What survives from undergraduate literature classes? Preferences? Jargon? Half-remembered couplets? Dog-eared copies of Lacan’s Écrits or The Woman Warrior?
More than anything else, what proves most durable, even if one resists the content of one’s coursework, is the form: the basic vision of how to read, the actions entailed in measuring up a book, sitting down with it, and extracting something from it that one can show or describe to another—revealing details, blind spots, latent meanings—anything that verifies not only that you read the book but that you got it. While few of us read exactly the same way outside of literature classes as we used to read on assignment, this more general practice of close reading persists, remarkably intact long after commencement.
Other markers of academia’s continued influence in our everyday culture abound. The ubiquity of terms like “deconstruct,” “discourse,” “post-” and “meta-” in all realms of culture sketches out the reach of an academic leviathan. And, had the classroom not trained us to want it, would there be a highlighting option on the Kindle, ready to remind us of vivid collegiate hours? Of course it’s true that long before the academic instruction of modern literature, readers were grabbing quotes and passages from their favorite texts and sticking them in commonplace books, but there is no doubting that our widest experience with that kind of engaged yet selective reading comes from the seminar room.
The academy also exerts a profound influence on our reading habits and norms at the point of production: through MFA instruction, which certainly entails more practice in reading than in writing for both teachers and students, academic codes provide half or more of the DNA of U.S. literary fiction. Criticism on all levels—from serious essays on Nobel Prize winners to recaps of Jersey Shore—are heavily dependent on techniques of noticing, critiquing, and connecting that are the basic toolkit of cultural studies. Literature professors need no longer be so overtly didactic in transmitting the lessons of reading as Mortimer Adler’s 1940 How to Read a Book. Unlike those pre-G. I. Bill days, we now see a large percentage of Americans in the classroom, whether in courses for composition, creative writing, or literary study proper.
Yet it is precisely at this point of broadest and deepest influence that the academic study of literature seems to be in a sort of crisis. “How to read” is no longer an unspoken creed for the discipline but a set of fighting words, as new digital techniques for data mining large bodies of texts and new, cognitive scientific propositions about the nature and experience of reading inject unsettling questions and (to some) unsightly applications. Furthermore, increased awareness of the long provincialism of a Eurocentric focus has engendered a sense of wonder (and at times near paralysis) at how reliant the standard categories of literary analysis—genre, form, taste, and their interrelations—are on a relatively small corner of the globe. While things may not fall apart, the fallout of these mostly intra-academic debates promises to irradiate the broader literary culture just as thoroughly as the dominance of the old model, close reading, has done for many decades.
At the center of many of these debates is Franco Moretti, an iconoclastic scholar who directs the Stanford Literary Lab. “Lab” gives you a sense of his general mentality and method, which is far removed from what you would find in most English or comparative literature departments. Moretti deals happily, even giddily, with graphs, databases, and algorithms, although he also has sterling credibility as a traditional literary critic. He is one of the few literary theorists whose activities are treated by outlets like The New York Times as news, or whose books might conceivably be displayed prominently in a bookstore along with hip new fiction. All of his books in English (Moretti is Italian, and began his career in that language) have been published by Verso Books, a radical press affiliated with the New Left Review that carries a certain automatic cachet, and profiles of his work not infrequently lapse into myth-making, characterizing Moretti as a mad scientist or Sherlockian genius.
Moretti is both consistent in his productivity and an unquestionable pleasure to read—as strong and idiosyncratic a stylist as any humanist in the United States, irrepressibly fond of phrasing things in the most dramatic form possible. Questioning the further utility of close reading, Moretti raises an eyebrow and says,
The United States is the country of close reading, so I don’t expect this idea to be particularly popular. But the trouble with close reading (in all of its incarnations, from the new criticism to deconstruction) is that it necessarily depends on an extremely small canon. This may have become an unconscious and invisible premise by now, but it is an iron one nonetheless: you invest so much in individual texts only if you think that very few of them really matter. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense. And if you want to look beyond the canon . . . close reading will not do it. It’s not designed to do it, it’s designed to do the opposite. At bottom, it’s a theological exercise—very solemn treatment of very few texts taken very seriously—whereas what we really need is a little pact with the devil: we know how to read texts, now let’s learn how not to read them.
