Digital Literary Studies

The book's cover, with Blake's <i>Newton</i>

Riddle machines, virtual codexes and algorithmic criticism – it’s all in Blackwell’s Companion to Digital Literary Studies (2007). I am slowly making my way through its 620 pages printed on good old-fashioned non-digital paper, to review it for The European English Messenger

I started, of course, with Matthew Steggle’s chapter surveying the field of early modern literature and digital literary studies. Starting from the 1971 e-text of Paradise Lost by Judy Boss, he discusses Luminarium, Renascence Editions, Literature Online, Early English Books Online, the Interactive Shakespeare Project, the SHAKSPER discussion list, and his own Early Modern Literary Studies, to finally glance at the future of the field:  

The newest area of interest in early modern studies, and one where, again, the technology remains to be proven, is the early modern blog. Three early entrants into what will doubtless be a burgeoning field might be mentioned here: Adam Smyth’s Renaissance Lit Blog, the collaborative project Blogging the Renaissance, and Sharon Howard’s Early Modern Notes. (97)

Congratulations to these three blogs for being anthologized in this monumental tome! That said, Steggle’s positioning of weblogs seems a tad tentative for a book published in 2007 (and a chapter written no earlier than February 2006, when BtR kicked off) – or perhaps I am too much of a blogger to be objective. I turned to Aimée Morrison’s contribution,  “Blogs and Blogging: Text and Practice,” to find out.  

This chapter starts with the very basics (“blog” is a contraction of “weblog”) and discusses technologies of blogging, genres of blogs, the practices of reading and writing blogs, and academic bloggers. Morrison writes that academics are drawn to blogging because of its opportunities for networking, to avoid academic isolation in an arcane speciality, to test new ideas and/or to keep abreast of colleagues and research. Referring to Ivan Tribble’s column on academic blogging in the Chronicle and the many responses it received, she comments: 

Often generating more heat than light, these writings nonetheless indicate the challenge that this particular writing genre poses to the academy, and as with other online practices before it, invigorates the debate about the values as well as the failings of our established pedagogical, research, and collegial practices. (383)

The section on “Blogging in Literary Studies” focuses mainly on academic scholarship that studies blogs, some of it by literary scholars. Its view on blogs in literary studies is confined to the statement that “many very worthwhile blogs […] offer information of use to the literary studies community, providing annotated and focused lists of resources and offering opportunities for rich interaction among blog-readers and blog-writers” (383). It’s hard to disagree with that! 

Online material from the book: 


3 thoughts on “Digital Literary Studies

  1. Pingback: Early Modern Notes » Digital Literary Studies

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