Classroom Poetry Online?

Representative Poetry Online

Am I the only one who has a conflicted relationship to anthologies? Well, Anthologies drive me insane. You think you find a good one and then they are missing one poem you really wanted to be included. Why is In Memoriam A. H. H. only available as selections? Why doesn’t the Broadview have Manfred? Why no Amy Levy Norton?  I remember from my undergraduate days hating the anthology we used: see-through pages, heavy in your back-pack, easy to damage, and ugly! Well, considering the information age at our fingertips I found something of an alternative. Why not build an e-anthology out of your syllabus? Provide links to the various online resources we want students to access right in their reading lists?

I think the link I’ve provided may help. Representative Poetry Online is a site run by the Libraries of the Univerity of Toronto in Canada. It cover a wide range of literature, but the link I’ve provided is to my favorite Victorian poem. You can sort the poetry by period (“Victorian”) and  your given a list of poets in hyperlink. The link brings you to a list of their poems online. Some have author bios and they have varying levels of citations and footnotes (available by hovering over a highlighted word or phrase. While this site may not have every work you want – novels, drama, and non-fiction essays have other interesting online homes.

If you have been to the site. Send me a comment and tell me what you think of it. Perhaps you hate internet texts? That would be my other side.


Eating Like a Victorian

Greetings again. Thought I would share one of my favorite television series. The Supersizers is an hour long series where Giles (food critic) and Sue (comedian) live the life of a particular era in history. They eat the food, wear the clothes, live in the homes, and use their medicinal remedies for the week. Afterwards they have health check-ups to determine the impact of the eating and exercise practices of the era on their bodies. It sounds technical but it’s a lot of fun. I am sharing a you tube link to the first ten minutes of “Supersizers Go Victorian” – all five 10 minutes parts of the episode are on Youtube. There is also “Supersizers Go Edwardian” – their premiere episode. Enjoy!

Serialized Novels Online

I love Victorian novels. In my humble opinion, they are the most important literary innovation of the 19th century. I have my favorites of course: Middlemarch (1871-72); Vanity Fair (1847-1848); The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890); Wuthering Heights (1847); and The Warden (1855) to name a few. What frustrates me in a classroom setting is the way that we are forced to disseminate these works with 20th century technologies: the edition. Now, some editions are fantastic. Broadview Press and Valancourt books are two of my favorites (I’ll post links to their websites soon). My particular issue is how a full novel is placed into a single book when most of these works were not initially distributed in this fashion. Dickens and Thackeray were serialized over the course of a year or a year and a half. Eliot’s novels were released as ‘three-deckers’ or what we would think of today as a trilogy. With Middlemarch, Eliot’s partner George Henry Lewes suggested to Blackwell’s that the novel follow the same distribution methods as Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (1869) and be released in eight parts in monthly issues. I’ve always wanted to teach a Victorian novel in this way – assigning parts fo the work over the course of the term for a single novel.

Now there are online resources that can allow lecturers to at least share these distribution methods in a classroom. The link provided is a connection to the University of Victoria’s digital collection where they have made a handful of Victorian serials available as pdf files. Our Mutual Friend, The Virginians, and a few others are included. I’m sure there are more resources like this available online. With a generation of students who’d rather read blogs and files online, there is an opportunity to share reading methods of the past that cannot be mimicked in a critical edition.

Face it, most editions (I listed two very good exceptions to this rule above) crack at the spine when opened. They are usually poorly manufactured and have a short life span. While digital texts  run the risk of becoming ephemeral as well (will we still be able to read these online editions with technologies used 10 years from now? Since I can’t read my old floppy disks anymore, I doubt it), there is a chance that such a reading experiment could attract students who would not bother reading Middlemarch or David Copperfield in paper form. The 20th century technology of the critical edition is not the novel in its original form – I think we forget that. Instead, lets use the digital as a means of understanding reading cultures of the Victorian age a little better.