previous chapter
John A. Walsh
Digital Resources for Nineteenth-Century Literary Studies
next chapter


Multimedia and Multitasking: A Survey of Digital Resources for Nineteenth-Century Literary Studies

John A. Walsh


For any given literary period, it is easy to locate characteristics of the literature and circumstances of the historical moment that parallel in different ways the characteristics and circumstances of the digital age we now inhabit. The medieval scriptorium and the production of elaborate illuminated manuscripts, for instance, bear a curious resemblance to the contemporary digitization shop where classic texts are re-keyed and laboriously and intricately encoded, wrapped in a metatext that in its native form is often either invisible or opaque to all but the digital specialist. Similarly, Gutenberg's invention of moveable type in the fifteenth century and the cultural transformations engendered by this technological development may be seen as precursors to the electronic text of the digital age and the significant societal developments, such as podcasting and social networking, enabled by digital communications and environments. Moveable type increased the bandwidth of communication in societies that adopted the mechanical technology. Transportation networks (canals, railways, highways, air routes) and communication technologies (the telegraph, telephone, radio and television) provide still more bandwidth. The communication bandwidth available now in the twenty-first century through contemporary digital technologies (internet, wireless, cellular networks) and communication devices (computers, cellular phones) dwarfs anything hitherto available. The number of recorded and documented human utterances, and the accessibility of these utterances, is unparalleled.

Among these many and diverse forms of expression — commercial websites, blogs, MySpace and Facebook pages, YouTube videos, newly created literature and art and performance — are thousands of examples of nineteenth-century literature, some carefully prepared by professional scholars, others enthusiastically, though perhaps less rigorously, prepared by fans and readers of great literature. Because of the digital publishing efforts of literary scholars, students, librarians, and enthusiasts, users can Google for "dance milkier sail" or "passions senses warble" and happen immediately upon these two stanzas from Tennyson's In Memoriam:

Now dance the lights on lawn and lea,
The flocks are whiter down the vale,
And milkier every milky sail
On winding stream or distant sea;
Wild bird, whose warble, liquid sweet,
Rings Eden thro' the budded quicks,
O tell me where the senses mix,
O tell me where the passions meet,

The poetry of Tennyson, along with other literature of the nineteenth century, has become part of the greater digital landscape, and when a web user searches the internet, he or she searches the nineteenth century (and other centuries) as well as the continually growing body of born-digital content. Many of these digitized texts (and related images) are freely available to all who have access to the appropriate networks and digital technologies. The availability of the texts is itself a great boon to literary scholarship. Many of these texts have been long out of print and are now available in versions edited by highly qualified and accomplished scholars, and the digital texts are accompanied by supplementary materials — page images, critical apparatuses, essays, and auxiliary primary source material — that would not practically fit into the confines of the traditional printed book. Beyond access to high-quality texts and digital reproductions of manuscript images and visual art by Blake, Whitman, Rossetti, Swinburne, and others, the digital environment provides new modes and media for interacting with and engaging these works, for commentary, collaborative scholarship, creative criticism, serendipitous discovery, and performance of critical and theoretical strategies. And of course the digital networked environment provides the advantage of allowing interaction with the cumulative body of these objects and tools in networked homes, offices, and cafés — free from the traditional confines of often remote archives and libraries.

While interesting parallels and precursors to the digital age may be found in all periods of literature, the nineteenth century has a preponderance of such features and so holds a special attraction for digital literary scholarship. It is the era nearest to our own, and so shares many similarities simply because of its chronological proximity. The industrial revolution of the nineteenth century is the closest analog to the rapid technological and social change of the digital age. And many features of the nineteenth century — increased literacy rates, the beginnings of mass media, the decreasing costs of publishing — led to ever-increasing volumes of information and the need for ever more sophisticated and flexible technologies for representing and managing that information. Chronologically, technologically, and figuratively, the nineteenth century and the industrial revolution are in large part the parents of the digital age: "The Child is father of the Man."

The nineteenth century is an extremely rich and diverse era that includes the Romantic and Victorian periods in Great Britain and, in the works of figures like Hawthorne, Whitman, Melville, Dickinson, and Twain, the flowering of a distinctively American literature in the United States. It was the last great age of poetry; that is, the last period in which great poetry was written, widely read, and culturally relevant. The eighteenth century saw the birth of the novel in the works of Richardson, Fielding, and Sterne, but the nineteenth century witnessed an incredible growth in the production of novels as prose fiction became the dominant literary form. Non-fiction prose is also well represented in the writings of Lamb, Hazlitt, De Quincy, Leigh Hunt, Emerson, Thoreau, Carlyle, and Ruskin. British literary periodicals such as the Edin-burgh Review, Quarterly Review, and Athenaeum and American monthlies such as Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and Southern Literary Messenger contributed to the number and diversity of voices in the literary landscape and foreshadowed the mass media of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Nineteenth-century literature includes interesting hybrid forms, such as the dramatic monologue, combining elements of the lyric and dramatic, and Landor's "Imaginary Conversations," which combine elements of drama and prose fiction. Blake, Rossetti, and Morris unite textual and visual languages in innovative ways, providing a crucial analog for the multimedia and "new media" creative works found on the web and in other digital environments.

