Another semester is starting up, and we’re all looking forward to an engaging academYOUR INTERNET CONNECTION IS UNSTABLE
That’s not the only thing that’s unstable, but it seems we’re carrying on, and I am teaching two courses this spring. Early Twentieth-Century Fiction is one of my regular offerings, irregularly happening in spring rather than fall. I used to teach Principles of Literary Study as a narrative-only course, but it is now a multi-genre course, and I have had fun dreaming up a compressed introduction to poetry for the first half of the syllabus, and equal fun rejiggering the narrative half of things. I didn’t kill my darlings, but I did add a Raymond Chandler story, which is about the same.
Putting together a poetry “reader” in the all-singing, all-dancing, all-digital environment has certainly been an instructive experience. It is a cliché about the digital humanities that it has spent an enormous amount of its energy producing online editions and archives—and it is a clichéd critique of this kind of DH that too much of that energy has gone to monumentalizing highly canonical figures. Yet what is striking when you go looking for acceptable, assignable digital versions of even highly canonical texts is how slim the digitally edited pickings are. A number of fancy digital editions are practically unusable for students who aren’t taking a specialist course on a single author (and even then…). I won’t name names. Digitized surrogates of out-of-copyright books are often much handier, so it’s the season of HathiTrust here. That’s neat and all, though I worry my students will come to believe that something is literature only if it has “Digitized by Google” stamped on it somewhere. But I reserve my real gratitude for the exceptions to the digital-edition rule, for example Chris Forster and Roopika Risam’s Harlem Shadows or Thomas Luxon’s Milton Reading Room. (Digital) books are for use.