That passage comes from his 1999 essay “Conjectures on World Literature,” and it immediately raised hackles, as one might imagine—heresy is one thing, but cavalier heresy?—and misunderstandings—what was he suggesting, that we all just skim omnivorously? But it was not so much the dismissal of close reading as the concept he developed to replace it that really lit the torches and sharpened the pitchforks.
“Distant reading” (the Italian formulation is, predictably, more mellifluous: la letteratura vista da lontano) has become one of Moretti’s signatures, even though he later described it as a sort of inadvertently apt quip:
That fatal formula had been a late addition to the paper, where it was initially specified, in an allusion to the basic procedure of quantitative history, by the words, ‘serial reading’. Then, somehow, ‘serial’ disappeared, and ‘distant’ remained. Partly, it was meant as a joke; a moment of relief in a rather relentless argument. But no one seems to have taken it as a joke, and they were probably right.
“Serial” was probably not the right word to begin with—it does suggest skimming, which Moretti has distinctly disavowed as a replacement for close reading—and this whole explanation is more than a little coy. He had been working toward this concept for some time, at least as far back as 1991, as a footnote in the first essay reprinted in Distant Reading shows. But certainly he was on the track in his 1998 book Atlas of the European Novel, 1800-1900, which interposed maps between the critic and the text, aggregating texts as diagrams, patterns, and piles. That was distant reading avant la lettre—the transformation of texts into abstract models, models which can’t answer all questions, but can answer certain questions better than anything else. Moretti’s surprise at the pungency of the term “distant reading” masks the deliberateness with which he cooked it up.
Furthermore, Moretti was far from the only theorist at the time working with fiction from far outside the canon. His essay “Conjectures” even notes the influence of Margaret Cohen, who in a book on the origins of French realism introduced two terms to try to name this body of literature: “the great unread” and “literature hors d’usage (out of circulation). That same year the French theorist Pascale Casanova also published a book on “the World Republic of Letters,” making a number of arguments that rhymed with Moretti’s. But in the American context, it was surely the aftermath of the so-called canon wars of the 1990s that drew attention to the vagaries of literary value; studies like John Guillory’s Cultural Capital forced academics to become much more self-conscious about the arbitrariness of their discipline’s preferred texts. Finally, the influence of a larger number of international (and not merely European) scholars in the humanities was making itself felt, as postcolonial critics challenged the “natural” categories of national literatures—with the coherent traditions and stable canons they implied—with greater frequency and force. If “distant reading” was a facetious jab, it was precisely and deliberately placed. As Moretti lets slip in the same headnote to “Conjectures,” his objective was far from innocuous: “It seemed like a good opportunity to bring disagreements into the open.”
In part because of that puckishness and in part simply because Moretti has been so frequently a major player, he is a convenient guide to this debate about what reading is, could be, and should be. More convenient still, he has collected his most successfully provocative essays and arguments into the two books under review, Distant Reading and The Bourgeois. While I would highly recommend either book for their intrinsic pleasures—The Bourgeois perhaps a bit more, as it is more unified in subject, tone, and argument—they also tell us a great deal about how the landscape of literary studies is shifting, and I think they may hold some insight into the way those transformations could shape broader cultural norms of and ideas about reading. That, rather than a close reading of either text, will be the subject of the rest of this essay.
A few words further, however, must be said about Moretti’s body of work. First of all, it is important to recognize that he is, in the most literal sense, inimitable. His experiments are, as he often self-effacingly confesses, one-offs, little tinkered-together bits of one and another theory soldered onto the apparatus of one or another non-traditional tool: maps, graphs, trees, network theory. What they are meant to do is fit a particular problem—understanding the plot structure of Hamlet, retracing the development of the market for novels in 18th century England, determining the importance of clues in accounting for Arthur Conan Doyle’s success—and each problem, once identified, requires an original contraption. This bespoke process makes it very difficult merely to paraphrase Moretti’s arguments; the point is as much in observing the gradual concatenation of insights and rejected hypotheses as it is in the finished product, for the ways his experiments take shape are far more illuminating in their singularity than they could be in consistency. What is consistent, though, from experiment to experiment, and book to book, is Moretti’s dedication to breaking a new path, his insistence that current methods are not adequate.
