Description as Intellectual Craft in the Study of Literature

34 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2013

Date Written: August 14, 2013


This is a series of notes in which I argue that better descriptive methods are a necessary precondition for more sophisticated and objective literary criticism. Description, though it does not give unmediated access to texts, requires methods for objectifying texts, methods which must be discovered in the doing. By way of comparison I discuss the role of description in biology and I discuss the use of images and diagrams as descriptive devices. Lévi-Strauss on myth and Franco Moretti on distant reading, though quite different, are up to the same thing: objectification.

Keywords: description, method, literary criticism, biology, image, diagram, objectification, Stanley Fish, Franco Moretti, Lévi-Strauss

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., Description as Intellectual Craft in the Study of Literature (August 14, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

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