Er…so this is once again an attempt to restart writing on my blog. I’ve decided in the interests of not feeling endlessly guilty to not swear I’ll keep it up. But I’m going to do my best to write a bit more often. I’ve also decided to mix a bit of everything in to this. Last time I went down this road, I renamed the blog ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’ That seems to be as good a name as any for a blog that will probably be whatever I feel like writing about on the day or in the moment. And who knows what that might be!
Tags: Blogs, cpd23
I’m a bit behind on this due to work being very busy but I have been looking at other participant’s blogs and I’ve really enjoyed seeing all the different viewpoints and opinions. Some people have set up blogs for the first time and others are old hands at it. I think the great thing about this course is that it will get all of us posting on a regular basis and it will also allows us to be more comfortable using all these different mediums. And of course it will also open up new lines of communication and give us an opportunity to meet more of our colleagues in the library world. Which can only be a good thing!
Tags: Blogging, cpd23, information professionals, Libraries, Professional development
I set this blog up in the final year of my undergraduate degree as part of a seminar on digital humanities. Although I was full of good intentions of keeping it up, and every few months I would swear that I was going to restart the blog, but it just never happened. So the cpd23 things for Professional Development is a good opportunity and an even better excuse to get back into the practise of blogging. I’m hoping this will get me back in the habit of writing and posting regularly. As part of this, I’m guessing that I will be writing about my career in libraries, my experiences, my thoughts on various aspects of the library profession and possibly various other bits and pieces that take my fancy along the way.
I completed a Masters in Library and Information Studies in September last year and I’m currently working as an itern in the library of the Royal College of Physicians. (More on the intern experience will follow in a later post). And I have to say I love my job. I’m very happy doing what I do and I’m hoping that its only the start of a long a nd productive career in the library profession. The debate about the relevance of libraries has been ongoing for a number of years and in these straitened times, libraries seem to be getting the raw end of the deal. While in Ireland we haven’t had as many closures as in England or further afield, libraries are stuggling both with cuts to the budget and their staff. So how do we as librarians meet these challenges and what can we do to ensure that the profession remains relevant and strong? Hopefully I’ll be exploring some of these issues as time goes on.
Categories: Lit Reviews
Tags: Book, browsing, Digital Humanities, digitisation, Novel, Reading, Screen
The traditional method of reading books for research or pleasure has been an integral part of our lives for so long, that making the transition to reading or browsing on a screen is still a relatively new experience. But when one stops to consider how and why we read or even the reading experience itself, it becomes clear that the screen is fast encroaching on the traditional format. Vandendorpe makes the important distinction between different modes of reading which helps to underline the contrasts between the traditional printed text and the digital format.
For the most part, ‘grazing’ or ‘continuous reading’ is still associated primarily with the codex format, as it lends itself easily to this method. The rigidity of the screen, the necessity of the use other hardware, and even the somewhat harsh lighting are not exactly compatible with continuous reading over a sustained period, thus it is possible to see why the market for e-readers and e-books is still extremely small. The convenience and portability of e-readers cannot be denied, but the experience is very different. The act of reading for pleasure is still an enormous part of our lives and in this regard the codex is still superior.
However, when one stops to think about the other modes of reading such as ‘browsing’ and hunting’ it is easy to see how reading on screen has begun to dominate over the printed codex. As Vandendorpe points out, “the browsing mode was the first to define the activity of reading on the screen: it is so well adapted to the screen that the interface created for the web was aptly named a browser. “ When browsing, one is skimming the information, navigating from one piece or page of information to the next and the web is inherently suited to this type of reading on the screen. Thus it is really not surprising that the web has become more popular than the printed newspaper or magazine. In terms of the ‘hunting’ mode, again the web has lent itself perfectly to this method of reading with the advent of search engines and the ease with which information can be found. The development of the word Google from the name of a site to a commonly used verb in the space of a few short years demonstrates clearly how quickly the web has become the preferred method of finding information.
It is also fascinating to examine how reading text on the screen has undergone changes since its inception. The size of the text on the screen and the various fonts one can use all have a bearing on the reading experience. For example the clearest and easiest fonts are still widely used, but it is also possible to emphasise text or even give it some visual flair so that it stands out on the screen. And in a harkening back to the ancient past (which has happened quite a lot since I started studying Digital Humanities) it the scrolling method of reading that is mainly used when reading on the screen. Today, with the use of hypertext, a page is no longer limited to a set amount of words; it can contain sounds, images, colours and links to hundreds of other pages. The act of reading on the screen is something that is developing.
As for me, I will continue to buy and read printed books, but I also know that reading on the screen is something that is becoming an ever larger and even necessary part of my daily life. I would like to see all books digitised however and I believe that this is an important and necessary step to be taken. When one considers the amount of texts that have been lost or disappeared through the ages due to the fragility the printed text, then digitising literature becomes a priority. Also the digital age has allowed information to be more widely accessible to larger numbers of people than ever before. Thus the digitisation of books would make them widely and freely available to anyone who wants to read them. As a passionate lover of literature I would certainly advocate that.
Categories: Articles of Interest
Tags: Elizabth Bennett, Fan Fiction, Jane Austen, Mr Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, Quirk Classics, Seth Graham Smith
I recently wrote an article on fan fiction and how writers can create new stories based on their favourite characters. I also mentioned that fan fiction is viewed as somewhat inferior to original fiction and its low status among literary works. So, imagine my surprise when I walked in to my local bookshop one day and saw…. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies proudly displayed on the bestseller shelf. This fan fiction reworking of the book retains the majority of the original language and plot except now Elizabeth Bennett and her family are a seasoned team of zombie hunters. She encounters Darcy who also happens to be a zombie hunter and through the course of disposing of the undead, the two begin to fall in love. The book was commissioned by Quirk Classics publishers, an independent publishing company and was written or rather ‘altered’ by Seth Graham Smith. The book itself has been a massive success, climbing the bestseller charts and there are now plans to make a film based on the book.
