Alan’s most recent post got me wondering how to get my students to engage with Victorian and twentieth-century media in a way that helps them see a medium as new, cutting edge, the Google glasses of its time (or indeed, perhaps more exciting than Google glasses. The glasses seem, by and large, to be met with a world weariness: “Another gadget? They look so terribly uncool”). Alan, quite rightly, warns against being sucked in by nineteenth-century newspapers’ celebratory accounts of then-new media. That said, while I would Continue reading
Following up on Connie’s post on “Editorial Traces: The Yellow Nineties Online“, I’d like to take this post to introduce another digital project, Nineteenth-Century Disability: A Digital Reader. The project is an interdisciplinary, open-access scholarly resource on physical and cognitive disability in the long nineteenth-century. Leading and emerging scholars in nineteenth-century disability studies (including the Floating Academy’s own Jennifer Esmail and Daniel Martin), have chosen texts and objects important to the field, and annotated them with introductions, footnotes, and suggestions for further reading.
From cave sketch drawings, to fountain pens with ink wells, to writing with a pencil to a pen, to typewriters, to printing materials, to using computer typesetting, we’ve moved from an oral society, to a written one, to a digital one.
From the late 19th century to the 1970s, Linotype was the industry standard for typesetting and printing newspapers, magazines and posters. Now, the publishing industry uses offset lithography printing.
The Linotype type casting machine was called the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ by light bulb inventor, Thomas Edison. The Linotype revolutionized printing and society. To celebrate what the machine allowed us to do, the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto is pleased to present the Canadian premiere of Linotype: The Film, a feature-length documentary centered around the charming and emotional story of the people connected to the Linotype and how it impacted the world. Already, premieres from around the world have been sold out. Continue reading
The British Library’s Interactive English Timeline presents fascinating glimpses of important moments in the evolution of the English language. I think this could be a really interesting teaching tool for a Victorian literature course and I would especially want to point my students to what the BL has called “Nineteenth-century Text Message Poetry” from 1867: Continue reading
I have made the resolution to use software to manage my citations more than once. At the beginning of my MA I took a course on Endnote and dutifully used it to produce my master’s dissertation, which probably wasn’t necessary seeing as it was a twenty-five page dissertation with about thirty works cited. At the beginning of my PhD, I took a course on Refworks and started gathering material there, but didn’t stick with it. All in all this was okay; I actually found the recent week I had to spend sorting out my references for that project rather soothing on the whole. I think it gave me the feeling of being productive without having to reflect on the quality of my arguments and analysis. Continue reading
A recent bout of research on photography and duplicity has led me back to Cambridge’s indomitable Darwin Correspondence Project. This editorial project is an extraordinarily valuable resource for Victorianist researchers, but I’m especially impressed by the compelling points of access the site provides into a mass of information that might otherwise seem quite imposing. I imagine that many curious but casual readers have been drawn in by the site’s weekly blog posts.
One especially intriguing item popped up a couple of weeks ago. It’s an interactive quiz that recreates an experiment Darwin conducted on his own friends and acquaintances. The DCP takes you through a series of Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne’s famous photographs of electrically induced emotions, first collected in his Mechanism of Human Physiognomy (1862), and later included in Darwin’s Expression Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). (Have a look at the photos here.) Continue reading
From railways to telegraphy, typewriters to telephones, Victorians were engaged with new, and developing, technologies of connection and communication. Innovations in technology over the course of the Victorian period influenced wider cultural ideas of connection, of scale and of human capacity. Like the Victorians, researchers in Victorian Studies are using new technologies of reading, writing, research and social connection that are changing the nature of our work and its dissemination.
This call is for papers that critically address Victorian Technologies and/or the technologies of Victorian Studies. Whether you are interested in the Blackberry or the trans-Atlantic cable, you are invited to submit a proposal for a 20 minute paper to be presented at the ACCUTE/NAVSA joint panel at the 2012 Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities in Waterloo, Ontario. Continue reading
About this time last year, I acquired an e-reader, which I blogged about here, and I thought it might be time for an update on whether the technology was really worth the $150 I shelled out. Without a doubt the answer is yes.
