Maurice S. Lee (Boston)
This keynote was given as part of the "Beyond Narrative" conference on October 11, 2019.
Abstract: My paper challenges the widely held but increasingly dubious belief that literature and data are at odds. This dualism was formalized in the twentieth century, perhaps most famously under New Critical aesthetics and the “Two Cultures” divide, but its emergence can be traced to the nineteenth century, where the rise of numeracy, statistics, and mass print shaped the relationship between literature and data. After sketching the literature/data binary in romantic and sentimental discourses in English, my paper will reclaim a counter-narrative in which nineteenth-century adventure fiction uses numbers to create aesthetic experiences of enchantment. Literature and data are not always at odds in the nineteenth century, thus offering a deep history for current efforts in the digital humanities and related work in narrative theory. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island will serve as a case study, and—because I’ll be speaking at the end of the day, and we’ll all deserve some entertainment—I’ll conclude with some key scenes from Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.