About LiteraryHistory.com


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About LiteraryHistory.com

Literaryhistory.com is an internet library of literary scholarship that has been continuously maintained since 1998. We catalog reputable reference materials on canonical English and American writers of the 19th and 20th centuries, including peer-reviewed critical articles, books, and biographies. All the materials in our library are available to the public directly through our links.

At literaryhistory.com a human editor screens and selects internet articles. Articles that are selected were written by recognized scholars and signed, or by well-known authors commenting on other writers, or in the case of introductory articles have been published online by reputable organizations and publishers. All reference materials cataloged here have been placed online by other parties. We link to them only if we're sure they're not in violation of copyright law. We do not take advertising.

In recent years the more generous policy of JSTOR has made it possible even for those of us without passwords to a university library to delve into serious literary criticism, directly from the JSTOR web site. Literaryhistory.com can't compare to the riches available at JSTOR. We offer a mere sampling, from JSTOR and other sources, of literary criticism that is acceptable for college-level and graduate-level research. Our selections are geared to the general educated reader as well as the student, so we try to choose articles that avoid academic jargon, address larger questions, and are available open-access, that is, free.

Literaryhistory.com began as a demonstration project, meant to show how a free online reference site could replicate the quality and reliability of a traditional reference library and at the same time take advantage of the possibilities of the internet, linking to photos, sound files, videos, and delivering full-text at a click. Online bibliographies like this would be best when created or edited by scholars who are specialists in the authors under consideration. Because so much "reference material" on the internet is of questionable value, it requires a level of screening or peer-review by scholars that was not necessary with traditional library cataloging and the MLA Bibliography. Ideally, author webliographies could be collaborative efforts by specialist scholars and library catalogers at university libraries, made available to the public through library websites.

After 20 years on the internet, literaryhistory.com demonstrates that a digital library can be easy to design and code and cheap to publish. The biggest problem in the early days was removing dead links, but this is much less of a chore now. The quality-internet has become more stable, and good material is less likely to be moved or removed. The biggest problem we have now is visibility on the internet. In our early years literaryhistory.com would appear at the top or near the top of a Google search on the names of any of the authors we covered. But Google now is in the pocket of big marketers, and author pages at literaryhistory.com no longer appear in a Google list of returns. We depend now on word of mouth.

Internet users need and deserve a new search engine that's capable of identifying the best material on the internet and presenting it first. Early in the millennium Google became the stand-out search engine because that was what it did. Its algorithms used reliable web site referrals, such as library web site recommendations, to identify high quality material and present it at the top of its list. Google became the dominant search engine in the 21st century because of the quality of the searches it let us run. But now Google no longer uses algorithms that find the most credible and reliable information on the internet. On the one hand it's wedded to Wikipedia, whose overall reliability is low, and on the other hand it's working hand in glove with marketers who want to sell to you and track you. With a few exceptions (such as reliable medical information appearing alongside junk) Google's goal is to hide reliable, credible material and to bring forward the junk that someone is trying to sell you. But if Google could create a better search engine 18 years ago, why can't someone do the same today? Why can't a group of public-spirited coders, or a university IT department or consortium, come up with a good search engine that gives us reliable returns? There is so much good information available on the internet that users never see. But a user running a Google search just finds a pile of trash. It doesn't have to be like this.

Jan Pridmore

Editor

LiteraryHistory.com


She comes! she comes! the sable throne behold
Of Night primeval, and of Chaos old!
Before her Fancy's gilded clouds decay,
And all its varying rainbows die away.
Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,
The meteor drops, and in a flash expires.
As one by one, at dread Medea's strain,
The sickening stars fade off th' ethereal plain;
As Argus's eyes, by Herme's wand opprest,
Closed one by one to everlasting rest:
Thus at her fell approach, and secret might,
Art after Art goes out, and all is night.
See skulking Truth to her old cavern fled,
Mountains of casuistry heaped o'er her head!
Philosophy, that leaned on Heaven before,
Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.
Physic of Metaphysic begs defense,
And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense!
See Mystery to Mathematics fly!
In vain! they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die.
Religion, blushing, veils her sacred fires,
And unawares Morality expires.
Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restored;
Light dies before thy uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
And universal darkness buries all.

[Alexander Pope, The Dunciad]


The editor, Jan Pridmore, is an independent scholar who has a broad background in the periods and writers covered here and is familiar with academic editing and publishing standards. She was all-but-dissertation for a PhD in English at Boston University, where she studied with Professors Helen Vendler and Christopher Ricks. She wrote a considerable part of an incomplete dissertation, on Alfred Lord Tennyson's drafts for his epistolary poems, under professor Ricks' direction. She has edited and published literaryhistory.com since 1998.

send email to jpridmore at literaryhistory dot com


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1998-2018 by Jan Pridmore