Eckert, "Romanticism and Technologies of Information"

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Romanticism and Technologies of Information

Lindsey Eckert
Assistant Professor of English, Georgia State University

Email: LEckert@gsu.edu
Twitter: @LindsEckert

Course Narrative

This graduate course considered information technologies in both the Romantic period and our contemporary moment. It was open to MA and PhD students in both the Departments of English and Communications at Georgia State University. The dual focus on literature of the Romantic period and digital humanities was designed to model a pedagogical approach that builds both literary and digital skills.

Focusing on Romanticism is particularly fruitful for a course devoted to literature and technology, since the period itself was an exciting time of technological innovation. Throughout the term students in this course considered the new ways that writers and readers in the Romantic period thought about literature and information. In addition to reading novels from the Godwin-Shelley circle that deal explicitly with issues of technology and information exchange, we also looked at a variety of writing from Romantic-era periodicals. The course’s focus on both literary texts such as Frankenstein and digital technologies such as XML markup spoke to the students’ varied expertise coming from literary and computing backgrounds.

Course Description

This course considers information technologies in both the Romantic period and our contemporary moment. Throughout the Romantic period developments in printing, paper making, and book binding as well as new advances in the British mail system fundamentally changed what information people accessed and how they accessed it. In this course we will consider Romanticism’s focus on the rapidly changing ways in which information was conveyed, disseminated, and read by reading novels by William Godwin and Mary Shelley as well as a variety of literature from periodicals.

These debates surrounding Romantic literature and the circulation of information in many ways mirror our own historical moment. New technologies are altering how we access, perceive, and represent information about the Romantic period, and another important aspect of this class is considering the changing face of scholarly research and production in our own information age. Thus, we will also read theory about digital humanities and look at innovative approaches to Romantic scholarship from iPad apps and online exhibitions to big data analysis and XML text encoding.

Course Objectives

Consider and question the role of mediation in contemporary technologies of information

Identify major technological advances in the Romantic period

Reflect on how Romantic literature engages changing technologies of information

See canonical works of Romantic literature in the wider context of their cultural field

Build digital research skills

Innovate alternative modes of the transmission of scholarly research

Required Texts

  • Revolutions in Romantic Literature: An Anthology of Print Culture, 1789-1832. Ed. Paul Keen. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2004.
  • William Godwin, Caleb Williams: or Things as They Are. Ed. Gary Handwer and A.A. Markley.  Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2000.
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. Ed. D.L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 1999.
  • —. The Last Man. Ed. Anne McWhir. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 1996.
  • Other texts made available online or on course reserve.

Final Assignment

There are three options for the major piece of work for this course. My goal is to allow you to work on project that best suits your interests and your goals as a scholar.

  1. Research paper
  2. Digital project that represents research about the Romantic period. There are multiple “out of the box” tools that you can use to create websites and digital narratives that don’t require programming knowledge.
  3. Proposal for a future digital project. It may be the case that you have an idea for a future digital project or tool that is well beyond the scope of a project for a course. This option asks you to develop a detailed proposal for what you would do if you could. Your proposal will be based on the application guidelines for National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Introductions

  • Paul Keen, Preface in Revolutions in Romantic Literature, pp. xiii-xxii.
  • Jerome McGann, “On Creating a Usable Future,” Profession (2011): 182-95.
  • Explore the digital resource “What Jane Saw” (http://www.whatjanesaw.org/)

Week 2: Readers and Reading

  • Robert Darnton. “What is the History of Books?” Daedalus (Summer 1982): 65-83.
  • Thomas R. Adams and Nicholas Barker, “A New Model for the Study of the Book” in A Potencie of Life, ed. Nicolas Barker (London: The British Library, 1993) (course reserve)
  • Matthew Wilkens, “Canons, Close Reading, and the Evolution of Method” in Debates in Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew Gold (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2012), pp. 249-58.
  • Section Two: The Reading Public in Revolutions in Romantic Literature, pp. 17-39

Week 3: The Production of Printed Information in the Romantic Period

Hands-on Session at the Rare Book Library

  • Section Four: The Book Trade in Revolutions in Romantic Literature, pp. 79-103
  • Section Five: The Vanity Fair of Knowledge: Literary Fashions in Revolutions in Romantic Literature, pp. 104-23.
  • Section Nine: Reflections on the Revolution in France in Revolutions in Romantic Literature, pp.  196-232.