Moretti is thus right to connect, in the first passage quoted above, the question of how one reads to the question of how much one reads. Close reading is slow reading, and slow reading can never be very much reading, even if one is very devoted (and very gifted with grants or teaching exemptions). Thus, readers relate one rare “masterpiece” to another rare “masterpiece,” and spend little time thinking about the books published contemporaneously with that masterpiece, what Moretti at various points calls the masterpiece’s rivals. Criteria for what establishes masterpieces might change—even drastically—but the song remains the same; the presumption is that one masterpiece will tell us more about another masterpiece—its inner workings, its interior meanings—than we could glean from that masterpiece’s nearest chronological and geographical neighbors.
This presumption has various ramifications both in and outside of the academy. Quite serious for Moretti is that it leaves us ignorant of what those neighbors and rivals might say about the masterpiece next door. He argues that neighbors or rivals will tell us not only more but more interesting things, things we were not expecting to hear, things which we cannot hear from the masterpieces themselves no matter how hard we try or close we read.
That at least is the hope—new revelations—but also new voices, or better said, new ways of inciting unheard voices to speak, because he believes that what those neighbors and rivals have to say for themselves is intrinsically interesting and valuable, and that learning about the conditions that shape all literature at a given place and moment—masterpiece and hack work alike—is more pressing as an intellectual endeavor than a modest expansion or reshuffling of the canon.
In this way, Moretti’s project is somewhat like the revolution in the discipline of history that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s that went under the name the “new social history.” In Graphs, Maps, and Trees (2005), Moretti makes this case explicitly, quoting the French-Polish historian Krzysztof Pomian to set up a direct analogy with current literary studies: “the gaze of the historian [was directed] towards extraordinary events . . . historians resembled collectors: both gathered only rare and curious objects, disregarding whatever looked banal, everyday, normal. . . . History . . . [had] as its object that which does not repeat itself.” For Moretti, repetition is the point:
A history of literature as history of norms, then: a less innovative, much ‘flatter’ configuration than the one we are used to; repetitive, slow—boring, even. But this is exactly what most of life is like, and instead of redeeming literature from its prosaic features we should learn to recognize them and understand what they mean . . . A flatter, more boring literature. But then, are we so sure that boredom is boring? Once we learn to confront it, the flatness of literary conventions will appear for the genuine enigma it is.
This, of course, may be the hardest thing for either academics or “lay” readers to accept: a prosaic enigma. Margaret Cohen noted the same problem in 1999, when faced with her colleagues’ skepticism that she possibly enjoyed the remainders of 1830. “Attention to forgotten literature is too often treated as antiquarian fussing over texts that deserve to be forgotten,” she wrote.
It was of course more difficult (though not impossible) in the 1960s and 1970s for opponents of the new social history to argue that the people hitherto neglected by historians “deserve[d] to be forgotten,” but social historians still faced a problem that forced them to overcome strong resistance as to the validity of their materials. This is William Sewell, a historian of the French Revolution:
Social history . . . not only studied new categories of people but asked new questions about them. And in order to answer new questions about new categories of people, it used new forms of evidence. . . . Old census manuscripts, tax registers, wills, advice books, inventories of estates, popular songs, city directories, statutes of mutual aid societies, building permits, records of marriages, baptisms, and deaths: all these and many other kinds of documents yielded evidence about the social structures, institutions, and life experiences of millions of ordinary people.
What was extraordinary about this new flood of materials was that they were presumed to be mute, nugatory as far as illuminating the past went, incapable of answering back to any standard historical question (and dull—even duller than the correspondence of diplomats—to boot). Sewell again:
These new forms of documentation were also subjected to new methods of analysis. A characteristic mark of the new social history was the systematic use of quantitative methods. The kinds of people social historians studied were often illiterate, and even those who could read and write rarely left papers that revealed much about their lives. . . . It was largely by aggregating the rather thin and stereotypic information contained in the records of such encounters between ordinary people and public authorities that social historians were able to reconstruct the patterns of these otherwise anonymous lives.
We can translate this from people to books: quantitative methods are necessary because the “great unread” cannot be read, not in any sense recognizable to traditional methods or premises, just as the populations of social histories could not speak through the kind of documents they had neither the education nor the means to create. But create they did, and those documents contain voices we can hear.
