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Archive for the ‘history’ Category

The creator of the eighteenth-century “web of knowledge” turns 300.

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A brief, poignant piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education links two of our course themes, religion in the eighteenth century and editing–but probably not in the way that you would think:  http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2013/10/01/editing-before-our-eyes/

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Just a few short ones to report, which I’ll list in order from most general and popular to most specific and academic:

With the birthday of The Boss this past week, you have to appreciate this title: Literature, What is it Good For? (Yes, I know, it’s not a Springsteen original.)  I love that Evan Gottlieb, a professor of eighteenth-century studies, has taken up the banner for studying English in a series of Huffington Post articles.  Perhaps it’s not surprising that someone who studies the Eighteenth Century would commit himself to this cause; these were debates–what to read, who should read and why–that fueled much of the discourse of the period as well.

Some of those debates took place in the periodical literature of the time.  Thus I’m happy to see that one of my favorite 18C bloggers on Georgian London is writing for a well-known British book charity (why don’t we have one of those?) about the highs and lows of the burgeoning journalism culture of the period.   By the way, I just ordered her book!

Of course, our own publication venues have changed radically over the last couple decades.  As we prepare ourselves for the Wayne State Symposium of Scholarly Editing and Archival Research tomorrow, it’s a great time to be thinking of how best to edit 18c texts. This blog post describing a student project usefully outlines some of the issues that must be considered when publishing a digital edition.

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I developed these questions for students to use  when reading, blogging, or otherwise preparing for class discussion.

Just as literature itself always inescapably reflects and enacts power dynamics, so does children’s literature, including educational texts, picture books, and advice to parents.  Values of some sort are always transmitted along with the information and/or entertainment.  This is sometimes easier to see in historical works at some distance from us, although sometimes their very strangeness can make analysis difficult.  When writing or reflecting on literature published anytime, but especially before the Twentieth Century, it may be helpful to reflect upon the following.

  1. What is historical place and time of this text?  What do you know about this period in terms of main political events and its culture? What were the attitudes and beliefs of this time period?
  2. How does this work seem to reflect that historical context?  In what ways (if any) does it seem to deviate from it?
  3. How is it similar to/different from other works (literary or otherwise) from this period?
  4. Who was its target user and /or intended audience, and in what setting it would probably have been used? You may have to make an educated guess; some examples are more obvious than others.
  5. What sorts of language technologies or communication forms are emphasized in your document and what kinds are downplayed or ignored? What does it teach children about reading and/or education, either the how (medium & method) or the what (content)?
  6. What does this work teach children about the world, and their place within it?  What are the limits of this world or sphere?  Is domestic, urban, national or global?  How might the culture of this world be described?  That is, how does it operate, what are its rules, who has power within it, etc?
  7. Look back over your answers to the questions above. Based on these answers, along with anything else that strikes you about the text, how would you describe the cultural politics of your document? That is, who might be empowered in this literature and who might be marginalized?
  1. How does engage the imagination of the child-reader? What fantastical elements are apparent, and how does that fantasy operate in relationship to their real world?  Does it follow similar cultural rules or does it deviate entirely?  What might be the purpose of this alternate reality?
  2. Look closely at the language used.  (Language includes descriptions, images, metaphors, vocabulary–WHAT is being said as well as HOW.)  How do you think this reflects the text’s values?
  3. Is there anything that surprised you about the text?  Did anything strike you as particularly unusual? What might account for this strangeness?

This is a long list of questions, but it is surely not inclusive.  What questions do you think it would be useful for students and other readers to ask when encountering the otherness of children’s literature?

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