Computing. 2003;18(2):209-19.


Smith BH. What was close reading? A century of method in literary studies. Minnesota Review. 2016;87:70-71.


Hirsch BD. (ed.). Digital humanities pedagogy: Practices, principles and politics. Open Book Publishers; 2012.

Harari YN. Homo Deus: A brief history of tomorrow. Vintage; 2015.

Gold MK. (ed.). Debates in the digital humanities. University of Minnesota; 2012.

Risam R, Koh A. (eds.). Theories and practices of postcolonial digital humanities. North Western University Press; 2018.

Schreibman S, Siemens R, Unsworth J. (eds.). A new companion to digital humanities. Wiley Blackwell; 2015.

Geertz C. The interpretation of cultures. Basic Books; 1973/2017.

Stebbins RA. Exploratory research in the social sciences. SAGE; 2001.

Yazadani M, Chow J, Manovich L. Quantifying the development of user-generated art during 2001-2010. PLOS ONE. 2017;12(8):eo175350,