We are at a moment in which the overview as a critical genre has a new, even sexy, status. The granddaddy of this shift is Franco Moretti’s 2005 book Graphs, Maps, Trees, which takes the very, very large and long view, transhistorically and transnationally, charting the emergence of genres and of entire literary traditions by using enormous data sets. We can also thank Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus for championing “surface reading,” an element of which they defined as dealing with patterns within and across texts over time.

Older models of the overview often saw themselves as creating canons or setting critical agendas—R. W. B. Lewis’s The American Adam (1955), F. O. Matthiessen’s American Renaissance (1941), and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) come to mind. The two books under review here, Cyrus R. K. Patell’s...

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview
You do not currently have access to this content.