The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1695 Wednesday, 6 September 2000.
Date: Tuesday, 05 Sep 2000 11:39:55 -0400
Subject: Re: Electronic Sources
Just to clarify my comments on teaching with EEBO: I realize that the
corpus could provide fuller access to works, and, when full-text
versions begin to become available, the issues raised in Gabriel Egan's
and William Proctor Williams' responses should become less problematic.
While the search interface can be frustrating, EEBO nonetheless allows
students to experience relevant early modern texts (in a form that
preserves their original typography) with an immediacy that microfilm
and printed indices cannot (the corpus, by the way, continues to grow,
and works included on new reels of microfilm will be available online).
It's true that the EEBO interface allows only for keyword searching of
the catalog record, but the results also link directly to page images of
the works attached to these records. So students new to early modern
texts get to check out a relatively large number of works without the
legwork that they would otherwise find frustrating (I don't have
anything against legwork myself, but I have no qualms about eliminating
something web-savvy undergraduates see as a barrier, especially if it
allows study that might not otherwise occur at their level). And the
online format also makes showing students multiple texts easier, since
they can be called up in different windows on a computer display (which,
in my case, could be projected onto a screen at the front of the room).
Full-text searching of the EEBO corpus will clearly be more beneficial
for students and scholars alike, though finding titles that mention a
concept can be very helpful to students taking their first look at early
modern culture beyond Shakespeare. Students are often surprised that
people could write so many full-length books on subjects they see as
trivial - and they often comment on how opinionated the titles can be.
In cases where the concept appears in the title, students don't need to
hunt too far through the text to locate commentary, since prefatory
material and tables of contents often (though admittedly not always) let
students know the overall argument's structure. So no, you can't judge
a book by its cover, but students can use the results of EEBO keyword
searches to glean a sense of different early modern attitudes toward