The analogy, however, is not perfect. A book fits in the dustbin of history much more palatably than a human being: it is significantly more challenging to argue for the value added by 1802’s Delaval: A Novel in Three Volumes than it is to assert the insight to be gleaned from the life stories of 1930s Arkansas sharecroppers. But that is because, I think, we tend to think about books exclusively in the singular; many arguments about the validity of canon formation or of one kind of valuation or another rely on the possibility that it will exclude or ignore this or that individual book, which are called “neglected” or “forgotten.” Challenges to the practice of distinguishing worthwhile from negligible works are almost always taken up in the name of individual injustices, even when the causes of that injustice are categorical, as with the habitual undervaluing of women writers and writers of color. Still, it is ultimately Paul Laurence Dunbar or Dawn Powell or Carlos Bulosan who is “recovered,” not the categories that made them “forgotten.” Social history, on the other hand, was much more capable of wrestling against what the British historian E. P. Thompson called “the enormous condescension of posterity” not by championing forgotten individuals, but by reconstructing the complex ways of life of classes, families, and communities.
In a general way, this collectively oriented project is Moretti’s own, to redraw literary history entirely—not as a portrait gallery but as an enormous still life, crammed with toppling stacks and bursting shelves of material. The trouble is that how those stacks and shelves are to be organized is not immediately clear; unlike social history, the collectives that Moretti’s mode of study can employ are vague, idiosyncratic, or unsatisfactory. Genre, one categorizing principle Moretti uses frequently, is always incomplete, approximate, indefinite. Linguistic communities—hispanophone or lusophone literature, for example—are equally troublesome, even if they are improvements on the more traditional habit of grouping bodies of literature by nationality. If Moretti is going to lift literary studies out of the conventions of focusing on exceptions rather than norms, he and his comrades will need a fulcrum, or set of fulcrums, and concepts like genre will likely to prove too squishy.
That is a problem that will need to be solved, but it is also a problem that will likely yield to experimentation—different conceptual arrangements of the literary field can be tried until some solidify into usability. But Moretti is also swimming against an even stronger current, one that flows not just from the academy but even from people who disdain the academy. It is a sentiment well and often expressed in Clive James’s writing (the critic, not the music mogul)—I’ll take one example from Cultural Amnesia (2007): “It would be a desirable and enviable existence just to earn a decent wage at a worthwhile job and spend all one’s leisure hours improving one’s aesthetic appreciation. There is so much to appreciate, and it is all available for peanuts. One can plausibly aspire to seeing, hearing and reading everything that matters.” Moretti and others are struggling against the weight of precisely this sentiment, this aspiration to completeness, to being “well-read.”
But what I think Moretti’s work reveals—and what is most practically relevant to our everyday lives as readers—is that this aspiration is a myth, pernicious and unnecessary. To borrow a title from the sociologist Bruno Latour, we have never been well-read; no one has. To presume that there is or ever was a possibility of being so is delusional: not a very good goal, therefore, for either academic study or personal fulfillment. It is not just that we really don’t have the time to read, watch, and hear everything “that matters,” but that the determinations of what “matters” are fatally incomplete, built not on ignorance of a handful of worthy works—a gap that can be remedied—but on ignorance of whole blocs of works whose worth is unknowable because their numerosity far exceeds the single human’s capacity to read, watch, or hear—a chasm that cannot be bridged. We may very reasonably devote ourselves and our time to reading “the classics” rather than “the great unread” in the expectation that we will enjoy ourselves, but not in the expectation that our knowledge of literature—even our knowledge of why those works are canonical—is better than idiosyncratic.
What, then, is the alternative? I have always struggled to ascertain Moretti’s endgame, and his programmatic statements usually have not helped. In a comment he made in response to a Los Angeles Review of Books symposium on Distant Reading, he wrote, “let me be perfectly candid: my hope is that so-called ‘digital humanities’ will lead to the development of a broad new explanatory model: ideally, to a (largely) new theory and history of literature.” That may be candid, but it is not very clarifying.
