Outsourcing: Classics in World Literature and Digital Humanities

A brief survey of recent scholarship shows that Classics has ceded ground in the broader discussion of World Literature to other fields outside its traditional core (Comparative Literature, Digital Humanities) - what is termed in the paper’s title ‘Outsourcing’. This paper argues that in fact Classics has several important contributions to make to World Literature: at a systemic level in the alternatives offered to the dominance of English, and at a technical level in the philological study of word frequencies, metre, and generic traditions that remain a bedrock of the discipline and promise to deepen current methods of computational text analysis. Furthermore, both systemic and technical levels together provide a model for the expansion of resources in other languages less privileged than Greek and Latin, thereby multiplying linguistic and ultimately methodological diversity. To that end, the paper cites several examples of current databases and digital tools and discusses their potential impact on World Literature. The resulting sketch of a new critical practice - theoretically enriched by Comparative Literature, computationally augmented by the Digital Humanities, and linguistically skilled in the best traditions of Classics - represents a potent combination in the next phase of World Literature’s development.