Lauren Goodlad: “A Study in Distant Reading”

Lauren Goodlad (Rutgers)

“A Study in Distant Reading”

Thursday, February 21 at 4pm in Austin 217 (Stern)



It is a commonplace of our times that late (neoliberal) capitalism produces a relentless anti-historicism that fixates on the present as the only viable reality. In such a climate even self-styled enthusiasts of long duree histories adopt reductionist methods to make positivistic claims about cultural archives. In this talk, Goodlad looks at detective fiction to show how some recent methods miss opportunities to break down the supposed impasse of form and history. Turning to A Study in Scarlet, she argues Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novella is prescient in elucidating problems of genre, place, and ontology which flummox even the newest of data models. In an irony that Sherlock Holmes’s fans will likely appreciate, the world’s first consulting detective was also the world’s first distant reader.


Goodlad is the author of The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic: Realism, Sovereignty and Transnational Experience (Oxford, 2015) and Victorian Literature and the Victorian State: Character and Governance in a Liberal Society (Johns Hopkins, 2003); and co-editor of Mad Men, Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style, and the 1960s (Duke UP, 2013). She has also co-edited a number of journal special issues, including The Ends of History, a Summer 2013 special issue of Victorian StudiesStates of Welfare, a 2011 special issue of Occasion; and Comparative Human Rights, a 2010 special issue of the Journal of Human Rights.