Moretti has often, in his own criticism, turned to the very last lines of a work as a sort of privileged location for interpretation, so let us look at the last paragraph contained in Distant Reading:
But for this [the fruition of Moretti’s ideal of literary studies] to happen, an enormous amount of empirical data must first be put together. Will we, as a discipline, be capable of sharing raw materials, evidence—facts—with each other? It remains to be seen. For science, Stephen Jay Gould once wrote, fruitful doing matters more than clever thinking. For us, not yet.
This is a vision not just of a new methodology but of a new discipline, a new professional code, a social transformation even more than an intellectual one. He describes it a bit more in the same LARB comment:
the lab-like environment—relentless discussions of results around a table more than expensive machinery, incidentally—within which literary study is beginning to be conducted: a way of working where individualities recede towards the background, and the experiment itself moves to the fore. For me, this is the greatest intellectual novelty that has emerged so far from the field. Whether the way we understand literature will change, I really don’t know. That, if it does, it will be in these labs: of this, I am certain.
Moretti’s individuality has not receded—and likely will not be able to recede—to the background; his name adorns the banner, for better or worse, of at least one host of the digital humanities. But if this is the real innovation his work has (along with that of many others) brought about, distant reading is indeed a misleading name for it: close discussions, not distant reading, captures the spirit best.
What might that lab modelhold for literary activity outside the academy? One possibility is simply the continued growth of a more robust online literary culture: more group reads of the Infinite Summer or #OccupyGaddis sort, the proliferation of platforms like Goodreads. What is most promising, I feel, about these projects is also what is so strong about Moretti’s published work: the way participants are better able to customize the ways they appreciate and analyze the eccentricities of the book or books before them, finding tools to fit the texts rather than texts to fit the tools. Encounters with books in these kind of forums are in their own way, experimental: there is both a palpable possibility of failure, whether that be “abandoning” the book or failing to get anything from it, which resembles the ever-present (and frequently acknowledged) possibility that the lab-work of Moretti and his Stanford students may fail to generate clear and non-trivial results. There is a certain formal or procedural assumption of success to seminars and close-readings: when you come to class, you are expected to have both finished the assigned text and fished something worthwhile from it, just as, when you read a literary study on, say, D. H. Lawrence, you never expect the critic to say, “well, that reading didn’t work, and here’s why I think it failed.” The use of negative results to learn more about literature and about individual books and authors promises a great deal more, I think, than traditional literary analysis can or will provide.
Yet I hope the lab model contributes even more than that, as group reads and Goodreads are still indebted to the protocols and practices of the seminar and of close reading. What is still central is a single text (or a single author’s body of work, which is treated as a single text) made available either in physical form or through extracts the critic scoops out and “unpacks.” While poststructuralism—Derrida, Foucault, Lacan—and fiction writers themselves have seriously challenged the idea of a unified text, the practices of the seminar and of close reading never have—they could not work without that bedrock assumption that divergent readings could still be adjudicated, if not resolved, by fixing all eyes on the same passage. (“Well, if you’ll just look at page 43 . . . ”)
What if seminars and even essays and monographs did not distribute identical copies of one text, but asked students and readers to bring completely different ones to discuss? Not different readings of the same text, but different readings of different texts. We have learned how to discuss together a text we have all read; now let’s learn how to discuss together texts we haven’t.
I’m being a bit facetious, but not entirely. There is a terrific social and intellectual injunction against talking to someone about something either they or you have not read, seen, or watched. In certain situations this shibboleth is broken, although steps are generally taken to mitigate the situation. But in nearly all cases, people observe this aversion rigidly: for instance, complaints about a critic or a friend giving away “spoilers” are generally taken very seriously. I once took a class with a rule that no proper name could be brought up unless it appeared in the text we were studying that week. That rule simply made explicit and binding what is typically only tacit and prodding, and nevertheless always detectable: the threat that your classmates may not like you if you frequently bring up things they haven’t read. And if you talk about something you haven’t read—especially if you acknowledge that fact—well, why on earth would you do that?
What Moretti would have us do are two of the hardest things to attempt in an intellectual environment—academic or non-academic: admit ignorance and ask for help. New ground is better than common ground: not “I haven’t read that yet—let’s discuss something else” but rather “I may never read that, so tell me about it, it sounds interesting.” Relinquishing the vanity of believing that some personal completeness of knowledge is attainable may be the price of successful, meaningful exchanges about and real knowledge of literature in an era where the breadth and depth of culture is supra-individual, if not superhuman. We ought to learn how to enjoy and gain knowledge from the vast oceans of literature we’ll never read, and we need to learn to do that by talking with, collaborating with, learning from others.