I have learned a few things about myself with this e-reader. First, I am careless with my possessions in a way that I’m sure would get me called a “slattern” or something equally unflattering in a Victorian novel (I’ve lost the electronic pen and the cover that went with the reader. It still works.) Second, despite being trained in close reading, I will read almost any Victorian novel, no matter how garbled the text. I have read entire novels where Google Book’s character identification software has substituted a question mark for an apostrophe. Even whole un-paragraphed books. No matter. I still enjoyed Oliphant’s Phoebe Junior, Charlotte Yonge’s The Trial, and the first volume of Oliphant’s Hester. Google Books didn’t digitize the second volume. I like to think this replicates the experience of the circulating library, you know, when the next volume of the novel you were reading was out.
The number one thing that has changed my use of the e-reader has been renewing my acquaintance with Project Gutenburg. I had previously used this purveyor of plain vanilla electronic texts to search for passages by keyword that I knew existed and needed to quote, but couldn’t find in my physical copy of the book. Once I found the passage, I’d check the chapter and flip back to my physical copy. But, as it turns out, Project Gutenburg now has their texts up in formats to suit every e-reader: ePub, HTML, and even the propriety Kindle format. And because someone physically typed them in and proofread them, there are no garbled characters. And if a novel has more than one volume, they’re all there!
Unfortunately they haven’t put up Hester yet. But I think it’s safe to say that she marries her cousin. (The brooding one, not the dapper one she turns down at the end of Vol. 1).
Gregory’s last post on Babbage and railroads, illustrated by that arresting Montparnasse train wreck photo, got me thinking about Victorian visual technologies and their ability to register accidents as phenomena. At the same time, Daniel’s analogy between aircraft data recorders (black boxes), on the one hand, and Babbage’s proposal for their 19th-century railroad equivalents, on the other, got me thinking, too, about technologies with unexpected histories. We know that 19th century technologies like film and photography changed how people thought about time and experience, but there’s also something about 19th century technologies that makes them seem, themselves, prone to accidents of chronology. The conspiracy-theory subgenre of pseudoarcheological “out-of-place artifacts” seems like good fodder for the kind of alt-history thinking that Victorian studies has absorbed from steampunk. Continue reading
I’m teaching a course in Victorian culture this summer, and planning to open the class with a chapter from Charles Babbage’s Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (on “Natural Theology”). His mathematical speculations in this text seem to me perfectly representative of the anxious and industrious Victorian desire to apprehend every incident and accident of the physical world. In his chapter “On the Permanent Impression of our Words and Actions on the Globe we Inhabit,” Babbage theorizes that an exhaustive and precise archive of past events would give us an exact vision of our future (to the extent that the latter unfolds as the accumulated consequence of the former). Continue reading
There’s a lot to like about this diagram from Doogie Horner’s new book Everything Explained Through Flow Charts (I found this particular one posted on boingboing). I love the way the causal chains suddenly morph into spatial maps, and I was particularly moved by the street urchin’s “important lesson.” Continue reading
Reprieve! I’ve been steeped in regret at not having posted a review of Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage when it was on at the AGO over the summer. My impressions have liquefied and dribbled off somewhere in the intervening months. Let me offer the Elizabeth Siegel’s curatorial lecture in their stead. In July I would have said that Victorian ephemera was ideal for the summer months, but now that patio season is over, I’m more inclined than ever to get out my pinking sheers in solidarity with Siegel’s subjects.
I just read a fascinating article by Russell M. Wyland, Assistant Research director at the NEH, about the symbiotic relationship between the development of Victorian studies and the development of the NEH as a federal grant agency in the 1950s and 1960s. I had never thought about the vast amount of resources, especially financial, that it took to get a project like the Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals up and running, or the impossibility of doing interdisciplinary work in Victorian Studies without these resources. The article also made me think of the place of collaborative scholarship that enables other scholarship, like editions and indexes and maybe now web-archives, in the academy. The NEH is now funding projects like the Nines, which are making scholarly editions and articles even more accessible by putting them online. I wonder if this is a modern-day equivalent to the Wellesley Index or something even more?
I am also reminded of the importance of scholarly indexes and archives in an era when the Google search can make them seem superfluous. But, if like me, you’ve ever spent an hour trying to Google whether a portrait of Dinah Mulock Craik still exists to no avail, when, if you’d just gone to the library and looked it up in the catalogue of Holman Hunt’s work you’d have had the answer in less than ten minutes, you know how valuable this work is.
Here’s the link, from the August 2009 issue of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, if you’re interested in following up:
p.s. Holman Hunt didn’t finish the portrait, and it doesn’t exist anymore!
