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Literature and the Internet : A Guide for Students, Teachers, and Scholars (Wellesley Studies in Critical Theory, Literary History and Culture, Volume 21)

   by Stephanie Browner / Stephen Pulsford / Richard Sears

  Textbook Binding:
    January, 2000


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Editorial description(s):

"Recommended for graduate and undergraduate faculty and students in literature courses."

Book Description
Literature and the Internet: A Guide for Students, Teachers, and Scholars is the only Internet guide written for those who love and study literature. The book begins with a practical introduction for readers who want help finding, navigating, and using literary sites. Later chapters focus on educational issues such as plagiarism, citation, website evaluation, the use of Internet sites in literature courses, as well as the technical, scholarly and professional issues raised by the advent of the Internet. Finally, the book concludes with a chapter on the cultural implications of the Internet for literary studies.
In addition, the book offers an annotated bibliography of Internet sources (with URLs) that introduces readers to hundreds of sites which they can explore on their own.
Readers need not have a B.A. or even a major in English, and no special training in computer technology and software is necessary. The book explains both the basics of the Internet and sophisticated scholarly issues in simple language.
Ultimately, each Internet user must choose his or her own path through the Internet, but with Literature and the Internet in hand, surfing the net for things literary will be more efficient and satisfying and much less confusing and overwhelming.

Reader review(s):

Literature and the Internet, June 12, 2000
Literature and the Internet

In the field of literary studies, people have been creating digitized texts and making concordances for quite some time now. But until the advent of the Web it was difficult to get an overview of criticism and scholarship which was easily available. In fact it's still not easy. As the authors of this excellent guide point out, it remains common for the latest work to be made available only in the form of conventionally printed books and the dinosaur publishing methods of scholarly journals.

But at last the Internet is now making ever more material easily available to us, and it is the purpose of this guide to advise students, teachers, and scholars how to make the most of the opportunity to retrieve it. They start with a general survey of the pros and cons of the Internet for literary studies, quite rightly pointing out that despite all its obvious advantages, there are still many shortcomings:

It has large and obvious gaps, it cannot cover the literary ground as even a moderately well-stocked library can, and it cannot equal the contemporary appeal of a good bookstore.

In fact the differences between books in libraries and texts on the Net are intelligently explored, before we get down to some practical advice on usability. This centres logically enough on using search engines, and they offer an explanation of the different techniques which can be deployed, as well as alerting users to the differences in kind amongst the sources which might be located.

The centre of the book is an extensive list of resources. These are arranged as web site address - in categories ranging from libraries, journals, literary periods, literary criticism, discussion groups and email distribution lists, to individual authors - from Achebe to Zola - and their home pages. Mercifully, these lists are annotated with useful evaluative comments, making clear distinctions between sites which are commercial, fan pages, and the results of scholarly research. It's interesting to note how many of the award-winning sites are the work of dedicated individuals (such as Jack Lynch at Pennsylvania and Mitsuharu Matsuoka in Japan) and departments in little-known colleges in the back of nowhere. Major institutions are noticeably thin on the ground.

I felt reassured that the authors had done their homework, had visited the sites they discuss - and were not frightened of levelling criticism at some quite well known names in the literary establishment. They point out the need for more qualitative evaluation of online resources and web site reviews.

This is followed by advice on the evaluation of sites, including a series of basic questions we can ask on arrival. Is the information accurate? Is it complete? And is there any acknowledgement of the sources being used?

There is also a section for teachers, discussing how computers and the Internet can be used in literary studies, with suggestions (for instance) for hypertext assignments and web essays - though I hope their term 'Webliographies' doesn't catch on.

They consider the nature of electronic texts - from plain ASCII, through the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) and HyperText Markup Language (HTML), and even as far as the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and Extensible Markup Language (XML). These are only touched on lightly, with their differences briefly explained, but this is a valuable topic to raise in the consciousness of students and teachers, especially in the light of controversies surrounding the form in which commercial electronic books are being issued.

The guide ends with considerations of the theoretical and political connections between literary studies in an era of digitized text - exploring some of the notions raised in recent years by Jay Bolter, George Landow, and J. Hillis Miller. They even have some interesting comments to make on the likely impact of Information Technology on academic careers - including the vexed issue of academic publishing, which must surely be due for major convulsions in the next few years.

Many people have argued that it's now rather pointless issuing printed resource guides which will be quickly outdated. But there is a reason for such publications. The fact is that it's often quicker to locate information in a book, rather than searching through files or favourites using a browser. Certainly, I'm very pleased that this book is on my desk, and I look forward to exploring its suggestions and passing on any gems to my own students - who are currently learning how to write, link, zip, and upload their first web essays.

Literature and the Internet : A Guide for Students, Teachers, May 3, 2004
The most useful feature of this book for scholars, teachers, and students is the annotated lists of Web sites for literature, composition, literary periods, institutions, and individual authors in chapters four and five, compiled by Sears. Sears also discusses sites that offer subject tree approaches to literary periods and authors. The book will need to be updated to add new Web sites and correct URLs. Besides reviewing browsers, search engines, bookmarking, and Web rings, Sears points out the amazing accessibility digitization and Internet dissemination provide for older primary source documents (e.g., diaries and letters), and the ability to search and download texts. Browner's section is too brief; she assesses Web site guidelines (including appearance; ease of navigation; speed of loading; and completeness, accuracy, and currency), reminds users to note whether site authors provide credentials, and provides a brief list of print and online journals that review Web sites. In her chapter on teaching, the issue of student plagiarism is barely addressed. In citing electronic resources, she refers to the online MLA handbook MLA Style , offering a general citation outline with one example. She points out the ability to compare on the Web several editions of literary texts, and notes helpful syllabi and teaching aides. She suggests basic student assignments (e.g., site comparison and critique, creating a "Webliography," a home page, or an electronic essay). Browner discusses archiving electronic texts, markup language, standardization, digital libraries, and the effects of digitization on academic publishing. Pulsford's chapter repeats the advantages of electronic texts to scholars and comments on their effects on reading, study, and academic publishing. Plagiarism, citation, site evaluation, and suggested assignments could all be expanded and illustrations provided. Recommended for graduate and undergraduate faculty and students in literature courses.

Down-to-earth overview of literary studies in Internet Age, March 1, 2001
I was a new student of literary studies and found the texts I was assigned a bit dense and too filled with references to theorists and philosophers that I hadn't studied in years. This book (bought for an assignment) was a nice way to think about the real implications of hypertext on modern literature, yet not need to read too many words like, semiotics, remediation, wreaderly (shudder), etc.

I recommend it as a great supplement to any serious study of the Internet and Literature.

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