The Bluestocking Archive: Constructivism and Salon Theory Revisited[Notice]

  • Elizabeth Fay

…plus d’informations

  • Elizabeth Fay
    University of Massachusetts - Boston

My introduction to instructional technology arose as a response to the collegial and disciplinary excitement emerging in Romantic studies over the first text archives being mounted on the World Wide Web. These archives, put up before text scanners were affordable and web page software available, involved the sheer labor of typing in texts and tags by hand using simple html commands. But the possibilities for scholarship and teaching that these web archives opened up were astounding; suddenly the new research into lesser known writers and texts of the Romantic period, as well as contextual materials, could be made easily accessible not only to faculty but to students. The web project I want to describe and meditate on in this article, La Belle Assemblée was my answer to this excitement, but that initial experience and my ongoing work with the project have led me to consider the intersection of technology and pedagogy as a complex problem, one that needs to be fleshed out and probed as we continue to experiment with differing levels of pedagogic invention and praxis. As scholars of literature, the Web poses us a highly significant problematic in which the textual and the visual compete with each other at the same time that the linear and the hyper model do. This perceptual matrix rests on cognitive modes that, if we are not attentive as textual providers, can resolve into a singular, less complex way of thinking through textual material for our students, and perhaps for us as well. How are we asking our students and ourselves to view—and to read—hypertexts? Are we aware of the ways in which technologically assisted models for presenting material can help us rethink the student's relation to that material, or do we deceive ourselves into disguising old approaches with new formats? And are we taking advantage of the new cognitive research to adjust how we use instructional technologies to new models of thinking? We have learned much about intertextuality from deconstruction, but are we asking the right questions about the student's intertextuality—her interaction with and interpellation by texts as ideological, as well as artistic, agents— in ways that usefully deconstruct the hypertextual moment? My claim that the textual and the visual compete with each other at the same time that the linear and the hyper model do in hypertext needs to be addressed, I believe, at the level of textuality. Such competition can be exciting and energizing for certain endeavors, particularly gaming, but not (or not necessarily) for literary studies. At the same time, I do believe that the way we learn to read is changing as children's confrontation with text occurs on mixed fronts: in the linear book form, the internet hypertext form, the CD-ROM, the video game and televideo form, and so forth. Linearity and associative thinking are contending for cognitive patterning in young minds. Wherever current students happen to be in this transition from book culture to techno culture we are experiencing, they need some kind of integrative model for understanding the products of a prior book culture within the context of their own textual culture. This integration should certainly be premised at the level of the text, as I have already made clear, but it should also be adapted at the level of structure. Therefore, despite my claim for simplicity, the archive I am building uses a deeper structural analogy, that of the salon. Eighteenth-century Bluestocking salons were carefully yet casually engineered so that participants gathered in select groups within small rooms and areas within the hostess's house, all of these conversational spaces leading effortlessly toward the central space …

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