Along with this diversity of writers and genres, in the nineteenth century may be found the origins of the modern phenomenon of information overload, when the amount of recorded information produced — even in a focused discipline — becomes overwhelming and nearly impossible to process through traditional means, such as reading. The English Short Title Catalog (ESTC), a database of items printed in English from the beginnings of print to 1800, contains roughly 460,000 records. By contrast, the Nineteenth-Century Short Title Catalog (NSTC), a similar database with coverage from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the end of World War I, includes over 1.2 million records, three times as many titles as were published in the previous four centuries. Manipulation and full analysis of such a massive volume of textual (and other) data demand digitization, modern information retrieval techniques, and computer analysis.

As the temporal home of the industrial revolution, the nineteenth century claims a special place in the field of digital literary studies. The industrial revolution effected a shift from an agrarian to a manufacturing and industrial economy, a shift that led to or was accompanied by major societal upheavals, such as the American Civil War. In turn, the digital revolution has effected a shift from an industrial to a service- and information-based economy. Both the industrial and digital transitions are accompanied by varying, disproportionate, and unequal levels of prosperity and despair of the sort depicted by Dickens in Oliver Twist and Hard Times. Likewise, the digital age of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is wracked by the shockwaves of globalization, the mass migration of industrial jobs, "outsourcing" of highly skilled technical positions to cheaper labor markets, and dot-com billionaires and bankrupts. Both the industrial and digital revolutions are attended by technologically enhanced and augmented modes of communication. Thus, artists, critics, scholars, and others from both periods are faced with transformative social change that necessitates reflection and commentary as they are simultaneously provided with conditions and tools (cheaper printing, growing literacy, word processors, the internet) that facilitate the communication of their ideas.

It is tempting to romanticize the digital revolution,1 which one does merely by calling it a revolution, by referencing the iconoclasm and experimentation of digital publication and new media, by emphasizing the empowering reach the internet provides to the individual voice — scholarly or creative — freed from the physical constraints of print media and the economic barriers to print publishing, by noting the ease with which anyone or anything can become the subject of a documentary or creative work with instantaneous worldwide distribution, and by citing new opportunities for creative and experimental criticism made possible by digital technologies: opportunities to incorporate multimedia — image, audio, video, and animation — into traditional scholarship; opportunities to create dynamic scholarship that updates and changes as the scholar's ideas change and evolve, abandoning the constraints of the static monograph while retaining the ability to provide a static snapshot of any stage in the evolving scholarly process. One must guard against an overly enthusiastic application of Romantic idealism to the promises of digital technology and remain cognizant of negative consequences such as the digital divide, digitally induced isolation from physical interaction, and billions of deleted email messages with subjects like "Vi[agra, Levi@tra LOWEST Cost Ever!" Nonetheless, these romantic claims for the digital age provide yet another parallel with the literature and culture of the nineteenth century.

Nineteenth-Century Multimedia

In the nineteenth century it is possible to find many examples of what might today be termed multimedia, a reintegration of creative activities and a recognition that the individual artist might excel in various modes and formats, such as poetry (text), painting (image), science, and technology. A number of major literary figures in the nineteenth century were interested in both text and image, the integration of the two modes and media types, and the connections between the two. William Blake, John Ruskin, William Morris, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were all accomplished writers and visual artists. Other major nineteenth-century literary figures, such as Swinburne and Pater, were primarily writers who also wrote passionately about the visual arts. Ruskin was a great polymath whose impressive knowledge of science added yet another dimension to the multimedia aspect of his work. And it was Ruskin who so vigorously championed the work of J. W. M. Turner, another progenitor of multimedia in the arts. As soon as he was allowed by a change in the Royal Academy's exhibition procedures in 1798, Turner began inserting verses in the catalog to accompany his pictures. In that first year, he included verses from Milton's Paradise Lost and James Thompson's Seasons to five of his exhibited works. Among approximately two hundred oil paintings exhibited by Turner, fifty-three have poetic epigraphs, and twenty-six of these were composed by Turner himself. In addition, many of his titles make reference to poetry (Landow 1971: 45–8).

Digital media, particularly the World Wide Web, are excellent platforms for presenting multimedia primary works and related scholarship. Not surprisingly, many of the early and well-known digital humanities projects focus on these nineteenth-century "multimedia" artists. In 1996 Cambridge University Press published a simple digitization, delivered on CD-ROM, of Cook and Wedderburn's early twentieth-century "Library Edition" of The Works of John Ruskin, a multimedia work featuring Ruskin's complete writings along with hundreds of his drawings and paintings. And two of the earliest web-based digital humanities projects, the Rossetti Archive and the William Blake Archive, focus on multimedia painter-poets.

