Friday, April 14, 2006
The Future of Academic Study
So in writing my fourth chapter I am eyes deep in Hardy, and yesterday while reading through some of Hardy’s letters exhaustion gave way to strange thoughts. Now I am footnotes junkies, whenever that little number appears I scan the bottem of the page to find out what the brouhaha is, and then I began to think about the last time that I actually wrote a letter and let me tell you it has been a long time. Yet I keep in touch with more people around the country now then I ever did when I wrote letters. How? The wonder of email. Which leads me to this question: in 100 years will literary research mean rooting around through someone’s hard drive instead of dusty attics and libraries for communication from long dead authors? More frightening, will the emails get lost in technology or will they be saved? Will emoticons be the subject of textual analysis? It’s a scary thought indeed, and I will be happy that I will not be there to see it, but since communication has become increasingly virtual, where will primary text come from if not online? Now don’t get me wrong I adore places that the Victorian Research web, the Victorian women’s writing project and project Bartleby, they allow me to access information that I couldn’t find anywhere else but London. And for someone with horrible allergies from dust and mold, the seduction of staying out of special collection if hard to resist. But I have always loved the feel of books, I like to hold them in my hand, to leaf through the pages, to examine the cracked spine and the margin notes that I wrote years ago, or were left by someone else. And so I am vacillating between the love of the material and the ease and accessibility of the virtual, but I will not linger here long, I have my own work to do.