Can Machines Read (Literature)?


  • Mike Kestemont
  • Luc Herman



Distant Reading, Surface Reading, Close Reading, Reader response criticism, Artificial Intelligence


In this essay, we reflect on distant reading as one of the various takes on reading that currently prevail in literary scholarship as well as the teaching of literature. We focus on three concepts of reading which for various reasons can be considered inter-related: close reading, surface reading and distant reading. We offer a theoretical treatment of distant reading and demonstrate why it is closely related to the concept of machine reading (part of artificial intelligence). Throughout, we focus on the role of the individual reader in all this and argue that Digital Literary Studies have much to gain from paying closer attention to the so-called “natural” reading process of individual humans.


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How to Cite

Kestemont, M., & Herman, L. (2019). Can Machines Read (Literature)?. Umanistica Digitale, 3(5).