It is worth noting that most of these projects are scholarly editing, "archive" projects, assembling digitized versions of authors' published works and manuscripts, together with significant and valuable scholarly treatment. Marcel O'Gorman, borrowing terminology from Derrida, has claimed that the field of digital humanities is particularly susceptible to "archive fever," an inordinate emphasis on textual editing and archiving at the expense of more adventurous, experimental, and creative uses of technology to transform humanities scholarship (O'Gorman 2006: 9). The early "archive" projects (e.g., Blake, Whitman, Rossetti)2 do demonstrate a high level of creativity, both in their early adoption of digital technology and, in the case of the Rossetti and Blake archives, in their refusal to tolerate the traditional segregation of the textual and the visual. Furthermore, the archive projects provide the raw materials with which other scholars may apply computational or aesthetic creativity to attempt still more transformative and original modes of discourse and criticism. Nonetheless, those working in digital literary studies should take note of O'Gorman's cautionary tale:

[S]omewhere in the early 1990s, the major tenets of deconstruction (death of the Author, intertextuality, etc.) were displaced into technology, that is, hypertext. Or to put it another way, philosophy was transformed, liquidated even, into the materiality of new media. This alchemical transformation did not result in the creation of new, experimental scholarly methods that mobilize deconstruction via technology, but in an academic fever for digital archiving and accelerated hermeneutics, both of which replicate, and render more efficient, traditional scholarly practices that belong to the print apparatus.

(O'Gorman 2006: xv)

Explorations into digital archiving and accelerated hermeneutics should continue unabated. These efforts represent the first generation of digital humanities work, and provide a foundation for new and more experimental approaches.3 Nonetheless, digital literary scholarship will expand both its content and its audience and more fully exploit digital tools and media by heeding O'Gorman's call to "shape a new apparatus" and to

reclaim deconstruction [and theory generally] from the digital liquidation it underwent in the 1990s in order to apply it more carefully (though experimentally and radically) in the creation of discursive practices that are suitable to a culture that has internalized the primary tenets of postmodern theory, but has done so by way of popular culture and computing techniques.

(O'Gorman 2006: xv—xvi)

Electronic Scholarship and the Digital Guild

The Victorians themselves were susceptible to a sort of "archive fever," illustrated in George Eliot's character from Middlemarch, Edward Casaubon, and his doomed Key to All Mythologies, an endless, meaningless, and ultimately futile effort to compile, integrate, and provide a single "key" to all the world's mythologies. Ruskin, Morris, and others reacted against such strains of nineteenth-century pedantry and overspeciali-zation and encouraged a more holistic and interdisciplinary approach to art and life.

Electronic scholarship encourages interdisciplinary collaboration and gives scholars control over more aspects of the production and presentation of their work, from writing and editing to design, contextualization, and publication. Traditional literary scholarship is often a lonely pursuit — solitary work devoted to the production of a monograph. Digital literary scholarship, on the other hand, is generally social and collaborative with scholars, students, librarians, and technologists working together to produce a scholarly product with more functionality, further reach, and potentially wider appeal than the traditional monograph. One of the joys of digital scholarship is its social aspect and the real-time, face-to-face experience of knowledge sharing, teaching, and learning that takes place outside of the conventional classroom and outside the constraints of the teacher—student relationship. Individuals from diverse backgrounds, all experts in their respective fields, must work together to produce a complex digital scholarly project. All members of the group are simultaneously teachers and students.

Ruskin wrote famously on the division of labor and the "division of men":

It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided; but the men: — Divided into mere segments of men — broken into small fragments and crumbs of life; so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail.

(Ruskin 1903: 10: 196)

The point of the pin or the head of the nail — the words of a scholarly text are just that. As scholars such as D. F. McKenzie and Jerome J. McGann have persuasively argued, any text is a collaboratively, socially produced artifact, involving the contributions of authors, designers, typesetters, printers, publishers, etc. (McKenzie 1986; McGann 2006b). All the players contribute to the shape, form, and meaning of text. In digital scholarship, there may well be more players, more and different contributions (e.g., programming or document object modeling), and more confluence of roles (e.g., literary scholarship, systems development, visual design) within an individual contributor to a project.

The collaborative teams that are assembled to produce digital literary scholarship may be viewed as a humorously ironic, though vitally important and necessary answer to a particularly nineteenth-century concern, the anxiety — shared by Ruskin, Morris, and others — over the division of labor. As a traditional textual or bibliographic literary scholar could master the intricacies of the printing and publishing industries —folios, foolscap, gatherings, and duodecimo — so scholars working in the digital environment will find it useful to familiarize themselves with the tools and technologies — XML, TEI, XHTML, JavaScript, and CSS — for "printing" and publishing digital scholarship. In the digital environment, the scholar — often working with a team of students, developers, and designers — has more control of the whole process of generating and presenting the scholarship. The interaction of team members provides opportunities for debate, learning, and insights about the source material. As developers and designers struggle with how to adequately present on the web a particularly troublesome feature of the text — for instance, an infralinear insertion that winds its way around the margins of the recto and finds a stopping point in the middle of a another poem on the verso — they will ask questions of the text and of the other members of the team, and people will talk and generate ideas, many of which will be useful and insightful and lead to new understandings of the work. This sort of work results in true interdisciplinarity, a much-lauded goal of scholarship. The combination of, say, history and literary studies is after all a rather shallow pool of inter-disciplinarity; the skills required to master each field are not all that different. But literary studies, computer science, graphic design, human—computer interaction design, digital publishing — these are all disparate though nonetheless complementary disciplines that combine in exciting ways to form the deep interdisciplinarity of digital literary studies.

