It’s a long stretch, but it seems to me that “ease of access” and the quite miraculous enquiry-request-delivery systems now available to the scholar have had an effect on research. The turn to theory – attention to textuality rather than physical things such as books, manuscripts, letters and paraphernalia of various kinds – has, I think, coincided with big changes in method. Discovery has been replaced by critical discourse and by dialectic.
John Sutherland. I don’t think this could possibly be more wrong. The turn to theory happened decades before the digital revolution. Theory had in fact exhausted itself quite some time before Google started digitizing books. And the digitizing of books has accompanied a powerful renewal of interest in material culture generally and the material history of the book in particular, along with a restoration of the skills of textual editing, bibliography, paleography, and the like to a higher place in the discipline of literary studies.