Eighteenth-century literature was limited to one medium – but modern research of the period no longer has to be.
Digital Defoe, an online, interactive, peer-reviewed journal, launched earlier this week to share scholarly research from the period, which until now has been largely confined to print journals and newsletters.
The site was created by the Defoe Society, an international group that studies the work of Daniel Defoe, an 18th-century English writer most famous for his story of Robinson Crusoe, a man shipwrecked on an island. Defoe is considered by some to be the founder of the English novel.
The first issue of the journal, published Monday, is titled “Defoe 2.0,” to reflect “the ways in which digital journals and even Defoe’s own work inhabits an uncanny liminal space between material and virtual realms,” Katherine Ellison and Holly Faith Nelson, the journal’s co-editors, wrote in the introduction.
Both Mrs. Ellison, an assistant professor of English at Illinois State University, and Ms. Nelson, an associate professor of English at Trinity Western University, saw a need to create a central resource to share research about Defoe and his 18th-century contemporaries. And since Defoe himself helped popularize new several print forms, like the novel and the pamphlet, Mrs. Ellison said it made sense for the society itself to explore video and audio on the Internet.
“Some 18th-century scholars are doing the most interesting online work, but nothing is really bringing everything together,” Mrs. Ellison said. “I wanted to be able to bring together more voices, to be able to showcase some really great student works with what some of the experts in the field are doing.”
The first issue includes several pieces of research and commentary, as well as a foray into multimedia: a piece by Christopher Flynn, an associate professor at St. Edwards University, titled “Defoe’s Review: Textual Editing and New Media,” which he presented through a narrated timeline that includes video and pictures.
Mrs. Ellison said she and other professors across the country could use the site to interest more students in 18th-century literature. Though some people in her field have resisted using online publications or multimedia, she said, she thinks it can move research, and interest, forward.
“I’ve heard scholars at conferences who say we’re not ready for that yet, print is still the way to go,” Mrs. Ellison said. But “some research can be better shared through video, or audio, or with pictures. I want to show people this is a multifaceted field.” —Erica R. Hendry