The Nineteenth Century as the Final Frontier

Another attraction of the nineteenth century as a subject of digital literary scholarship is that it is perhaps the final age of literature for which the content is freely accessible and unencumbered by copyright restrictions. Due to increasingly draconian copyright laws in the United States and Europe, no works created since 1923 (that were still copyrighted in 1998) will enter the pubic domain until 2019.4 And the threat exists that large, wealthy, and powerful copyright holders may have future successes persuading legislators to extend copyright even further. Thus, for at least another decade, the nineteenth century remains a final frontier of sorts for digital scholarship focused on the editing, reproduction, and manipulation of primary materials. Of course, one may seek permission to use and reproduce copyrighted works, but arranging such permissions places an extraordinary burden on the scholar and is unmanageable and impractical if one's work requires a large and diverse corpus representing multiple authors and potentially hundreds of copyright holders.


Below is a discussion of a number of exemplary digital projects focused on nineteenth-century literature. The list is by no means exhaustive; rather, I have attempted to discuss a representative selection of digital projects of various types — those devoted to single authors, reference works, online communities, and more comprehensive projects that seek to collect and integrate digital scholarship from a variety of sources and about a variety of subjects.

Individual authors

William Blake Archive <>

The William Blake Archive, edited by Morris Eaves, Robert Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, was launched in 1996 as a free website with a goal to become "an international public resource that would provide unified access to major works of visual and literary art that are highly disparate, widely dispersed, and more and more often severely restricted as a result of their value, rarity, and extreme fragility" (Eaves et al. 2005). The William Blake Archive has in large part fulfilled that mission by offering digital editions of multiple copies of all of Blake's nineteen illuminated works. The illuminated books are supplemented by additional materials such as commercial book illustrations; prints for other works, such as the illustrations for The Book of Job and Dante; drawings and paintings; and manuscript materials.

In the figure of William Blake, the nineteenth century provides one of the best arguments for digital scholarship. Blake was a multimedia artist, and it is only with the advent of digital technology that a comprehensive presentation of Blake's multi-media output becomes possible. As the editors of the Archive explain:

The dominant tradition of Blake editing has been overwhelmingly literary. The historical Blake, a printmaker and painter by training who added poetry to his list of accomplishments, has been converted, editorially, into a poet whose visual art is acknowledged but moved off to the side where it becomes largely invisible, partly because of what one of Blake's first critics, the poet Swinburne, called "hard necessity" — the technological and economic obstructions that have prevented the reproduction of accurate images in printed editions.

(Eaves et al. 2005)

The editors' discussion of their editorial principles persuasively argues for the transformative power of digital literary scholarship to overcome previous "technological and economic obstructions." These digital technologies and modified editorial principles make possible a reintegration of the textual and graphic components of Blake's work and will necessarily transform future perceptions and understandings of Blake.

An important achievement of the Blake Archive is the scholarly treatment of the digital images. The Archive would be a splendid and extraordinarily useful resource if it simply provided high-quality digital images of Blake's works, along with some basic descriptive metadata; however, the editors have augmented such basic functionality with extensive descriptions of each image and with advanced image manipulation and annotation tools (Figure 6.1). Further, they have created a controlled vocabulary of image "characteristics" and assigned terminology to the images, allowing users to search the database of images. Grouped under the five general categories of figure, animal, vegetation, object, and structure are terms such as demon, knight, nymph, jailor, blacksmith, Cupid, Elijah, John the Baptist, Zoa, tiger, spider, snake, rose, thistle, thorn, coffin, cradle, kite, quill, skull, altar, dome, cottage, and tower. While some have argued that imposing such a controlled vocabulary on Blake's work is simplistic and reductive and betrays the richness and subtlety of his images,5 on the contrary the controlled vocabulary is an excellent tool for finding what one wants to find. The controlled vocabulary serves a much-needed purpose, like an index or page numbers, for locating material of interest. Having then found interesting content, the scholar can reflect on the subtlety and richness, ambiguity and clarity of the work.

Figure 6.1  An annotated image (from Blake's Milton) in The Blake Archive.

