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Echoes of Meaning: Cheap Print, Ephemerality, and the Digital Archive

Smith, Adam James ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3938-4836 (2020) Echoes of Meaning: Cheap Print, Ephemerality, and the Digital Archive. Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 33 (1). pp. 10-12.

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Abstract

This essay reflects on the paradoxical intention of capturing and preserving texts that were printed to be ephemeral and disposable by design. It considers the implications of this contradiction in the way we use and engage with eighteenth-century cheap print via subscription databases that include full text digitized editions of periodicals and newspapers. The conversion of individual texts addressed to discrete moments into big data, which is more often searched than read, has led to new ways of modelling eighteenth century print culture and brought about a genuine paradigm shift in the way we think about and interact with historical materials. At the same time, this essay recommends some caution as we proceed. Cheap print that has miraculously survived this long, in one form or another, must not now suffer decontextualization or be lost amid new canons formed by search criteria and hidden algorithms.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3138/ecf.33.1.110
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/4777

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