This introduction frames the principal questions of this special issue: the nature of data in criticism and the relation between data-driven literary criticism and more traditional forms of criticism. The suggestion throughout is that the current tension in critical practice can be better understood by turning to nineteenth-century narratives and their fraught attempts at encapsulating and representing data. Particular attention is paid to the means of representing data in literary criticism, particularly through visualizations. The essays in this special issue are then discussed, with emphasis on the possibilities and conceptual difficulties that come with the representation of large aggregates in novel form.
Jesse Rosenthal is assistant professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Good Form: The Ethical Experience of the Victorian Novel (2017). He is currently working on a book on the idea of tradition in novels and literary criticism.