Abstract It has recently become common to describe all empirical approaches to literature as subfields of digital humanities. Over the last decade or so, it has become common to describe all empirical approaches to literary history discursive essay samples subfields of digital humanities. I thought it was journalistic shorthand for a history that scholars understood to be more complex. More recently, however, I have noticed that scholars themselves are beginning to narrate intellectual history in the same way: treating all quantitative or empirical approaches to literary history as aspects of a digital turn in the discipline.
But the interpretive questions posed by the scholars she mentions in this passage are much older than the web. There is nothing wrong with writing a history of food in America, and also nothing wrong with Earhart’s decision to focus on a particular critical tradition initiated by the advent of the web. As long as readers remember that many ingredients of this history have longer backstories elsewhere, no one will be misled. But of course, backstories do get forgotten with the passage of time, and new generations learn to associate pizza mainly with Chicago or New York. This essay will turn the calendar back to the middle of the twentieth century, in order to tease apart intellectual traditions that have begun to be conflated.