I think the academy can actually aid in creating this culture, just as it has, over time, created a culture that urges us to find aesthetic and intellectual fulfillment in the personal mastery of a small cohort of highly valued works. That ideal may still be quite pleasing to many, and it has its pleasures. But I think anyone who is realistic about what culture is and how it works will grow restless with any system grounded in the deliberate ignorance of 99% of it and the renaming of that ignorance as being “well-read.” For knowledge or for pleasure, that goal is not just elusive, not just illusory, but incoherent, and stepping away from it will be the best step we can take to something better.
Andrew Seal is a graduate student in American Studies at Yale University.
 The best treatment of the influence of the academic setting on the contemporary US novel is Mark McGurl, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).
 Harold Bloom has written a book called How to Read and Why (New York: Scribner, 2000), and Terry Eagleton did just publish How to Read Literature (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), but the shape of each man’s career has long resembled more the popularization of Adler than it has the more general run of literature professors.
 For more on the Literary Lab, go here: http://litlab.stanford.edu/
 Moretti published two early and highly-regarded studies in a more traditional mode, one on the Bildungsroman and one on what he calls “the Modern Epic.” He also was the editor of a five-volume encyclopedia of the novel; that project was conducted in Italian, but a two-volume extract has been published in English as The Novel by Princeton University Press. The list of contributors is incredibly impressive; that Moretti could helm such a project is a high distinction. Moretti, The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture (London: Verso, 1987) and Moretti, Modern Epic: The World-System from Goethe to García Márquez (London: Verso, 1996).
 The most egregious example is Elif Batuman, “Adventures of a Man of Science,” n+1 3 (Fall 2006): 141-152. Batuman retails a variety of rumors from Stanford students (where she studied with Moretti): “Moretti, a mythopoeic figure, generates around himself a dense network of folklore and apocrypha. Franco Moretti, it is said, has hired five graduate students to retype the first paragraphs of every Victorian novel ever written; Franco Moretti is coauthoring a book on morphology with a team of Canadian ornithologists. Franco Moretti, who ‘doesn’t believe in’ word count, prefers instead to calculate the average number of characters per word in his students’ papers, and anyone with an average of six or higher gets an F.”
 Moretti, “Conjectures on World Literature,” New Left Review 1 (Jan-Feb 2000): 57.
 Moretti, Distant Reading (New York: Verso, 2013), 44.
 Cohen, The Sentimental Education of the Novel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).
 Casanova, République mondiale des Lettres (Paris: Éditions de Seuil, 1999), translated as The World Republic of Letters (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005). Guillory, Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
 For some reason, many of Moretti’s critics have gotten the idea that he wants to obliterate the contents of the canon, forcibly suppressing access to masterpieces in favor of a radically egalitarian indifference to quality. This is absurd; masterpieces continue to orient his project at every point—it is just that he flips them inside out, looking at them not as if they were exceptions to their time and place, but typical of it, embedded in it.
 Moretti is, in fact, deeply inspired by one strain that fed into the new social history; he acknowledges in many of his books that the Annales school of French history, especially Marc Bloch and Fernand Braudel, have been very influential in his thinking.
 Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel, 1800-1900 (London: Verso, 1998), 150.
 William Sewell, Logics of History: Social Theory and Social Transformation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 27.
 I’m referring to Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993).
 Here I think it is important to point out that Moretti is really addressing only scholars from the 18th century on, or during and after the “rise of the novel.” From an academic standpoint, it is feasible to have read all the extant literature in Middle English or Anglo-Norman or Old Frisian.
 That symposium, and Moretti’s response, can be found here: http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?type&id=1801
 The obvious exception is Geoff Dyer’s own book about Lawrence, Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence (New York: North Point Press, 1997), although Dyer is not a traditional literary critic.
 The television scholar Jeffrey Sconce has a devastating essay about this on his blog, Ludic Despair: http://ludicdespair.blogspot.com/2012/01/spoil-everything-now.html
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