GABBLER RECOMMENDS: On Not Reading by Amy Hungerford

“Sometimes scholars will need not just to silently make their choices without acknowledging the choices forgone, but to refuse, in a reasoned and deliberate way, to read what the literary press and the literary marketplace put forward as worthy of attention. This requires a distinctly nonscholarly form of reasoning: One must decide, without reading a work, whether it is worth the time to read it or not. And a decision not to read must be defended, and received, on the basis of this different standard of evidence.”

Further Annotations

‘The activity of nonreading is something that scholars rarely discuss. When they — or others whose identities are bound up with books — do so, the discussions tend to have a shamefaced quality. Blame “cultural capital” — the sense of superiority associated with laying claim to books that mark one’s high social status….

Consider, however, the fact that, as Matthew Wilkens points out, in 2011 more than 50,000 new novels were published in the United States alone. “The problem of abundance” is a problem for every person who has an internet connection, and it is a professional problem in every corner of literary study. Nonreading, seen in this light, is not a badge of shame, but the way of the future. Franco Moretti has been making this point for years about the literary production of the 18th and 19th centuries, inspiring a few labs-worth of scholars to turn to machine…

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