Articles

Electronic Romanticism: The CD[Record]

  • David S. Miall

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  • David S. Miall
    University of Alberta

The epoch of computer technology in literary studies is now well established. The recent dramatic change in accessibility of the internet, or the sudden upsurge in multimedia forms of publication challenge us all to rethink our scholarship, our writing practices, and what it is possible to do in the classroom. My contribution to this challenge will appear in the form of Romanticism: the CD, an extensive collection of texts and graphics that should assist teachers of British Romantic writing from high school to graduate school, as well as providing new resources for scholarship and research. Thanks to Duncan Wu and Blackwell Publishers (who expect to publish the CD in 1997), a core component of the CD will be the complete text and annotations of Wu's recently published Romanticism: An Anthology. But this will provide only a part of the textual materials on the CD. Many other texts will be available, mainly in the form of substantial extracts (far longer than is usually possible in printed anthologies) from other writings of the Romantic period. These go well beyond those normally considered "literary" to include science, medicine, education, philosophy, travel, and the like. Many of the texts will be enhanced by graphics: illustrations from the books excerpted, contemporary prints and paintings, maps, diagrams, and modern photographs. I estimate that, in all, the CD will offer over two million words of text and about one thousand graphics (most in colour). These materials are presented within a hypertext environment: pointers to other texts in annotations, contextual references, background information, illustrations, and the like, are available as active links, whether from texts or from graphics. At the same time, texts are presented within a standard user interface: buttons available on screen help orient the user, and provide immediate links back to contents pages, so that the reader need never become "lost in hyperspace." This is the basic outline of the package. In what follows, I elaborate on its design and some of the decisions behind it; I provide an illustrated example of a "node" and its links; and I discuss how the development version of the CD was used in one of my courses at the University of Alberta. Additional information about the CD is available on the internet, and readers wishing to keep informed about the forthcoming publication can consult this page: British Romanticism: The CD. I will also be referring below to the home pages I maintain for teaching and research. At the moment a course on Gothic Fiction that I ran during the Autumn term, 1995, provides the most recent example of students' work, partly based on the hypertext. Next academic year I will be teaching three further courses in Romanticism, where use of the hypertext will be documented as it occurs. I also provide other information on the hypertext on a separate page: this is primarily intended to let my students know when significant updates to the hypertext are made in the computer labs where it is located. Incidentally, the development version of the hypertext will also be used on several other campuses this year in Canada and the United States, so that the package will be thoroughly "beta tested" before it is released. Any interesting information that comes out of this exercise will also be placed on the home page for the hypertext during the year. When I first began to teach a Romanticism course back in the early 1980s, I was, I now realize, already yearning for the kind of resource that the CD will provide. The anthology that we used then was incomplete in various ways (aren ...