Dead MacroAnalysis Society


I know it’s not necessarily my turn to post, but I have too many feelings about Macroanalysis to keep quiet.

While reading, I could not help but think of the beloved, fictional teacher, John Keating. As I read Matthew Jockers argument for digitized macroanalysis of literature, I couldn’t help but think of the algorithm for poetry found in the textbooks in Keating’s classroom in Dead Poet’s Society. To paraphrase, Keating tells students there’s no way to measure the importance of poetry–its connection with human emotion– with any algorithm, and instructs students to rip out pages of their textbooks that teach them how to attempt to do so.

While I really appreciated the idea of digital macroanalysis as a means to begin close reading, I couldn’t separate my abstract, theoretical, love of close reading and literary analysis from what seemed to be the very scientific, absolute, and rigid practice of digital macroanalysis. Reading, even in literary analysis, is a deeply personal pursuit. I do not believe the humanities, particularly literature, are meant to be approached through such rigid analysis of meta data, even if it is used in conjunction with “typical” or “traditional” close reading and analysis methods. Instead, by applying this digital means of analyzing the metadata, I think it removes the human aspect of literary study.

What do you all think?

5 thoughts on “Dead MacroAnalysis Society”

  1. Cassie, this is thought-provoking and certainly worth mentioning. I think the highly personal, emotional nature of literature is important and something we all hold dear, but to me the human aspect of literature is actually that which dictates that we cannot just focus on this type of close reading. I think it is the human element of literature that compels us to use a macroanalytic approach so we can “see and understand the degree to which literature and the individual authors who manufacture that literature respond to r react against literary and cultural trends” (Jockers 28). Literature is tied to emotion, but it is also tied to culture,

    To me, the implications of Jockers’ text are that macroanalysis does not take away the mystical power of literature but rather opens us up to understanding just how powerful, and in how many ways, literature has been and can be. Macroanalysis lends validity to the things we have been saying for years.

  2. Dead MacroAnalysis Society

    I see this to be somewhat true with the microanalysis process. The point that it may be taking away the beauty and art of the work. Man I can’t believe that I this type of analysis as plausible. I believe that we need a healthy dose of both. In order to protect and respect the work, we need to fully understand its intention and historical/cultural/philosophical connection. Also, we need not eliminate the emotional connection that has for centuries supported our narrative and the basis for extensive discoveries in various topics. We wouldn’t know what we know, if we didn’t look deeper into things. Sometime it seems overboard when we break it down too much. Jockers methods seems to be combining the big picture, with the details. A mix of general to specific methods of analyzing and understanding it.

    Sometimes I wish we would just see things for what they are instead of breaking them further into pieces that are confusing. After those pieces are exposed and vulnerable, we can maybe place a viable “label” on them. Does this process ruin the work? Or accentuate it? The more I type the more I struggle with my point of view. The video of Dead Poets Society reminded me that I’m a lover first and a researcher second.
    I guess this is why we post and interact with each other; it creates a thought process that is immeasurable.

  3. I enjoyed this post and the comments made by Emily and Tonya. When I think about analyzing literature, close reading, and macroanalysis, it all speaks to who we are as students. When I read literature for academic reasons and pleasure, I find that I enjoy looking to others in order to see their understanding and application. I enjoy reading the text and finding my own connection to the text, and then I like to see what others think. I do think that macroanalysis has changed the way that we are taught literature. I not longer can ask students to identify a theme, that is too easily shared. Now, I ask them to analyze the the theme and pull quotes to support claims. If done creatively, literature can remain personal while also allowing for macroanalysis and larger discussions.

    1. Kristen –
      I think you make some great points. I agree with Cassie that the idea of macroanalysis is a little unsettling for the English major in me; however, I think, at times, macroanalysis could be used to understand a larger period of literature. I think that close reading is very important when it comes to an individual book, but when you are talking a large-scale research project for a chunk of time, I can definitely see how macroanalysis could be helpful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *