Integrate "close reading" and "distant reading": examples from Literature and History

Based on projects developed in recent years, at the NOVA University of Lisbon, on literary landscapes and urban history, using digital tools, namely geographic information systems, Daniel Alves will discuss the concepts of "close reading" and "distant reading".

Map of Lisbon showing density of retailing and services as mentioned in literary sources

Retailing and services in Lisbon according to literary sources

Traditionally, these two approaches, both to historical sources and to literary analysis, have been in separate, sometimes even conflicting, fields. Does it have to be this way? Can digital humanities be an alternative path that establishes the bridge between these two approaches? We may, and perhaps we should, combine these two levels of analysis into a more integrated methodology that also draws on interdisciplinary and collaborative work.

Daniel Alves is Assistant Professor in the Department of History of the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences and researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History, both at NOVA, New University of Lisbon. He holds a Master's in History of the 19th Century (2001) and a PhD in Contemporary Economic and Social History (2010). His areas of interest are Economic and Social History, Urban History, History of Revolutions and Digital Humanities. He has published books as well as articles in national and international scientific journals, especially in Economic and Social History and Historical GIS. He recently was a guest editor on the special issue "Digital Methods and Tools for Historical Research" of the International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing and the special issue "The History of Retailing on the Iberian Peninsula" of the journal History of Retailing and Consumption. He was a Member of the Core Committee of the Working Group 1 (Space and Time) at the Network for Digital Methods in the Arts and Humanities (NeDiMAH), between 2011 and 2015, and member of the Executive Committee of the European Association for Digital Humanities (2016-2017). He collaborates frequently in research projects that use databases and geographic information systems in historical research. He recently collaborated in the projects "Atlas, Historical Cartography" ( and "Atlas of Literary Landscapes of Continental Portugal" ( He is currently developing studies on the History of Lisbon and its retail trade at the end of the 19th century using GIS.


Diana Santos and ILOS
Published Jan. 16, 2019 11:07 PM - Last modified Mar. 1, 2019 11:27 AM