The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Rossetti Archive) <>

The Rossetti Archive, edited by Jerome J. McGann, is a long-running project devoted to the work of Victorian artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Begun in 1992, before the widespread adoption of the World Wide Web, the Rossetti Archive is one of the earliest of the projects listed here and has served as a model for a great deal of subsequent digital scholarship. After the recent publication of the third of a projected four installments for the Archive, the project now includes page images and transcriptions of the 1861 book of translations, The Early Italian Poets; the 1870 edition of Rossetti's Poems; and the 1881 publications Ballads and Sonnets and Poems. A New Edition. Included with each volume are related pictorial works and other materials.

The Rossetti Archive is particularly noteworthy for its comprehensiveness. Recognizing that "Rossetti was a major figure in the rich cultural context of late Victorian England," McGann has added to the rich collection of Rossetti's works an impressive body of contextual material, including related texts, visual works, and contemporary periodicals.

Walt Whitman Archive <>

The Walt Whitman Archive, edited by Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price, "is an electronic research and teaching tool that sets out to make Whitman's vast work, for the first time, easily and conveniently accessible to scholars, students, and general readers" (Folsom, "Introduction"). Whitman's work, particularly Leaves of Grass, presents well-known and challenging textual difficulties. Unfettered by the constraints of word and page count or the weight of a massive bound volume, the Whitman Archive has the luxury of presenting a complex work such as Leaves of Grass in its various editions and formats as "distinct creations rather than as a single revised work" (Folsom, "Introduction"). In addition to the various editions and incarnations of Leaves of Grass, the Archive includes Whitman's notebooks, manuscript fragments, prose essays, letters, and journalistic articles. The Archive includes electronic text and page images for the six American editions of Leaves of Grass as well as the so-called "deathbed edition" of 1891–92, "a reprinting of the 1881–82 edition with 'annexes"' (Folsom). In addition to these important published texts, the Archive includes transcriptions and page images for nearly one hundred manuscripts, mostly poetry. The editors' discussion of what constitutes a "poetry manuscript" illustrates the importance of the Archive and the insights that may be gained by exploring its rich and subtle treasures:

We have chosen to define "poetry manuscript" broadly, since it is often hard to determine the boundary between prose and verse in Whitman's manuscripts — especially in the pre-war years, Whitman habitually migrated his writing from prose to verse. For the purposes of this project, we consider as a poetry manuscript any writing in Whitman's hand that either is written as verse, contains a key image or language that eventually made its way into a recognized Whitman poem, or discusses the making of a poem.

(Folsom 2006)

A particularly useful component of the Whitman Archive is "An Integrated Finding Guide to Walt Whitman's Poetry Manuscripts," a resource that makes innovative use of the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) metadata standard. EAD is an XML format for encoding archival finding aids, documents that describe the background and contents of an archival collection, such as a collection of literary manuscripts. Whitman's manuscripts are dispersed across libraries, archives, and other institutions in the United States and United Kingdom. Each of these repositories has paper or digital finding aids describing their collections. The Walt Whitman Archive has worked with the many repositories and integrated these finding aids into one comprehensive EAD/XML-encoded "Finding Guide." The "Integrated Finding Guide" gathers the disparate findings aids, authored using the different conventions and standards of some thirty repositories, and presents the data in a single, unified, consistent manner.

Algernon Charles Swinburne Project <>

My own Swinburne Project is a digital collection focused on the life and works of Victorian poet, critic, and novelist Algernon Charles Swinburne. The Project currently includes editions of Swinburne's four long, book-length poems, the classical verse dramas Atalanta in Calydon (1865) and Erechtheus (1876), and the Arthurian narrative poems Tristram of Lyonesse (1882) and The Tale of Balen (1896). Swinburne's most famous volume, the 1866 Poems and Ballads, is also included, along with later volumes Songs before Sunrise (1872), Poems and Ballads, Second Series (1878), Songs of the Springtides (1880), and Studies in Song (1880). The texts are all from the 1904 collected Poems, overseen by Swinburne and published by Chatto and Windus.

The Swinburne Project recently expanded its content to include current scholarship on Swinburne. Among the secondary scholarship currently available are John D. Rosenberg's essay "Swinburne and the Ravages of Time" (2005), a revision of his important 1967 essay "Swinburne" originally published in the journal Victorian Studies, and supplemental materials from Terry L. Meyers's important three-volume Uncollected Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne (2005), which includes over 550 letters that were unavailable when Cecil Y. Lang published his landmark collection of Swinburne letters in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Following the publication of his Uncollected Letters, Meyers approached the Swin-burne Project about hosting additional materials related to the collection, including five additional letters that have surfaced since 2005. There was a forty-year wait between the publication of Lang's Collected Letters and Meyers's Uncollected Letters. Through the online publishing environment provided by the Swinburne Project, the Uncollected Letters is not a static collection, but an active, growing enterprise, and scholars need not wait months or years for the publication of newly edited Swinburne correspondence. Aiming for comprehensiveness, future installments of the Swinburne Project will include the rest of the published poetry, the dramas, prose fiction and criticism, and manuscript materials.

