N. Katherine Hayles Edit

Katherine Hayles

Biography Edit

  • N. Katherine Hayles is currently a professor at Duke University and is the Director of Graduate Studies in the Literature Program
  • Prior teaching experience includes Dartmouth College, the University of Missouri at Rolla, the University of California of Iowa, the California Institute of Technology, and the University of California at Los Angeles where she was a professor of English and design/media arts from 1992 to 2008
  • She first received a B.S. in chemistry from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1966, and then M.S. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1969
  • Then Hayles decided to switch her field of expertise and received an M.A. in English literature from Michigan State University in 1970 before going on to earn a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Rochester in 1977

"How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine" (PDF) Edit

Background/Historical Context Edit

“How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine” responds to Mark Bauerlein’s notion in The Dumbest Generation: How The Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future that the current rise in digital reading and the gradual decline in print reading has had a negative effect on the most recent generation’s literacy skills. Hayles counters this ideal and offers a solution: instead of placing the two in opposition (digital and print reading), the two should be used harmoniously.  

Key Words Edit

  • Close reading: viewed by literary scholarship as so important it proves the "cultural capital" of literary scholarship itself ("How We Read" 64).
  • Hyperreading: the reader must engage with digital text through juxtaposing as well as through construction.
  • Machine reading: is most commonly used to analyze many texts that are too vast for a person to go through on their own.
  • Symptomatic reading: used in literary criticism as a means of analyzing the presence of ideology in literary texts.
  • Surface reading: the text is examined not for hidden clues but its overt messages; reading aimed at appreciation and articulation of the text's aesthetic value; and a variety of other reading strategies focusing on affect, pleasure, and cultural value.

Key Quotes Edit

  • “…people read less print and they read less well. This leads to the NEA chairman, Dana Gioia, to suggest that the correlation between decreased literary reading and poorer reading ability is indeed a casual connection” (pg. 62).
  • “The crucial questions are these: how to convert the increased digital reading and the literacy traditionally associated with print” (pg. 62).
  • “Yet there is little evidence that the profession of literary studies has made a significant difference in the national picture, including on the college level, where reading abilities continue to decline even into graduate school. This is strange” (pg. 63).
  • “Given the increase in digital reading, obvious sites for new kinds of reading techniques, pedagogical strategies, and initiatives are the interactions between digital and print literacies” (pg. 65).
  • “…good teachers deliberately focus on what the reader can do, make sure that both teacher and student recognize and acknowledge it, and use it as a platform of success from which to build” (pg. 65).
  • "No doubt those who already read well will take classes based on close reading and benefit from them, but what about others whose print-reading skills are not as highly developed?" (65)
  • "Recent studies indicate that hyperreading not only requires different reading strategies than close reading but also may be involved with changes in brain architecture that makes close reading more difficult to achieve" (67).
  • "The small distractions involved with hypertext and Web reading---clicking on links, navigating a page, scrolling down or up, and so on---increase the cognitive load on working memory and thereby reduce the amount of new material it can hold" (68).
    • (cont. after previous quote) "With linear reading, by contrast, the cognitive load is at a minimum, precisely because eye movements are more routine and fewer decisions need to be made about how to read the material and in what order. Hence the transfer to long-term memory happens more efficiently, especially when readers reread passages and pause to reflect on them as they go along" (68).
  • "Why should hypertext and Web reading in general lead to poorer comprehension? The answer, Carr believes, lies in the relation of working memory (i.e., the contents of consciousness) to long-term memory. Material is held in working memory for only a few minutes, and the capacity of working memory is severely limited" (68).
  • “As contemporary environments become more information intensive, it is no surprise that hyper attention (and its associated reading strategy, hyper reading) is growing and that deep attention (and its correlated reading strategy, close reading) is diminishing, particularly among young adults and teens” (pg. 72).
  • “However, some human readers (beginners, for example) may also read with minimum or no comprehension. Moreover, the line between (human) interpretation and (machine) pattern recognition is a porous boundary, with each interacting with the other” (pg. 72-73).
  • “I therefore propose the following definition: a pattern consists of regularities that appear through a series of related differences and similarities” (pg. 74).
  • “…wherever and however it occurs, meaning is sensitively dependent on context” (pg. 74).
  • “In my experience, researchers at these kinds of facilities are delighted when humanists come to them with projects. Because their mission is to encourage widespread use across and among campuses and to foster collaborations among academic, government, corporate, and community stakeholders, they see humanistic inquiry and artistic creation as missing parts of the picture that enrich the mix. This opens the door to analysis of large cultural data sets such as visual images, media content, and geospatial mapping combined with various historical and cultural analysis” (pg. 76).
  • What transformed disciplinary coherence might literary studies embrace? Here is a suggestion: literary studies teaches literacies across a range of media forms, including print and digital, and focuses on interpretation and analysis of patterns, meaning, and context through close, hyper-, and machine reading practices. Reading has always been constituted through complex and diverse practices. Now it is time to rethink what reading is and how it works in the rich mixtures of words and images, sounds and animations, graphics and letters that constitute the environments of twenty-first-century literacies (78).

Discussion Edit

N. Katherine Hayles’ article “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine” addresses three ways in which we read. She defines close reading as learning through literary text, typically one primary text, by examining the text word by word and detailing rhetoric, style, language, and other devices. Hayles suggests that this method of reading is declining due to the rise in digital reading.

Hayles highlights hyperreading as reader-directed, screen-based, computer-assisted reading (the James Sosnoski definition). The reader can filter a text by using keywords, look quickly for a particular word (scanning), try to quickly understand the text (skimming), and pulling items from a longer text (pecking). This method is practically the antithesis of close reading by requiring different reading strategies, stimulating different areas of the brain, and preventing readers from connecting with a text.

Hayles refers to machine reading as an analysis of large amounts of data guided by computers and assisted by humans. This method does not interpret meaning, but it looks for patterns.

Hayles discusses how these three reading methods relate to each other along with their advantages and disadvantages. Hayles calls for the readers to be aware of these points and then determine their ideal reading methods for their particular goals.

Much of Hayles anlaysis of the evolution of reading strategies is related to Donna Haraway's A Manifesto for Cyborgs. Hayles does not ask us to return to a time when we only apply close-reading strategies. Instead, she lays out the pros and cons of each type of reading and discusses the purposes and scenarios in which each would be useful. She does not look back nostalgically to a time when we solely relied on close reading; instead, she embraces the fragmentation of our reading habits and discusses ways to work with and around the cyborgian habits that we have developed. Additionally, she points out how we can use machines to find patterns in texts and word usage, allowing us to spend time analyzing those patterns. From this perspective, textual patterns take on a neutral image that must be interpreted by outside analysis, allowing for a greater level of neutrality in research.

Related Texts Edit

  • Haraway, Donna. A Manifesto for Cyborgs.
  • Erich Auerbach - NATC 1027
  • Paul Gilroy - NATC 2553
  • Irving Howe - NATC 1387
  • Hans Robert Jauss - NATC 1403
  • Gyorgy Lukacs - NATC 905
  • Edward Said - NATC 1861
  • Edmund Wilson - NATC 1127
  • Moretti, Franco. Maps, Graphs and Trees.
  • Marx, Karl. Capital, Volume 1.
  • Deleuze, Giles and Felix Guattari. "Introduction: Rhizome."
  • Gramsci, Antonio. The Formation of Intellectuals.

Major Criticisms Edit

Reference Edit

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

Simon, Peter, editor. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010