Week 4: Romanticism’s Debates About Literature and Information

  • Section One: The Nature of the Word, Literature in Revolutions in Romantic Literature, pp. 1-16
  • Section Seven: The Periodical Press in Revolutions in Romantic Literature, pp. 149-69
  • Section Eight: Romantic Literature in Revolutions in Romantic Literature, pp. 170-95
  • John Keats, “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”
  • Abby Smith, “Part II: The Research Library in the 21st Century: Collecting, Preserving, and Making Accessible Resources for Scholarship” in No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century (CLIR, 2008)
     (http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub142/smith.html)

Week 5: (The Problem of) Accessing Information about Romanticism

Week 6: Things as They Are: Controlling Information in the Romantic Period

  • William Godwin, Caleb Williams: or Things as They Are

Week 7: Things as They Might Be: Encoding Information about the Romantic Period

  • Michael Witmore, “Text: A Massively Addressable Object” in Debates in Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew Gold (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2012), pp. 324-27
  • Neil Fraistat, “Textual Addressability and the Future of Editing,” European Romantic Review 23.3, pp. 32–33
  • Women Writers Project Guide to Scholarly Text Encoding (http://www.wwp.brown.edu/research/publications/guide/index.html)

Week 8: Reading and Preserving Romanticism Today

Guest Speaker: Andrew Stauffer (Associate Professor of English at the University of Virginia and Director of NINES)

  • Andrew Stauffer, “The Nineteenth-Century Archive in the Digital Age,” European Romantic Review 23.3, pp. 335-41
  • Spend time exploring the NINES website (http://www.nines.org/)
    • What works well?
    • What seem to be its limitations?
    • What questions do you have about the project?
  • Watch the introductory video about the digital tool Juxta (http://vimeo.com/50388096)
  • Explore the Juxta version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which allows you to compare the 1818 edition of the novel with the 1831 edition (http://juxtacommons.org/shares/Nme50n/sidebyside?docs=453,452&top=0)

Week 9: Representing Monstrous Creation and Monstrous Reading

  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Week 10: Digital Romanticism: The Example of Frankenstein

  • Biblion Frankenstein: The Afterlife of Shelley’s Circle.
    (http://exhibitions.nypl.org/biblion/outsiders There is also a free iPad app that you can download from the website.) Please read the following:
    • Susan Tyler Hitchcock ,“Cultural Interpretations of Frankenstein
    • Eric Eisner, “Celebrity and Fandom in the Age of Frankenstein
    • Susan J. Wolfson, “What Makes a Monster”
    • Stephanie DeGooyer, “A Monster’s Right to Have Rights”

  • The Shelley-Godwin Archive (http://shelleygodwinarchive.org) Please the following
    • Using the Shelley-Godwin Archive
    • from Charles E. Robinson’s Introduction to The Frankenstein Notebooks
    • The Frankenstein Notebooks

Week 11: Digital Romanticism: The Example of Frankenstein

  • Frankenstein: A Romantic Circles Electronic Edition, ed. Stuart Curran
    (http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/frankenstein)
  • Frankenstein: The Pennsylvania Electronic Edition, ed. Stuart Curran
    (http://knarf.english.upenn.edu/)
  • Andrew Burkett, “Mediating Monstrosity: Media, Information, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” Studies in Romanticism (D2L)
  • Mary Shelley, The Last Man, pp. 1-127

Week 12: Imagining the Future of Science, Information, and Humanity

  • Section Six: The Arts and Sciences in Revolutions in Romantic Literature, pp. 124-48
  • Mary Shelley, The Last Man, pp. 129-245

Week 13: Final Project Workshop

Week 14: The Last Man and the Future of Romantic Information

Published @ RC

November 2014