Collaborative environments and integrated resources


As digital technologies and the capabilities of the web continue to advance at lightning speed, it is important not to lose sight of simpler, more fundamental functionalities provided by digital technology. A relatively early digital project that has contributed to literary scholarship is VICTORIA, a simple listserv (i.e., an electronic mailing list) that began in 1993 to facilitate online communication among scholars and students of Victorian studies. Because listserv software provides the functionality to maintain and search archives of the email messages shared among subscribers, VICTORIA is not only an important tool for collaboration and communication, but has become an important reference resource capturing over thirteen years of scholarly discussion and debate among graduate students, authors of historical fiction, widely published scholars, and others with an interest in Victorian studies.

Romantic Circles <>

Romantic Circles, edited by Neil Fraistat and Steven E. Jones, is "a refereed scholarly Website devoted to the study of Romantic-period literature and culture." Unlike most of the projects discussed above, Romantic Circles is not devoted to a single author and presents a rich variety of content presented as the following categories:

Electronic Editions.

RC Blog, a weblog regularly updated with news and announcements of likely interest to Romanticists and Romantic Circles users.

Praxis, original essays on Romanticism and Romantic literature.

Scholarly Resources, reference resources such as chronologies, indexes, concordances, bibliographies, and links to related web resources.

Pedagogy, teaching resources.

Reviews, original reviews of print and online publications related to Romanticism.

Romantic Circles MOO, an online, virtual environment for "discussions, meetings, and gaming." (Fraistat 2006)

The electronic editions include works by Southey, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, and a number of woman writers, including Mary Shelley, Betty T. Bennett, Felicia Hemens, Maria Jane Jewsbury, and Ana Laetitia Aikin.

Romanticism on the Net <>

Romanticism on the Net, or RoN, is an international peer-reviewed electronic journal edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra. RoN was first published in February 1996 and celebrated its tenth anniversary with a special issue in June 2006. With a distinguished advisory board, a standard scholarly peer-review system, a quarterly publication schedule, and representation in the MLA International Bibliography, RoN has all the credentials of well-established print journals along with the many advantages of an online journal, including the timely promotion of relevant conferences and other journals; the ability to link to related online resources, such as Romantic Circles; and ready, unrestricted access to the full run of the journal.

NINES (Networked Interface to Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship) <>

NINES is an ambitious project to transform digital resources for the nineteenth-century beyond collections of texts, articles, reference material, etc. into an online, peer-reviewed environment for individual and collaborative research. NINES attempts to aggregate digital scholarship centered in nineteenth-century studies, British and American, and to provide digital scholarly tools for analyzing, exploring, collecting, and interacting with the aggregated content. Further, NINES is engaged in the development of tools designed to exploit the scholarly potential of the digital resources aggregated in the NINES environment. These tools include IVANHOE, Juxta, and Collex.

The first two tools, IVANHOE and Juxta, though developed and available under the auspices of the overall NINES project, are not necessarily tied to the NINES online environment, nor to the nineteenth century for that matter. The origins of the IVANHOE game lie in playful explorations of Scott's novel, and Juxta was developed with an eye toward the examination and editing of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century texts, but both tools may be run on a user's own computer with any text, regardless of whether it is a nineteenth-century text/resource or whether the text/ resource has gone through the peer-review process and been incorporated into the NINES environment.

The IVANHOE game — a networked, Java-based desktop application — provides "a shared, online playspace for readers interested in exploring how acts of interpretation get made and reflecting on what those acts mean or might mean." The homepage for the INVANHOE game provides a detailed explanation of the functionality and aims of IVANHOE:

The explorations come as active interventions in the textual field that is the target of the readers' interests. These interventions are then returned to the players in various kinds of visual transformations useful for critical reflection on the interpretative process. These reflections become computerized transformations of the discourse field into visualizations that expose interpretive relationships and possibilities. The visualizations are mapped to three interrelated coordinates: the players acting in the field; the moves executed by the players (comprising sets of multiple actions); and the documents that are acted upon. IVANHOE creates a formalized digital space where these three coordinates dynamically interact. Such interactions generate a complex interpretive space whose possibilities of meaning are returned to the interpretive agents in visualizations designed to provoke critical reflection and re-exploration. (IVANHOE 2006)

The IVANHOE game allows scholars to play with texts. Players assume a persona that may reflect an aspect of the text (e.g., a character from a novel or a biographical figure from the author's life), a theoretical approach to the text, or some other strategic critical intention. Players then make moves in the game; a move may be a written response to the text, a reaction to another player's response, or the introduction of a new text to the game/discourse field. The personas, the play, the texts, and the visualizations provided by IVANHOE all may serve, for the willing participant, to provoke "critical reflection and re-exploration," which of course is what scholars do —we reflect and explore and write and talk about our reflections and explorations. But in the context of IVANHOE this reflection and exploration may be done more collaboratively, and the visualizations and other aspects of the digital environment may provoke insights different than those that emerge from traditional modes of critical discourse.

