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Shakespeare and Victorian Visual Technologies

September 13, 2012

Michael Goodman (Cardiff University) will be speaking at a symposium at the University of Durham tomorrow. Forms of Innovation: Literature and Technology is a one-day symposium on the interrelation of literary forms and technologies.

PANEL 1A: VICTORIAN VISUAL TECHNOLOGIES

Michael Goodman – Things to Make and Do: Victorian Wood Engraving and the Digital Archive

In the mid-nineteenth century the technological development of wood engraving had an enormous influence on the publication of illustrated books. Not only could artists create much more finely detailed images but, because wood-engraved illustrations could be mass-produced, the price of illustrated books decreased dramatically thus allowing them to be enjoyed by all classes of Victorian society. My current research involves the creation of an open-access digital archive of wood- engraved Shakespeare illustrations that appeared in Victorian editions of the works of William Shakespeare. This paper will offer an exploration of the cultural effects that wood engraving had upon Victorian society. I will argue that digitisation allows the public today to interact dynamically with historical texts and images in a similar way to how the Victorians engaged with the illustrated book. I will analyse the issues surrounding my work, for example, the complex relationship between text and image in illustrated editions, Victorian notions of Shakespeare and the ways that this innovative digital archive enables new questions to be asked of the material. Yet these new questions come at a high cost: the loss of the physical illustration itself. By remediating an illustration from page to screen the meanings generated by the physical text are changed dramatically. Ultimately, I will suggest that, as literary researchers, the internet enables us to be creative, playful and imaginative in our research and in our academic endeavours we should ask not what the internet can do for us but what we can do for the internet.

Find out more here.

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