‘Distant Reading’ English Syllabi


There has been a great deal of interest in the Open Syllabus Project, including an article in The New York Times. I thought I’d take a look at it and see what tentative conclusions I could draw (a la Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading) about what is being taught in my field of English in the United States.

Two of the top twenty listings are handbooks, Diane Hacker’s ubiquitous The Bedford Handbook and the almost as common MLA Handbook. Excluding these and adding numbers. 21 and 22, I am looking primarily at the top twenty works of literature assigned in English courses according to the admittedly limited database of the project. #22, Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” also appears at #49 due to a difference in reporting the title, so I have added the two together, the total moving the story up to #3.

The first thing that jumps…

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