Juxta is a Java-based textual analysis and editing tool for the comparison of textual objects. Any digitized text may be chosen as the base text and collated with any number of additional witnesses. Juxta provides multiple visualization options, including a side-by-side comparison of the base text with a witness text and a histogram displaying a graph of differences between the currently selected document and the other collated texts (Figure 6.2). Further, Juxta can generate a critical apparatus, in HTML format, detailing the textual variants in a set of compared texts. Juxta was primarily designed for editing nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts, but the developers are interested in making the tool useful for editing earlier texts as well (Juxta).

The third tool currently available as part of the NINES project is Collex, a "collections- and exhibit-builder designed to aid humanities scholars working in digital collections or within federated research environments like NINES" (Collex). Like IVANHOE and Juxta, Collex has the potential to be used in other projects and with other texts, but it is not a desktop tool and must be integrated with a more complex, server-based environment. Unlike many other projects discussed here, which more or less replicate print technology in the less restrictive online environment, Collex strives to exploit current information technologies (e.g., folksonomies and semantic web concepts) to provide a collaborative online scholarly environment with functionality extending far beyond that available in the print paradigm. Within the Collex environment, users may

collect, tag, analyze, and annotate trusted objects (digital texts and images vetted for scholarly integrity); reorganize and publish objects in fresh critical perspectives; share these new collections with students and colleagues, in a variety of output formats; and, without any special technical training, produce interlinked online and print exhibits using a set of professional design templates. (Collex 2006)

Many of the projects, collections, and resources discussed in this essay are awaiting formal peer-review and inclusion in NINES; many are already available through the NINES/Collex interface. NINES has the potential to transform the way in which these collections are used by allowing scholars to collect texts, images, and other objects from a variety of peer-reviewed sources and integrate them into a single user-defined exhibit or collection. Further, scholars may "tag" each item with keywords relevant to their own research. These tags may be shared with the public. As more and more users add tags to items within NINES, the NINES environment grows richer by reflecting the insights and interests of a larger and larger community of scholars. In addition to single word "tags" or "keywords," users may add more elaborate annotations to objects in their collections.

Figure 6.2  Screen shot of Juxta; a side-by-side comparison of the text of Rossetti's "Blessed Damozel" from the 1870 Poems (1st edn) and from the 1850 Germ.

Additional Resources

As mentioned above, the nineteenth century is a rich source of material for digital scholarship, and I have selected only a few representative resources to discuss in detail. Many other noteworthy projects are available. Additional resources for nineteenth-century American literature include Stephen Railton's Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture: A Multi-Media Archive <>, a comprehensive archive centered on Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel. In addition to multiple texts of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the collection includes "PreTexts" (Christian texts, anti-slavery texts, etc.) and "Responses" (American reviews, African-American responses, pro-slavery responses, etc.) as well as resources related to depictions of Uncle Tom's Cabin on stage and screen. The Dickinson Electronic Archives <> includes writings by the Dickinson family and Emily Dick-inson's correspondence, responses to Dickinson's writing, current scholarship on Dickinson, and teaching resources. The Wright American Fiction Project <> includes both searchable electronic text and page images for over 2,800 titles of nineteenth-century American fiction, as listed in Lyle Wright's bibliography, American Fiction, 1851–1875.

Among the many additional resources for British literature is The Victorian Women Writers Project <>, which includes nearly two hundred works of prose and poetry. George P. Landow, a scholar of John Ruskin and a leading theorist on hypertext, has developed The Victorian Web <>, a richly hypertextual general resource for the study of Victorian literature and culture. Patrick Leary, founder of the VICTORIA email discussion list, maintains the Victorian Research Web <>, a listing of traditional and digital resources relevant to research and teaching about the Victorian period. The Victorian Studies Bibliography <> is the online version of the annual bibliography produced by the editors of the journal Victorian Studies.

The 1990s began with a few brave scholars turning from traditional modes of scholarship and risking reputations to explore how emerging technologies might be applied to the production of scholarly texts, the examination of those texts, and the discourse about the texts. In a couple of noteworthy cases, the technology was used to unite, in ways that were not previously possible, the visual and textual works of important figures like Blake and Rossetti. These early projects inspired others to adopt similar modes, provided exemplars for digital scholarship, and contributed the raw materials, in the form of a growing corpus of digital text and images, for experiments in computational literary analysis, digital annotation, and other innovative applications of technology. Well over a decade after these early projects began, scholars of nineteenth-century British and American literature are awash with an ever-growing number of high-quality digital resources, and initiatives likes NINES, building on the inherently collaborative nature of digital humanities scholarship, are attempting to aggregate disparate projects under a single interface coupled with a variety of digital tools that are likely to enhance the potential of existing archives and resources and to encourage and enable increasingly daring and creative scholarship and teaching about the nineteenth century.


1  Richard Coyne's Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism, and the Romance of the Real (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001) is a book-length study on the romanticization of digital technology.