Interestingly it was the internet community who began the initial excitement and buzz about the novel. In her review of the novel in the LA Times Carolyn Kellogg states that bloggers and others online “focused on both the cover — which features a Regency portrait by Sir William Beechey that was zombified by Quirk Books artist Doogie Horner, in which a young woman turns toward the reader, her lower face eroded, exposing a bony jaw and vicious, skeletal teeth — and the opening line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” From the internet community the buzz about the novel spread to the mainstream media and the result was a book that was a resounding success.
Smith’s approach to the novel is also interesting. He stated that he pasted the original text on to a document and then began to add zombie elements using a different coloured text. He would zoom out regularly to check the balance between his words and Jane Austen’s original language. The success of the novel has led to a number of other novels receiving a monster overhaul. Quirk Books have also released Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters which was penned by Ben H. Winters, and they plan to tackle other classics as well. Of course one of the biggest advantages of revising the works of Jane Austen and other classics by giving them a new twist, is the fact that these books are no longer in copyright. Each of the books also states that Jane Austen is co-author, thereby acknowledging the debt owed to her. Thus it is very possible that we will see a plethora of these types of books on the market. Indeed Quirk Books have plans to release Android Karenina in late 2010.
So does this mean that fan fiction is beginning to become slightly more respectable and possibly even marketable? There already plans for a prequel novel which will detail how Elizabeth Bennet became a zombie hunter in her youth. And when I went in to the bookshop last week, I was confronted by… Darcy’s Hunger: A Vampire Retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice by Regina Jeffries. It seems the trend has taken off. The success of the Smith’s novel may very well be due to its originality, but if a number of variations on the same theme appear, the appetite for them may die out as quickly as it began. Some critics may still scorn the idea of retelling a beloved classic as a monster parody and while Pride and Prejudice and Zombies did very well, the critics and public have been less enthusiastic about later publications. But for now it seems that through the reimagining of Elizabeth Bennett as a zombie hunting fighting expert, fan fiction is enjoying some mainstream attention.
Categories: Articles of Interest
Tags: Dante, Dante Princeton Project, Digital Humanities, Multimedia, multiple editions, Quartos Poroject, Shakespeare, translation
In the course of my degree in University I have been privileged to study some of the most famous writers in literature. Two writers in particular are William Shakespeare and Dante Alighieri. These authors have produced works that are considered to be among the most important and seminal texts in the history of literature and thus have generated an enormous body of critical scholarship that one could spend a lifetime researching. However the massive task of researching these author’s works has become more innovative and exciting with the advent of digital scholarship. Both Shakespeare and Dante present their own unique challenges to scholars, thus any digital scholarship needs to be both comprehensive and of a high standard.
Dante’s Divina Commedia written in the 1300’s is one of the most influential texts in Western literature. There are innumerable Dantean references to be found in a widely diverse range of literature and film, so it is not surprising that there is such a vast body of scholarship on La Commedia. The poem is written in Italian, and as of yet there have been no definitive translations of the work. Naturally such an important work is best read in the language it was written, but it would be an enormous pity if that precluded someone who does not have knowledge of Italian from enjoying this seminal work. The website divinecomedy.org which was created by the Electronic Literature Foundation has gone some way to solving this difficult problem by offering a number of different translations of the poem which can be compared side by side with the original Italian. It is also possible to compare two English translations so the reader can gain a better understanding of the translation process. It is also possible to view images inspired by the poem by painters such as Sandro Botticelli and Salvador Dali. There are also scholarly articles available to study.
The Princeton Project offers another excellent guide to the poem. It provides a translation that can be viewed alongside the Italian, images, a recording of the entire poem in both English and Italian and images from artist such as Dore and Nattini. It also includes the minor works of Dante and numerous scholarly articles by Robert Hollander, as well as links to the Dartmouth Dante Project. On the Princeton website, there is a line by line commentary for Inferno and they are currently working on a comprehensive philology for each canto. They are also hoping to carry out the same detailed commentaries for Purgatorio and eventually Paradiso This website is a work in progress certainly, but already it is invaluable for anyone who is undertaking a scholarship of Dante’s poem.
The plays of William Shakespeare need no introduction, and like Dante, there is a vast and wide ranging body of academic scholarship covering every play. There is also the fact that there a number of different quarto editions of the plays, each with their own variation of the text. The creation of a new website quartos.org brings the together all of the Hamlet quartos in to one comprehensive project. As the quartos were each held by different academic institutions, this marks the first time that scholars can view each quarto freely and compare them side by side. It is also possible to lay one text over another to get an even clearer view of the textual differences. There also further links outward to other Shakespearean sites of interest. There are other quartos available and the project is hoping to eventually build an archive of each play and all of the existing quartos. For scholars of Shakespeare this site is a groundbreaking and seminal project which will be an invaluable resource to scholarship of the texts.
The wonderful thing about these sites is not just their academic value and worth, but the fact they are open access. In my previous post, I commented on the fluid text edition of Herman Melville’s Typee. While this is an extremely good resource, it is only possible to access the site for 48 hours if you are not a member, otherwise you have to register to access the site. Both the Dante and Shakespeare projects that I mentioned are open access, any member of the public can view them without needing to register. It is interesting to note that a condition of the funding for the quartos website was that it had to be open access. The quartos project is also one of the best examples of international collaboration on a project that will benefit everyone, not just an academic elite. Perhaps digital scholarship projects can break down boundaries, not just in the study of texts but in areas of class too.