Reading literature is often contrasted to the use of digital media in terms of speed. While readers engage slowly with a book, they rush through digital environments at an ever faster pace. This article argues against a simple binary between slow/literary and fast/digital. This binary is in fact not native to the public debate about literature in the digital age but can be traced back from the digital revolution to modernist attitudes on literature, as they emerge in Viktor Shklovsky and Walter Benjamin. Drawing on results about reading speed in reading science and on current narrative theory, this article devises an alternative argument for literary reading as a process that unfolds over multiple time scales linked to different layers of meaning making. Reading literature, from this perspective, is not exclusively slow but, rather, works through a combination of both fast and slow processes. The article develops its argument through the example of Alexander Pushkin's classic novella “The Queen of Spades” and then applies this new theoretical account of multispeed literary reading to two novels engaging explicitly with the digital revolution.

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