Scenes from American Culture
Author: Franco Moretti
The influential and controversial critic takes literary history out of the classroom and into the public
In the field of literary history and theory, Franco Moretti is synonymous with innovation. The cofounder of the Stanford Literary Lab, he brought quantitative methods into the study of the novel, enabling a “distant” reading that uses computation to analyze literary production over centuries. But at the same time, he was also teaching undergraduates the history of literature. Knowing Moretti, it’s no surprise that he didn’t teach the course the accepted way: one author after another, in a long uninterrupted chain. Instead, he put an irregular chessboard in front of his students that was too strange to be taken for granted. Literary history had become a problem, and he offered a solution.
In Far Country, Moretti take these lectures out of the classroom and lets us share in the passion and excitement that comes from radical critique. Unconstrained by genre, Moretti juxtaposes Whitman and Baudelaire, the Western and film noir, even Rembrandt and Warhol, illuminating each through their opposition. With his guidance, we revel in the process of transformation—the earthquakes that shook the “how” of artistic form—and begin to shape a new view on American culture.
Bracing in its insight and provocative in its conclusions, Far Country is a critical look at the development of American cultural hegemony.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
In The News
“Learned without being difficult or jargony, Moretti proves that criticism can be both thought provoking and fun.”
“Moretti draws on a wide range of authors to assist him in his skeptical critiques. Fortunately, no grades are given out in these classes, just a ‘genuine intellectual experience’ to learn from a first-rate literary critic.”
“These lectures are all surprisingly accessible, introducing a broader audience to Moretti’s fresh approach to complex interpretation, his deep understanding of the Western canon, and the ways academic analysis can enrich one’s experience of a work of art.”
—Alexander Moran, Booklis