Literary Annuals: Digital Humanities Meets 19th Century Popular Culture
Taught By: Paula Feldman
I think of this course as “Digital Humanities Meets 19th Century Popular Culture,” for literary annuals played a significant but still largely undocumented role in the popular culture of early and mid-nineteenth century Britain and America.
Annuals circulated literature to a largely middle class reading audience, and, for the first time, allowed ordinary people to own reproductions of major works of art. Within the pages of literary annuals, the short story blossomed as a genre. Many of these books were best sellers.
They typically contain poetry, short fiction and non-fiction prose by important literary figures, such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Anna Letitia Barbauld, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allan Poe, Walter Scott, Mary Shelley, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and William Wordsworth.
By modern standards, these books were extraordinarily expensive and, thus, were generally given only on special occasions. They are a remarkable index to the popular literary and artistic taste of their time and document the increasing economic importance of the female reader and the influence she came to exert on the subject matter and style of literature. In this course, we will read and discuss a selection of these literary annuals.
Students will play an important part in choosing literary annuals for digitizing and writing introductions to some of these literary annuals for researchers throughout the world. Using the unusually large and diverse collection in the Thomas Cooper Library as our chief resource, students will conduct original research and will publish their work in a digital archive, which they help to design, sponsored by USC Digital Collections. Students interested in the following fields should find this course valuable: English and/or American literature; digital humanities; history; popular culture; the history of art; library science; computer science; the history of the book; women and gender studies; creative writing.