2  Eaves, Morris, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi (Eds.). The William Blake Archive. Accessed October 1, 2006. <>; Folsom, Ed, and Kenneth M. Price (Eds.). Overview of the Archive. The Walt Whitman Archive. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006; McGann, Jerome J. (Ed.). The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Rossetti Archive). <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

3  Jerome McGann's Rossetti Archive, for instance, provides an initial foundation for NINES (discussed below), a more recent project that integrates scholarly digital resources, provides tools for manipulating and interacting with the content, and implements emerging information retrieval methodologies, such as folksonomies (collaboratively generated categorization and tagging of content).

4  For an overview of US copyright see "Copyright Office Basics" published by the US Copyright Office and available at <>.

5  See, for instance, Andrew Cooper and Michael Simpson's "The High-Tech Luddite of Lam-beth: Blake's Eternal Hacking." Wordsworth Circle 30.3 (Summer 1999): 125–31.

References and Further Reading

Cooper, Andrew, and Michael Simpson (1999). "The High-Tech Luddite of Lambeth: Blake's Eternal Hacking." Wordsworth Circle 30.3: 125–31.

Collex (2006). Applied Research in Patacriticism.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Coyne, Richard (2001). Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism, and the Romance of the Real. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Eaves, Morris, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Vis-comi (Eds.) (2005). "Editorial Principles: Methodology and Standards in the Blake Archive."The William Blake Archive. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Eaves, Morris, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi (Eds.) (2006a). "The Archive at a Glance." The William Blake Archive. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Eaves, Morris, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi (Eds.) (2006b). Crafting Editorial Settlements. Romanticism on the Net, 41–2. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Eaves, Morris, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi (Eds.) (2006c). The William Blake Archive.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Eberle-Sinatra, Michael (Ed.) (2006). Romanticism on the Net. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

English Short Title Catalogue (2006). The British Library. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Feluga, Dino Franco (2006). "Introduction: Skeuo-morphs and Anti-Time." Romanticism on the Net, 41–2. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Folsom, Ed, and Kenneth M. Price (Eds.) (2006). "Overview of the Archive." The Walt Whitman Archive. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Fraistat, Neil, and Steven E. Jones (Eds.) (2006). Romantic Circles. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Fraistat, Neil, Steven Jones, and Carl Stahmer (1998). "The Canon, the Web, and the Digitization of Romanticism." Romanticism on the Net 10.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

IVANHOE (2006). Applied Research in Patacri-ticism. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Jones, Steven E. (n.d.). "Digital Romanticism in the Age of Neo-Luddism: The Romantic Circles Experiment." Romanticism on the Net 41–2. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Juxta (2006). Applied Research in Patacriticism.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Landow, George (1971). The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Landow, George (2006). The Victorian Web. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Leary, Patrick (2006). Victorian Research Web (VRW). <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Mandel, Laura (Ed.) (2006). The Poetess Archive.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

McGann, Jerome J. (Ed.) (2006a). The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Rossetti Archive). <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

McGann, Jerome J. (Ed.) (2006b). "From Text to Work: Digital Tools and the Emergenceofthe SocialText." Romanticism on the Net 41–2. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

McGann, Jerome J. (Ed.) (2006c). "Visible Language, Interface, IVANHOE." In The Scholar's Art: Literary Studies in a Managed World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 148–71.

McGann, Jerome J. et al. (2006d). NINES (Networked Interface for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship). <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

McKenzie, D. F. (1986). Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts. London: British Library.

Miller, Andrew H., and Ivan Kreilkamp (2005). Victorian Studies Bibliography. Bloomington: In-diana University Press and Indiana University Digital Library Program.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Nineteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue (2004–2006). <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

O'Gorman, Marcel (2006). E-Crit: Digital Media, Critical Theory, and the Humanities. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Railton, Stephen (2006). Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture: A Multi-Media Archive.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Rosenberg, John D. (2005). "Swinburne and the Ravages of Time." In Elegy for an Age. London: Anthem Press, pp. 163–86.

Ruskin, John (1903). "The Nature of Gothic." The Stones of Venice. Vol. 2. The Works of John Ruskin. (Ed.) E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. 39 vols. London: George Allen, 1903–12. 10, pp. 180–269.

Smith, Marth Nell, et al. (Eds.). Dickinson Electronic Archive.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Stauffer, Andrew (2006). "Romanticism's Scattered Leaves." Romanticism on the Net 41–2.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Swinburne, Algernon Charles (2005). Uncollected Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne (Ed. Terry L. Meyers). 3 vols. London: Pickering and Chatto.

Viscomi, Joseph (n.d.). "Blake's Virtual Designs and Deconstruction of The Song of Los." Romanticism on the Net 41–2. <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Walsh, John. A. (Ed.) (2006). The Swinburne Project.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Willett, C. Perry (Ed.) (2002). Victorian Women Writers Project.<>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

Wright American Fiction 1851–1875. Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC). <>. Accessed October 1, 2006.

previous chapter
John A. Walsh
Digital Resources for Nineteenth-Century Literary Studies
next chapter