I bought the e-reader before taking a trip to visit family and it was fabulous to travel with–the screen is almost easier to read than a book, and I was able to carry many “books” with me. As a scholar who works on a lot of non-canonical novels, I’m grateful for easy to access to authors (like Dinah Mulock Craik and Charlotte Yonge) whose complete works aren’t so easy to find. My copies of Craik’s or Yonge’s or even Charles Kingsley’s novels are often more than 100 years old, and needless to say they don’t travel well!
I wonder, in fact, how much of the reason for the canon is material rather than about “quality”–only so many Victorian novels are in print at any given time, which limits what we can read and think about to some extent. I think that projects like Google books and devices like e-readers are doing a great thing in making these books more democratically available. It can only add to the richness and diversity of scholarship in Victorian studies to have this kind of access. I wonder if we will see a renaissance in work on lesser-known novels as this access increases. Or, if more ordinary people will start reading more Victorian novels simply because they’re out of copyright and free on the web.
I’ve read a lot of (usually print) articles worried about the demise of the book with the advent of the Kindle. I don’t see these two things as being in conflict. I have both a shelf full of beautiful old books which certainly have an aesthetic and cultural value that the e-reader doesn’t, and an e-reader to take with me when I don’t want to damage those beautiful books.
Another benefit to the e-reader is environmental–I have yet to start reading articles on my e-reader, but it is pdf-compatible and I could see this really cutting down on my printing. There’s even a disability studies angle to this book technology–the option of increasing the font-size makes the technology accessible to the visually impaired, and it’s easier for people with difficulty with fine motor skills to press a button than to turn a page.
The biggest detraction I’ve found so far in reading Google books on my e-reader is that the software they use to decode the fonts and convert it to e-pub format produces some junk characters. This would be a problem if I was doing a close-reading of one of the novels or quoting from it, and for that I would switch to my print editions. But for an initial reading of a novel it’s really not a problem.
Do any of you have a Kindle or other reading device? What has your experience been?
p.s. I personally decided on a Sony because it has a touch screen that allows me to scribble notes on the text and is compatible with Google books, and it didn’t hurt that it was on sale for $150 and red!–but really this could all apply to any device on the market.
I expected to be able to hear Molly Porkshanks Friedrich’s Complete Mechanical Womb tick. It didn’t look as though it should pulse with life, but I did anticipate a mechanical buzzing or whirring. I was alone in the basement of Oxford’s history of science museum, at what the museum billed as “the world’s first museum exhibition of Steampunk art.” I’m sure the little figure in the gravid pneumatic tube was honoured by the Continue reading
I’ve been living in the U.S. for a few years now, and one Canadian holiday I really miss is Queen Victoria day. Or, “fireworks day,” as we used to call it when I was little. I think we were missing the point, though I bet Queen Victoria liked fireworks. Maybe.
In the U.S., we have Memorial Day instead. I’m not really sure what it’s about, but Victoria Day should be self-explanatory to any self-respecting Victorianist. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t fall on her real birthday almost ever in the interests of having a long weekend. Continue reading
As part of Ada Lovelace Day, “an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science,” Rob MacDougall put up a great post about Lovelace’s mentor Mary Somerville, (much of which he borrows from Jay Clayton’s Charles Dickens in Cyberspace).
My favorite line of MacDougall’s — “Ada Lovelace is cool, don’t get me wrong. But it has become difficult to see her clearly through the steam and the punks and the hey hey hey. She comes presoaked in alternate history and wishful thinking.”
Readers, you may be interested in a new website that features Canadian documentary films, many of which were screened at one time or another at the wonderful Hotdocs Documentary film festival that takes place annually in Toronto. There are a few films that may be particularly relevant to scholars of the nineteenth century including Seeking Salvation, which is a history of Black churches in Canada including their role in the underground railroad, and The Jolifou Inn, a short film from 1955 about the art of Cornelius Krieghoff.
As part of my dissertation research on representations of automata in Victorian literature, I’ve been reading a bit about the figurative history of clocks. I’ve been particularly fascinated by the changing fortunes of the clock in metaphors relating to the nature and construction of knowledge. As Otto Mayr details in Authority, Liberty & Automatic Machinery in Early Modern Europe, the clock was an extremely flexible concept that was conscripted for symbolic use in many different epistemological projects. Continue reading
While doing research at the British Library last fall, I came across a thoroughly fascinating pamphlet advertising Edison’s Electric Pen, known more properly as “The Edison Electric Pen and Duplicating Press, for the Rapid, Accurate, and Economical Production of all kinds of Writings, Drawings &c.” Continue reading